Grit and Ghosts


Grit and Ghosts

Following the Trail of Eight Tenacious Women across a Century

Robin Foster

228 pages
17 photographs, 3 illustrations


November 2024


$26.95 Pre-order

About the Book

As a student and teacher of history, Robin Foster is well aware that humans have persisted through major hardships as long as they have existed. When faced with the anxious dread many felt at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Foster began seeking stories of tenacious women of the American West who had survived their own hardships in a world that threw the unexpected at them. During one of the most uncertain periods of her life, Foster hit the road, embarking on a journey to find these determined women of the past and finding herself along the way. Grit and Ghosts tells the stories of eight women who speak to a shared human experience of struggle, and the grit required to move through it.

Landscape and memory become deeply intertwined throughout Grit and Ghosts as Foster wanders through park ranger Marguerite Lindsley’s Yellowstone, through Mexican faith healer Teresa Urrea’s Sonoran Desert, and through author Gertrude Stein’s deeply altered Oakland. Part excavation, part resurrection, Grit and Ghosts is permeated with the individual and collective memories of Foster and her subjects, like ghosts of history.

Author Bio

Robin Foster is a public historian and creative writer. She is the author of Carl Van Doren: A Man of Ideas and The Age of Sail in the Age of Aquarius: The South Street Seaport and the Crisis of the Sixties.


Grit and Ghosts looks outward and inward: at the marks its eight women have left on the world and the marks the world leaves on women who dream big. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, this book illuminates stories that deserve to be told.”—Gwen Kirby, author of Shit Cassandra Saw: Stories

Grit and Ghosts is for anyone who presses against the boundaries of their lives. With impressive depth, Robin Foster uncovers amazing details about her subjects’ lives as she weaves together unforgettable stories of bravery, risk, and passion.”—Chelsea Hodson, author of Tonight I’m Someone Else

“Forging exhumations into persons and places, Robin Foster is an essayist who knows, truly, that only in going do we come to know. Grit and Ghosts is a beautiful reliquary of deep mysterious springs and the souls they once homed.”—Jenny Boully, author of Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Chapter 1: On Working Your Ass Off, Even When Justice Doesn't Give a Damn - Marguerite Lindsley, Yellowstone
Chapter 2: On Memory (Or Imagination Disguised As Memory, Because Sometimes You Can't Tell the Difference) - Gertrude Stein, Oakland
Chapter 3: On Struggle, Opportunity, and Running Full Speed Ahead - The Californians
Chapter 4: On Fear and Its Alter Egos: Dread, Panic, Terror - Everywhere
Chapter 5: On Dreams and Reputation-Smearing Gossip - Teresa Urrea, Sonoran Desert
Chapter 6: On Giving Everything You've Got - Cathay Williams, The Santa Fe Trail
Chapter 7: On Going Solo - Mary Lou Williams and Julia Lee at The Crossroads: Kansas City

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