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The independent-minded western woman was often eclipsed in popular literature by sensations like Calamity Jane and Belle Starr. Dorothy Gray looks at the actual lives of women who made their own way out west. Starting with Sacajawea, the Shoshone guide for Lewis and Clark, Women of the West gives a historical overview of various pioneers: Narcissa Whitman, trailblazer to Oregon and missionary to the Indians; Esther Morris and Carrie Chapman Catt, leaders for women's suffrage; Susette Bright Eyes La Flesche, the first Indian woman to become a political advocate for her race; and Willa Cather, the first writer to transmute the experience of western women into serious literature. Women of the West is enriched by other portraits: Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young's ninth wife, who divorced him and fought against polygamy; Bethenia Owens-Adair and Anna Howard Shaw, pacesetters in medicine and the ministry; Agnes Morley Cleaveland, author of the classic No Life for a Lady (also a Bison Book); Mary Yellin Lease, a populist who urged farmers to raise less corn and more hell ; the black freedom fighter Biddy Mason; and Donaldina Cameron, scourge of the Chinese slave trade.
Dorothy Gray is the author, with Phyllis Butler, of Everywoman's Guide to Political Awareness. Introducer Paula Mitchell Marks, the author of Precious Dust: The Saga of the Western Gold Rushes (also a Bison Book), teaches history at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas.