"Come along, come alongdon't be alarmed,/Uncle Sam is rich enough to give us all a farm."popular 1852 camp song
From 1840 to 1910, the western region of the United States was the stage for dramatic and often tumultuous encounters between people of diverse cultural backgrounds. This was a period of feverish development of western lands, often with tragic consequences for native peoples as homesteaders encroached upon ancient lands and cultures. American womenHispanic, African-American, Asian, and European whitesplayed a prominent role in the migration out West. They raised families, plowed land and planted corn, panned for gold and cleared forests for new homes, opened schools and ran boardinghouses and saloons, became ranchers, missionaries, journalists, peddlers, and trail guides. Women helped to build communities and push the boundaries of the United States to the Pacific.
They came west as homesteaders and teachers, artists and journalists, prostitutes and outlaws, physicians and activists, domestics and nursemaids, and a myriad of other occupations. And wherever they settled they left an indelible mark on the land and on the nation's destiny.
In Land of Many Hands, author Harriet Sigerman uncovers the fascinating stories of women in the American West using primary sources and documents (many never before published). Among the women featured are: Sarah Winnemucca, spokeswoman for the Piutes; women's rights activist Abigail Scott Duniway of Oregon; Narcissa Whitman, missionary to the Cayuse Indians of Oregon; Alice Fletcher, pioneer anthropologist, an advocate for the Omaha and Nez Percé Indians; Mary Elizabeth Blair, an African-American real estate agent; journalists Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard of San Francisco and Charlotte Spears Bass of Los Angeles; Mary Josephine Welch ("Chicago Joe"), proprietor of the Red Light Saloon in Helena, Montana; Mary E. Lease, orator for the populist party; and Mrs. E. J. Guerin ("Mountain Charley"), a trail guide who made her living disguised as a man.