In 1924 eight young women drove across the American West in two Model T Fords. In nine weeks they traveled more than nine thousand unpaved miles on an extended car-camping trip through six national parks, “without a man or a gun along.” It was the era of the flapper, but this book tells the story of a group of farm girls who met while attending Iowa’s Teacher’s College and who shared a “yen to see some things.”
A blend of oral and written history, adventure, memoir, and just plain heartfelt living, Eight Women is a story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Weaving together a granddaughter’s essays with family stories and anecdotes from the 1924 trip, the book portrays four generations of women extending from nineteenth-century Norway to present-day Iowa—and sets them loose across the western United States where the perils and practicalities of automotive travel reaffirm family connections while also celebrating individual freedom.
Joanne Wilke’s work has appeared in the Crazy Woman Creek: Women Rewrite the American West and Leaning into the Wind: Women Write from the Heart of the West anthologies. She has also written pieces for the Montana Quarterly, the Pacific Review, and the Christian Science Monitor.
“Entertaining and inspiring.”—Booklist
“[C]ompellingly conveys the passion and determination that led these brave young travelers to ‘see some things’ together . . . . Throughout the book, Wilke expertly interweaves her own story of personal discovery and connection to the West . . . . The result is a seamless fusion of memoir and adventure, insight and history.”—Outside Bozeman
“Wilke’s well written and hard-to-put-down book can be described as part memoir and part oral/written history.”—SIROW Newsletter (Southwest Institute for Research on Women)
"Through interviews, journals, letters and pictures, Wilke reclaims a narrative that had been lost even to its participants, whose memories had slipped and faded in the sixty years since their trip. She set out to capture the expedition of a lifetime and instead captured the journey of several lifetimes, including her own. The women all found the trip to be well worth taking, and Wilke's readers will feel the same."—Amy Brumfield, Western American Literature