Monday, August 18, 2008

Letters of a Woman Homesteader

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (N. C. Wyeth, Illustrator) was first published in 1914 and there have been numerous editions since that time. My paperback edition, published by Houghton Mifflin Company, has a 1988 copyright on the foreword by Gretel Ehrlich. It is 282 pages. Elinore Pruitt Stewart was a widow who moved to Denver in order to earn a living working as a house-cleaner and laundress. She decided to improve her conditions and accepted work as a housekeeper. She wanted to work for a rancher while learning all she'd need to know about homesteading. In 1909 she went to work for Clyde Stewart, whose ranch was near Burnt Fork, Wyoming, and within six weeks she married him. The letters written by Elinor are to her former employer in Denver. This is a book that doesn't need a rating because it is what the title says it is and will appeal to a select audience.

Ehrlich writes in the foreword:

"Letters of a Woman Homesteader, first published in 1914, are the letters written by Elinore Pruitt when she and her young daughter, Jerrine, came to the sage-covered benchland of southwestern Wyoming in April 1909." page xiii

"What began as quaint personal accounts turned into Elinor Stewart's version of Pilgrim's Progress, and in the process she reveals herself not only to be tenacious and resourceful but saintly as well." page xvii

"During the four years spanned by these letters, Elinore Stewart bore four children, raised all the food on the ranch, helped with every ranch job, and proved up on her own homestead." pg. xix


"They have just three seasons here, winter and July and August. We are to plant our garden the last of May." pg. 6

"The mother is one of those 'comfy,' fat little women who remain happy and bubbling with fun in spite of hard knocks." pg 46

"No Westerner can ever understand a Southerner's need of sympathy, and, however kind their hearts, they are unable to give it." pg 202

" 'Why,' he asked, 'do New Yorkers always say State?' 'Why, because,' she answered, - and her eyes were big with surprise, - 'no one would want to say they were from New York City.' " pg 252

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