Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ho for California edited by Sandra L Myers ***

Ho for California! (originally titled in 1980) collects women's journals from the trek across the United States to California. While, readers might hope for a unique women's view of the trip, the overwhelming message is that all travelers were reduced to their common humanity where survival had priority over sex and age. Even the death of a baby is reported in a single declarative sentence and most of the writing is about the need for water and grass.

Perhaps the women were slightly less prone to violence when threatened by native Americans, but this is not because of some sympathy for fellow human beings, but rather because of enlightened self-interest the realization that the travelers are outnumbered and killing one today may bring bigger bands of attackers tomorrow. In the end there were few attacks along the trails and most involved petty theft and not mortal combat.

There was one feminist observation along the southern route where survival was much easier and the pace more relaxed. Noticing a band of Indians, Harriet Bunyard observed, "How detestable they are. All the men riding and the women walking and carrying all the load."

On excellent primary source on the period.

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