Looking over the great prairie in the early 1880s, Nellie Buchanan said, “I knew I would never be contented until I had a home of our own in the wonderful West.” Some were not so sanguine. Mary Cox described the prairie as “the most barren, forsaken country that we had ever seen.” Like the others whose stories appear in this book, these women were describing their own thoughts and experiences traveling to and settling in what became Colorado. Sixty-seven of their original, first-person narratives, recounted to Civil Works Administration workers in 1933 and 1934, are gathered for the first time in this book.
The First We Can Remember presents richly detailed, vivid, and widely varied accounts by women pioneers during the late nineteenth century. Narratives of white American-born, European, and Native American women contending with very different circumstances and geographical challenges tell what it was like to settle during the rise of the smelting and mining industries or the gold rush era; to farm or ranch for the first time; to struggle with unfamiliar neighbors, food and water shortages, crop failure, or simply the intransigent land and unpredictable weather. Together, these narratives—historically and geographically framed by Lee Schweninger’s detailed introduction—create a vibrant picture of women’s experiences in the pioneering of the American West.
Lee Schweninger is a professor of English at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He is the author of Listening to the Land: Native American Literary Responses to the Landscape and Literary Masters: N. Scott Momaday.
"This collection makes a valuable addition to the published narratives of western women."—Dee Garceau, Great Plains Quarterly
"[The First We Can Remember is] a refreshing take on how real women traveled, coped with hardship, and lived day to day."—Peggy M. Dillon, Oral History Review
"A welcome addition to the bookshelf of pioneer studies, this work provides a critical primary source for undergraduates in the fields of history, cultural studies and womens' studies and highlights the need for additional work on the history and influence of CWA cultural workers."—Laura Woodworth-Ney, South Dakota State Historical Society
Table of Contents
List of Maps Acknowledgments Introduction A Note on the Texts 1. The Northwest Plateau: Moffat and Rio Blanco Counties Mrs. Dan'els Mrs. Henry Harris Emma Daum Amick Madeline Adams and Jennie Reische 2. The Mountains and Foothills: Gunnison, Rio Grande, Chaffee, Delta, Arapahoe, and Alamosa Counties Mary Nichols Williams Hattie Buck Williams Anna Lee Fulcher Clarkson Elizabeth Rule Harrington Mary R. Goff Mrs. Dock Wade Ada B. Sittser Julia E. Cozens Mrs. William Stewart Mary Jane Cole 3. The South: Pueblo, Otero, El Paso, and Las Animas Counties Mrs. R. D. Russell Hattie L. Hedges Trout Mrs. Will Mattingly Nellie Pollock Snyder Mary E. Hayden Cynthia Fisher Anna Dillon Mary Cox 4. The Northeast: Weld, Morgan, and Logan Counties Ada Fleming Sanford Grace Brush Mayne Etta L. Matteson Kettley Katherine S. McElroy Mrs. Pitt Smith Jennie Lucas Sallie J. Cheairs Lizzie Gordon Buchanan Mrs. W. H. Clatworthy 5. The Eastern Prairie: Kit Carson and Prowers Counties Nellie Buchanan 000 Elizabeth Gutting Lengel Cynthia E. Boyles Flora Linford Ferris Mary Belle Kiser Haynes Angelina Fuller Anna Quinn Clementina E. Morrison-Guthrie Elizabeth Richards Martha Gilmore Lundy Luella Bell McKenzie Anna Homm Sarah Blakeman Jennie E. Davis Zelma Ackelson Davis Malinda Jones Brammeier Louise A. Merrill 6. The Southwest: La Plata and Montezuma Counties Dora Provis Pedersen Kate Smith Myers Mella McCluer Bohlick Sarah Ann Menefee Eliza LaCount Hubertine Pulvermiller Clara Morris Ormiston E. W. Camp Mary D. Hansen Carrie Smith Dunham Eva Adams House Mary Lee Lamb Agnes Langkamp Lupke Alice Henderson Akin Joanna Spalding Todd Sarah Elizabeth Walker Moore Dora Provis Pedersen Mary Alverda Estes Taylor Lucy Catherine Brumley-McConnell Mrs. Hattie Johnson Porter Mrs. Matt Hammond Appendix: The Correspondence of Anna Florence Robison and LeRoy Hafen Notes Bibliography Index