The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990

Southwestern Historzcal Quarterly

more suited to report writing; they hint at, but fail to convey convinc-
ingly, Helen's intelligence, warmth, good humor, and immense com-
mon sense.
I am compelled to compare reading this book to reading a dispas-
sionate diary. The facts are clearly and correctly stated, but the subject's
"essence" is lacking-Helen doesn't really come to life.
Holland also seems to downplay, or at least doesn't give adequate
coverage to, the enormous difficulties of daily life in the arid, harsh
country of South Texas during Helen's lifetime; inclusion of such de-
tails would have been interesting and educational.
Helen Harbison's story would have been more meaningfully pre-
sented had Holland given more import to developing Helen's charac-
ter. Helen was a strong personality; that personality should have been
given some depth. I would have enjoyed becoming better acquainted
with this strong, very intelligent woman-I'd have enjoyed a slightly
more emotional approach to her story.
McAllen, Texas MARGARET CAWOOD
On Their Own: Widows and Widowhood in the American Southwest, 1848-
1939. Edited by Arlene Scadron. (Chicago: University of Illinois
Press, 1988. Pp. xx+324. Preface, acknowledgments, introduction,
graphs, tables, notes, conclusion, index. $29.95-)
This collection of eleven original essays focuses on four states-Ari-
zona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado-and the experiences of Na-
tive American, Hispanic, and Euro-American (including Mormon)
women in coping with the loss of a husband. In her introduction
Scadron points out that the general aging of the population has
changed the demographics of widowhood dramatically in the last cen-
tury. Between 189o, when census takers first began to record marital
status, and 1982 the proportion of widows aged thirty-five to forty-four
declined from 14 percent to 3 percent, while the proportion over sixty-
five rose from 32 percent to 70 percent. In 1890o widows over sixty-five
outnumbered widowers in the same age group by only 2.4: 1, but by
1982 the ratio had jumped to 6: 1. Whereas in the past widowhood
lasted only a few years and affected a larger proportion of women with
children still at home, the median age of widows is now sixty-nine, and
the average American wife can now expect 18'/2 years alone. Widow-
hood has become a common and prolonged final stage in a woman's
life, and one often marked by poverty and isolation.
While the experience of coping with grief and loss is common to all
widows, the quality of postmarital life is influenced by numerous cul-

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/. Accessed November 28, 2014.