Bachelor Bess; The Homesteading Letters of Elizabeth Corey, 1909-1919

Bachelor Bess; The Homesteading Letters of Elizabeth Corey, 1909-1919

by Philip L. Gerber
     
 

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In July 1909 twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth Corey left her Iowa farm to stake her claim to a South Dakota homestead. Over the next ten years, as she continued her schoolteaching career and carved out a home for herself in this inhospitable territory, she sent a steady stream of letters to her family back in Iowa. From the edge of modern America, Bess wrote long,

Overview

In July 1909 twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth Corey left her Iowa farm to stake her claim to a South Dakota homestead. Over the next ten years, as she continued her schoolteaching career and carved out a home for herself in this inhospitable territory, she sent a steady stream of letters to her family back in Iowa. From the edge of modern America, Bess wrote long, gossipy accounts—"our own continuing adventure story," according to her brother Paul—of frontier life on the high plains west of the Missouri River. Irrepressible, independent-minded, and evidently fearless, the self-styled Bachelor Bess gives us a firsthand, almost daily account of her homesteading adventures. We can all stake a claim in her energetic letters.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Once I started reading the letters, it was extremely difficult to skip over some and not read every one, word for word…Each letter provides such rich details of this woman's life in regard to her daily activities, her interaction with neighbors, the difficulties of homesteading in Dakota, and, perhaps most unusual, many of her private feelings about herself and her life there."—Dorothy Schwieder

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Early in this century, a person with determination could change the course of a life by heading west to homestead in places like South Dakota--and, as Elizabeth Corey demonstrates in letters to her family in Iowa, that person could be a single woman. A lively and informative correspondent, Corey uses a multitude of details to flesh out the quotidian activities on her 160-acre claim: designing a brand to mark her stock, sitting for exams to maintain her teaching credentials, juggling meager funds for building materials to improve her property, shooting a rabbit in her garden (``I had to give him a little persuasive gun talk to get him to stay for dinner'') and dressing in ``three layers of wool all over'' as protection from the bitterly cold winters. Often her descriptions bubble with good humor: she suggests a law requiring that all marriage proposals be oral; when they're written, there's no way to stop the man from asking. However, elsewhere Corey ends with the plaintive postscript, ``I'm so homesick.'' Gerber's work includes Critical Essays on Robert Frost. Illustrations not seen by PW . (Oct.)
Booknews
In July 1909, 21-year-old teacher Elizabeth Corey left her Iowa farm to stake her claim to a South Dakota homestead. These letters back to her family in Iowa are long, gossipy accounts of frontier life on the high plains west of the Missouri River. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780877453031
Publisher:
University of Iowa Press
Publication date:
10/28/1990
Series:
American Land and Life Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
462
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

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