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Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier

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From a rediscovered collection of autobiographical accounts written by hundreds of Kansas pioneer women in the early twentieth century, Joanna Stratton has created a collection hailed by Newsweek as “uncommonly interesting” and “a remarkable distillation of primary sources.” Never before has there been such a detailed record of women’s courage, such a living portrait of the From a rediscovered collection of autobiographical accounts written by hundreds of Kansas pioneer women in the early twentieth century, Joanna Stratton has created a collection hailed by Newsweek as “uncommonly interesting” and “a remarkable distillation of primary sources.” Never before has there been such a detailed record of women’s courage, such a living portrait of the women who civilized the American frontier. Here are their stories: wilderness mothers, schoolmarms, Indian squaws, immigrants, homesteaders, and circuit riders. Their personal recollections of prairie fires, locust plagues, cowboy shootouts, Indian raids, and blizzards on the plains vividly reveal the drama, danger and excitement of the pioneer experience. These were women of relentless determination, whose tenacity helped them to conquer loneliness and privation. Their work was the work of survival, it demanded as much from them as from their men—and at last that partnership has been recognized.


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From a rediscovered collection of autobiographical accounts written by hundreds of Kansas pioneer women in the early twentieth century, Joanna Stratton has created a collection hailed by Newsweek as “uncommonly interesting” and “a remarkable distillation of primary sources.” Never before has there been such a detailed record of women’s courage, such a living portrait of the From a rediscovered collection of autobiographical accounts written by hundreds of Kansas pioneer women in the early twentieth century, Joanna Stratton has created a collection hailed by Newsweek as “uncommonly interesting” and “a remarkable distillation of primary sources.” Never before has there been such a detailed record of women’s courage, such a living portrait of the women who civilized the American frontier. Here are their stories: wilderness mothers, schoolmarms, Indian squaws, immigrants, homesteaders, and circuit riders. Their personal recollections of prairie fires, locust plagues, cowboy shootouts, Indian raids, and blizzards on the plains vividly reveal the drama, danger and excitement of the pioneer experience. These were women of relentless determination, whose tenacity helped them to conquer loneliness and privation. Their work was the work of survival, it demanded as much from them as from their men—and at last that partnership has been recognized.

30 review for Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    I would give this a 3.5. This is a pretty interesting read. this is about mostly women who emigrated to Kansas from about 1840s 1880s. it was rough land then. At that time the Indians already lived there but not "white people". Joanna Stratton found a ton of interviews her great-grandmother did during this time period. this book is from 1981.Joanna put this book together from the interviews her great grandmother did all those years ago. I was a bit disappointed that all the interviews are white I would give this a 3.5. This is a pretty interesting read. this is about mostly women who emigrated to Kansas from about 1840s 1880s. it was rough land then. At that time the Indians already lived there but not "white people". Joanna Stratton found a ton of interviews her great-grandmother did during this time period. this book is from 1981.Joanna put this book together from the interviews her great grandmother did all those years ago. I was a bit disappointed that all the interviews are white women, so we have no views from the Indians that already lived there and the black people who ended up there as well.{some during the slavery years} would have been of interest. Still this is an interesting read. We read about the hardships starting up homes on barren land. finding food.one chapter writes about the Indians who already lived there some friendly some not.{sad thing is we only read of the white person's point of view} Other chapters deal with going to church, kids going to school{such as they were}starting up towns, the moving of cattle from one place to another{ a huge undertaking for cattle drives} toward the end of the book i found it of interest that women were trying to fight for rights to vote and prohibition as early as the 1860s. there are many other chapters writing of what life was life during this time period. I learned that neat facts, and found myself saying "so glad I live in the era of modern conveniences.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    Pioneer Women is the result of an impressive, multi-generational work. One woman wrote and received thousands of letters, gathering stories from around eight hundred Kansas women. Her daughter typed and indexed them. Her great-granddaughter shaped those stories into this book. I've read the Little House books several times, so the sod houses, blizzards, schoolhouses, prairie fires, and grasshoppers were familiar. Stratton mostly lets the sources speak for themselves. The results are not all roman Pioneer Women is the result of an impressive, multi-generational work. One woman wrote and received thousands of letters, gathering stories from around eight hundred Kansas women. Her daughter typed and indexed them. Her great-granddaughter shaped those stories into this book. I've read the Little House books several times, so the sod houses, blizzards, schoolhouses, prairie fires, and grasshoppers were familiar. Stratton mostly lets the sources speak for themselves. The results are not all romanticized, but eye-opening and invigorating. A must-read for anyone at all interested in the subject.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Charlene Hisayasu

    Enjoyed reading the nitty gritty accounts of the lives of these real women who moved west to Kansas in the mid-1800's. The details and first-hand accounts bring great clarity to this portion of American history. Incredible physical hardships and emotional isolation take their toll on this female population. But out of the incoming wave of these courageous pioneers arises the progress of schools, churches, cities, and political movements in the maturing nation. A great read for those who enjoy le Enjoyed reading the nitty gritty accounts of the lives of these real women who moved west to Kansas in the mid-1800's. The details and first-hand accounts bring great clarity to this portion of American history. Incredible physical hardships and emotional isolation take their toll on this female population. But out of the incoming wave of these courageous pioneers arises the progress of schools, churches, cities, and political movements in the maturing nation. A great read for those who enjoy learning about the lives of our early settlers.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gloria Zachgo

    As a Kansas native, I was not aware of some of the history I gleaned from Pioneer Women. Because I'm writing a sequel to my own book, I found this book very helpful as a timeline into events that may concern my own characters. My book will be fiction -- a continuing story of the two families I wrote about in Never Waste Tears. . As a Kansas native, I was not aware of some of the history I gleaned from Pioneer Women. Because I'm writing a sequel to my own book, I found this book very helpful as a timeline into events that may concern my own characters. My book will be fiction -- a continuing story of the two families I wrote about in Never Waste Tears. .

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Thrasher

    These are my people, and I like reading about them. Lovers of Willa Cather or Laura Ingalls Wilder should run out right now and find this book. For those who romanticize the good old days, or who have a Little House on the Prairie fetish, this will definitely open your eyes as to how utterly difficult those days actually were. Every single thing our prairie ancestors had to do was done by hand, from the land - and Nature was always waiting, waiting to take it back, and maybe take their lives alo These are my people, and I like reading about them. Lovers of Willa Cather or Laura Ingalls Wilder should run out right now and find this book. For those who romanticize the good old days, or who have a Little House on the Prairie fetish, this will definitely open your eyes as to how utterly difficult those days actually were. Every single thing our prairie ancestors had to do was done by hand, from the land - and Nature was always waiting, waiting to take it back, and maybe take their lives along with it. Nothing was easy - but Stratton also details, cites and excerpts many, many examples of how wonderfully fun and invigorating that time was as well. Pioneer women did not know what the future held; they did not know how damaging their impact would be on the environment; their world views did not take into account the people who lived on the land when they came. If some of the things the pioneer women did were offensive to modern sensibilities, much of what they did was heroic. They left everything they knew to build a new land, in a country that was lonely, desolate, and far from hospitable. It's interesting and sad to think that ultimately though that they failed; the populations of those prairie states continues to decline, and the great homesteading experiment all came to naught. That does not discount their heroism either. If anything, we should all strive to find the pioneer woman (or man) inside of us today.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This wonderfully written history tells of life in Kansas in its pioneer days in the 19th century. In the 1920s the author's great grandmother collected stories from hundreds of women and these form the primary material for this book. The women were purposefully reflecting on and retelling important stories from their past which I think led to two things: 1) The stories are amazingly exciting and coherent - a historian's dream 2) Since the women were telling the stories well after the fact, nostalg This wonderfully written history tells of life in Kansas in its pioneer days in the 19th century. In the 1920s the author's great grandmother collected stories from hundreds of women and these form the primary material for this book. The women were purposefully reflecting on and retelling important stories from their past which I think led to two things: 1) The stories are amazingly exciting and coherent - a historian's dream 2) Since the women were telling the stories well after the fact, nostalgia probably kicked in so the content is primarily positive and upbeat The book covers a vast array of topics - the trip to the West, building houses, childhood, education, interactions with Native Americans, cattle drives, religion, prohibition, the fight for suffrage, "bleeding Kansas", working on the farm, social lives, holidays, etc. It was a very enjoyable literary journey that gave me a new perspective and respect for Kansas and the pioneers who settled there.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    I love this stuff. I'm not sure if everyone else would feel the same, but I think it's fascinating to hear what these women's day-to-day lives were like. Holy moly!!!!! Ok, now that I'm done, I downgraded this to a 4. It's really good for what it is, but after a while you really pick up on the fact that these women were writing for a magazine audience and that really impacted what they said. Also, it's only a really specific segment of the women that wrote - namely educated white women, so wherea I love this stuff. I'm not sure if everyone else would feel the same, but I think it's fascinating to hear what these women's day-to-day lives were like. Holy moly!!!!! Ok, now that I'm done, I downgraded this to a 4. It's really good for what it is, but after a while you really pick up on the fact that these women were writing for a magazine audience and that really impacted what they said. Also, it's only a really specific segment of the women that wrote - namely educated white women, so whereas what they have to say is still fascinating, it's clearly not the whole story. But what history book is, right? I really liked that it focused in one state. I felt like that made the whole thing more intimate and manageable. Overall, I would recommend it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sharyn

    The author’s great-grandmother was the first female lawyer in Kansas and pleaded cases before the Kansas Supreme Court. While playing in her great-grandmother’s attic, Ms Stratton came across a file cabinet filled with stories written by 800 pioneer women of Kansas. These women responded to the request to relate their experiences settling the Kansas frontier (1854 to 1890). This history is limited in scope and in depth by the fact the 800 women were all white (and literate) homesteaders. The voice The author’s great-grandmother was the first female lawyer in Kansas and pleaded cases before the Kansas Supreme Court. While playing in her great-grandmother’s attic, Ms Stratton came across a file cabinet filled with stories written by 800 pioneer women of Kansas. These women responded to the request to relate their experiences settling the Kansas frontier (1854 to 1890). This history is limited in scope and in depth by the fact the 800 women were all white (and literate) homesteaders. The voices of the marginal women – the indigent and the native Americans - were not included. Also, the private and uncomfortable facets of the women’s everyday lives were not discussed.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    I enjoyed reading about the history of my home state. Obviously some of this was taught in the schools when I was growing up but there were some nuggets of interesting stories and facts. This was published in 1981 by Joanna Stratton. Her great-grandmother had gathered recollections from 800 pioneer women but never compiled a book. Joanna does this using those stories.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sherri

    Stratton has a nice way of being anecdotal and combining memoir quotes. Each chapter summarized a different part of their world in the era i.e. weather/crops, politics, women's rights, outlaws, family, etc. Her introduction and forward she states in a real reminder of the stoicism and respect that generation had in documenting 800 plus memoirs of these pioneer women. No dirty laundry was shared to sully their family or the way of the times. But a reminder there were just as many good times and mo Stratton has a nice way of being anecdotal and combining memoir quotes. Each chapter summarized a different part of their world in the era i.e. weather/crops, politics, women's rights, outlaws, family, etc. Her introduction and forward she states in a real reminder of the stoicism and respect that generation had in documenting 800 plus memoirs of these pioneer women. No dirty laundry was shared to sully their family or the way of the times. But a reminder there were just as many good times and moments as there were extremely hard times and losses they dealt with in every day life. While this book would seem daunting to pick up and read, the way Stratton has it broken down makes it readable by chapter. I wouldn't recommend picking up and putting down the book in mid-chapter and paragraphs. I think you could lose the context of the storytelling and quotes. It is a nice compilation of the female pioneer spirit and fortitude that helped define our country.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Having discovered a collection of autobiographical accounts written by pioneer Kansas women,the author lets us read how these women survived prairie fires, locust plagues, blizzards, lonliness, the day to day hard work both in the home and fields. When reading these wonderful narratives, the reader has to keep in mind that they were written long after the actual events so the accounts are not as depressing as one would expect - more like time makes the events less harrowing to the writer but def Having discovered a collection of autobiographical accounts written by pioneer Kansas women,the author lets us read how these women survived prairie fires, locust plagues, blizzards, lonliness, the day to day hard work both in the home and fields. When reading these wonderful narratives, the reader has to keep in mind that they were written long after the actual events so the accounts are not as depressing as one would expect - more like time makes the events less harrowing to the writer but definitely a source of pride in accomplishment.It makes one wonder what the writer would have written had they the time to journal as the events happened but considering their work day and primitive housing, we can understand why the chronicalling had to wait till years later.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    Interesting information, but not always well presented. Quite often I'd find myself reading two "introducing the topic" sorts of sentences in the same paragraph - that was needless and made the reading murkier. Since the book is already on a rather obscure topic (and isn't presented like an easy-to-read popular history) I would have liked it better if the sources were clearer. Certain sentences stated like fact would have been more believable if supported by a name, a supporting example -- someth Interesting information, but not always well presented. Quite often I'd find myself reading two "introducing the topic" sorts of sentences in the same paragraph - that was needless and made the reading murkier. Since the book is already on a rather obscure topic (and isn't presented like an easy-to-read popular history) I would have liked it better if the sources were clearer. Certain sentences stated like fact would have been more believable if supported by a name, a supporting example -- something. Not bad overall though~! Worth a look for the feminine perspective, perhaps. The stories included were the best part - the rest of the information is rather common knowledge if you've ever studied the American West.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leanna

    This book provides a picture of how hard life on the prairie was for these pioneer women. I thought the voices from the Kansas frontier were so interesting and captured the daily life of the prairie. I especially liked the chapters on schools and the interaction with Indians. The crazy part of reading this book for me is that I went looking for a digital version and I found Pioneer Woman, so I checked it out of the library and read it in between reading this factual account of Kansas pioneer wom This book provides a picture of how hard life on the prairie was for these pioneer women. I thought the voices from the Kansas frontier were so interesting and captured the daily life of the prairie. I especially liked the chapters on schools and the interaction with Indians. The crazy part of reading this book for me is that I went looking for a digital version and I found Pioneer Woman, so I checked it out of the library and read it in between reading this factual account of Kansas pioneer women. What a contrast. Weigh the hardships of Kansas women in the early 1900's against Ree Drummond's life in the late 1900's. That was good for my brain.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jan C

    I have noticed that when people come to my house and are looking for something to read, this is the book they pick up. It's not like it is the only book on the shelf. But everyone I have ever noticed picking up a book picked this one. I have noticed that when people come to my house and are looking for something to read, this is the book they pick up. It's not like it is the only book on the shelf. But everyone I have ever noticed picking up a book picked this one.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    In 1975 while visiting her grandmother in Kansas and exploring her attic, Joanne Stratton found files that her great-grandmother, Lilla Day Monroe, had collected which were reminiscences of pioneer women in Kansas. Lilla went to Kansas from Indiana in 1864 where she married a young lawyer and clerked in his office while raising four children. She passed the bar exam and in 1895 was the first woman ever admitted to practice before the Kansas Supreme Court. In her efforts for women's suffrage and In 1975 while visiting her grandmother in Kansas and exploring her attic, Joanne Stratton found files that her great-grandmother, Lilla Day Monroe, had collected which were reminiscences of pioneer women in Kansas. Lilla went to Kansas from Indiana in 1864 where she married a young lawyer and clerked in his office while raising four children. She passed the bar exam and in 1895 was the first woman ever admitted to practice before the Kansas Supreme Court. In her efforts for women's suffrage and to inform women on governmental issues, she started the Good Government Club and edited a magazine, "The Club Member." Later she began a newspaper called "The Kansas Women's Journal" and it was through this paper that she began to solicit letters from women who had lived in Kansas during the Frontier period, planning to edit an anthology of their memoirs. When poor health interfered with these plans her daughter, Lenore Moor Stratton, worked on the project but eventually the papers found their way to the attic, where Joanna discovered them. Chapters are organized by subject such as school, church traveling to Kansas, etc. so many person's accounts make up each chapter.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Roxie

    A terrific collection of memoirs by early-day settlers of the prairie, the story of this book is as good as the book. In 1895, Lilla Day Monroe graduated from law school and was admitted to the Kansas Bar. But this book isn't about her. It's about the compilation of the 800--that is EIGHT HUNDRED--first-hand, personal accounts of Kansas pioneer women that Day collected over her lifetime. The accounts were catalogued and preserved by her daughter and granddaughter, then finally presented here by A terrific collection of memoirs by early-day settlers of the prairie, the story of this book is as good as the book. In 1895, Lilla Day Monroe graduated from law school and was admitted to the Kansas Bar. But this book isn't about her. It's about the compilation of the 800--that is EIGHT HUNDRED--first-hand, personal accounts of Kansas pioneer women that Day collected over her lifetime. The accounts were catalogued and preserved by her daughter and granddaughter, then finally presented here by her great-granddaughter, Joanna Stratton. Told in their own words--and with their less-than modern sensibilities, especially regarding references to Native Americans--these stories remind us of the very real women who came before. This might be hard to get a hold of--I found it in my library's discards--but an excellent historical read, if you get the chance. The complete papers are now maintained by the Kansas Historical Society.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cassie

    It's amazing a book like this exists at all! I loved getting the perspective of women pioneers in Kansas, and that generations of women workes to bring things viewpoints forward. Firsthand accounts really made the life of that time feel real, and human, not a nostalgized or generalized past. However, as another reviewer mentioned, there are no accounts from native women or black women or anyone who wasn't a white "pioneer". The author does not try very hard to add those viewpoints in either, eve It's amazing a book like this exists at all! I loved getting the perspective of women pioneers in Kansas, and that generations of women workes to bring things viewpoints forward. Firsthand accounts really made the life of that time feel real, and human, not a nostalgized or generalized past. However, as another reviewer mentioned, there are no accounts from native women or black women or anyone who wasn't a white "pioneer". The author does not try very hard to add those viewpoints in either, even if by commenting on the women's written accounts; really this book does not question anything, merely describes the experiences and views of white pioneers at the time. This leaves out any notion that the prairie maybe shouldn't've been farmed, that wild prairie isn't "barren", or "virgin" land, as Stratton calls it (untouched, unmarred, ready to be ... "taken" by white people, "made productive" according to white agricultural values...). A fascinating but undiverse account.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kayrene Smither

    This is a great compilation of first-hand contributions by women who helped settle the Kansas frontier, back mid-1800s to late 1800s. Part of the treasure, is that her great grandmother asked and received 800 plus firsthand accounts by Kansas pioneering women, by letters. She finished the projects that the great grandmother started. That in itself, is pretty amazing. Some of the details; about fires and grasshoppers are very informative and surprising. These were tough people, especially those w This is a great compilation of first-hand contributions by women who helped settle the Kansas frontier, back mid-1800s to late 1800s. Part of the treasure, is that her great grandmother asked and received 800 plus firsthand accounts by Kansas pioneering women, by letters. She finished the projects that the great grandmother started. That in itself, is pretty amazing. Some of the details; about fires and grasshoppers are very informative and surprising. These were tough people, especially those who ventured out to the western part of Kansas. Five Stars. I hope this archive of 800 plus letters ends up in an archive center somewhere. True treasures!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kate Sandefur

    Interesting first person accounts from Kansas pioneer women. 1983 publishing date and so very slanted towards loaded wording like "civilized the west". There is acknowledgement of Indigenous women but no first person accounts of their lives and the author does discuss the removal and destruction of the Indigenous peoples way of life ( this book was compiled from letters found in her grandmother's attic so def geared towards certain women). Still, it made a for a good read on cold Midwestern days Interesting first person accounts from Kansas pioneer women. 1983 publishing date and so very slanted towards loaded wording like "civilized the west". There is acknowledgement of Indigenous women but no first person accounts of their lives and the author does discuss the removal and destruction of the Indigenous peoples way of life ( this book was compiled from letters found in her grandmother's attic so def geared towards certain women). Still, it made a for a good read on cold Midwestern days, imagining the women in sod houses setting towns and schools and churches! Worth reading with a cup of tea while the prairie winds blow.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    A very informative book filled with stories of the pioneers of the plains. It was interesting to hear about how they lived, their daily lives and the ways they provided for their families. The chapter on the relationship between the Native Americans and the settlers was dated and almost stereotypical in the language used and completely one sided stories. They are portrayed as simple or violent savages. Overall a good book for its publication date (1981)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mellanie C

    I loved this book. I've gone back to it several times for various reasons. People really have no idea how difficult it was for the women who made the westward journey, and this book really gives a clear picture of the challenges they faced. I loved this book. I've gone back to it several times for various reasons. People really have no idea how difficult it was for the women who made the westward journey, and this book really gives a clear picture of the challenges they faced.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    Interesting work from original sources about the lives of the Kansas settlers. Makes a reader very appreciative of all our conveniences these days. It got a little "heavy" as it went on, but overall a worthwhile read. Interesting work from original sources about the lives of the Kansas settlers. Makes a reader very appreciative of all our conveniences these days. It got a little "heavy" as it went on, but overall a worthwhile read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Roberta

    Loved this book. It's easy to romanticize the past but the women interviewed for this book dispel any ideas that life was better before industrialization. But despite the hardships and loneliness most of the women made good lives for their families and were proud of their ingenuity and strength. Loved this book. It's easy to romanticize the past but the women interviewed for this book dispel any ideas that life was better before industrialization. But despite the hardships and loneliness most of the women made good lives for their families and were proud of their ingenuity and strength.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeana Rock

    Loved this book! Since I come from pioneers on both sides of my family, I really enjoyed reading about the struggles of pioneer women.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Connie Miller cline

    One of my favorite books

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    A good overview of pioneer days in Kansas. The personal stories definitely made the book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Well-researched and organized compilation of Kansas pioneer women’s memories. A nice addition to my collection.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey Nutting

    Great summary of tales about lives of pioneering women in Kansas (~1870-1910). Based on ~800 memoirs the author's grandmother, a Kansas pioneer woman herself, collected but never published Great summary of tales about lives of pioneering women in Kansas (~1870-1910). Based on ~800 memoirs the author's grandmother, a Kansas pioneer woman herself, collected but never published

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mary Jo

    An interesting book. I was already familiar with similar stories from South Dakota and Nebraska. This just added to my admiration of what frontier women endured.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

    Interesting story about living in Kansas during the pioneer days and the problems of weather Indians and outlaws .the education system and it slow start

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