by Susan G. ButruilleAfter reading the book, I realize this book is not JUST another history book as I had expected. It is about understanding why things are the way they are in American society. It's about learning who we are as women and how women helped settle the West. It's about the interaction between women and the historical dominance of men.
Women's lives and stories have often been omitted from history books, particularly texts used in school during my 1950s-60s childhood. By contrast, Butruille's well-researched and imaginative story-telling brings out the best, and the worst, of our history as women.
Voices of women from the past don't often sing the same tune. Men exhibit different traits, as do women. Butruille's conclusions reflect our time and place in history. She reveals the power and significance of Indian women. She praises women who carried the burden of "True Womanhood." She includes the "red light ladies" but does not make them into role models.
Women in California's Gold Rush enjoyed more power than her Eastern sisters. Women had the right to conduct a business and keep their property, becoming "sole traders." But it was illegal to wear pants! Butruille dons the personae of Marie Suize Pantalon and brings her story to life.
At first, I found this deviation to first-person from third-person writing distracting. But playing along, imagining life in those wild "carnival" days of the frontier, I found it a fun change from the rote history lesson. Butruille is captivated by this young, French woman miner, "Madame Pantalon." She acts out the story for college classes and speaking engagements.
I highly recommend it for women seeking to understand their place in Western American History, and for men, who would like to understand their women.
~Bridget E. Smith, Historical Gazette
Non-fiction, women's issues, western history, multi-ethnic history
Index, 286 pages, many Illustrations, photos, maps
Trade paperback 6 X 9 inches (1998)
Paperback, ISBN 1-886609-14-4 $16.95 US plus S&H
Publisher Tamarack Books, Inc.
To contact the author by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Available on Amazon.