Recollections of a Handcart Pioneer of 1860: A Woman's Life on the Mormon Frontier

Overview

In the summer of 1860, the author of these recollections, then six years old, walked beside her parents’ handcart from Florence, Nebraska, to Salt Lake City. The family, converts to Mormonism, had left their comfortable home near Bern, Switzerland, to make the long journey to the Mormon Zion. Nearly eighty years later Mary Ann Hafen published this account of her life, giving an unparalleled, candid, inside view of the Mormon woman’s world.

Called to go with the Swiss ...

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Overview

In the summer of 1860, the author of these recollections, then six years old, walked beside her parents’ handcart from Florence, Nebraska, to Salt Lake City. The family, converts to Mormonism, had left their comfortable home near Bern, Switzerland, to make the long journey to the Mormon Zion. Nearly eighty years later Mary Ann Hafen published this account of her life, giving an unparalleled, candid, inside view of the Mormon woman’s world.

Called to go with the Swiss Company to settle the "Dixieland" region of southern Utah—a hot, dry, inhospitable land—Mary Ann's family lived in thatch, dugout, and adobe houses they built themselves. While still hardly more than a child, Mary Ann cut wheat with a sickle, gleaned cotton fields, made braided straw hats for barter, and spun and dyed cloth for her dresses. Always sustained by her faith in the church, she took part in a millenarian scheme that failed—a communal order—and entered a polygamous marriage, raising almost single-handedly a large family.

Like Anne Ellis, Elinore Pruitt Stewart, and a handful of other pioneer women of the West, Mary Ann Hafen has left an authentic, matter-of-fact record of poverty, incredibly hard work, and loss of loved ones, but also of pleasures great and small. It is a unique document of a little-known way of life.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the West

“This book is a valuable firsthand look at life on the Western frontier by a straightforward, candid participant.”—Journal of the West

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803223257
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1983
  • Pages: 100

Meet the Author

Donna Toland Smart is the editor of Mormon Midwife: The 1846–1888 Diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions and Exemplary Elder: The Life and Missionary Diaries of Perrigrine Sessions, 1814–1893.

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Table of Contents

In the summer of 1860 six-year-old Mary Ann Hafen walked beside her parents' handcart from Florence, Nebraska, to Salt Lake City. The family had left their comfortable home near Bern, Switzerland, to make the long journey to the Mormon Zion. Nearly eighty years later she published this account of her life, giving an unparalleled inside view of the Mormon woman's world.
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