The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Cashman falls into the "angel" category of western women. She raised prodi-
gious sums of money for charities, was always treated with respect by men de-
spite her seemingly unladylike behavior, raised her orphaned nieces and
nephews, and was beloved by all. It's almost too good to be true, and one wishes
the author had taken a more critical stance toward her subject. Cashman was
clearly interested in portraying herself as a "character." It is difficult to get any
idea of the woman behind this public persona.
A Cowman's Wife is a reprint of a book originally published in 1934. It is a
charming account of Mary Kidder Rak's life on a ranch in the mountains of
southeastern Arizona. Sandra Myres's introduction provides some biographical
information on Rak and places her reminiscences in the historiography of
ranchwomen's literature. Mary Kidder was born in Iowa and educated at Stan-
ford. In 1917 she married Charles Rak, a former cowpuncher studying forestry
at the University of California. In 1919 they purchased a ranch north of Dou-
glas, Arizona.
Mary Kidder Rak's is the story of her learning that a rancher's wife must "play
second fiddle to a cow" (p. 289). At first ignorant of and intimidated by cattle,
Rak eventually becomes an accomplished cowgirl. She reveled in the beauty of
her surroundings, the quirkiness of her neighbors and hired hands, and her
own increasing capabilities. Scholars can glean from this volume a vivid picture
of the hardscrabble life of ranchers, woodcutters, and transient workers, of
landowners and wage-workers alike, in the Southwestern mountains.
Readers interested in the Southwest will appreciate all three of these books.
Nellie Cashman is a quick read for those interested in legends and larger-than-life
Western characters; Claiming Their Land is an indispensable beginning for any
study of women homesteaders in Texas; and A Cowman's Wfe is an engaging view
of a middle-aged woman learning the work and manners of a new life.
Montana State University MARY MURPHY
Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age. By Virginia Scharff. (Al-
buquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991. Pp. xi+219. Acknowledg-
ments, notes, index. ISBN o-o2928-135-0o. $13.95, paper.)
Three cheers for the University of New Mexico Press for releasing a paperback
version of Virginia Scharff's Taking the Wheel, originally published by the Free
Press. This is a book well-suited for the classroom, since it incorporates such in-
teresting and diverse topics as the early days of the automobile industry, the ad-
vertising industry's first skirmishes with consumer culture, and the impact of
gender stereotypes on technology. Beyond the intrinsic interest of these sub-
jects, the author uses the automobile and the new woman driver to address the
larger issue of the symbiotic relationship between culture and technology in the
first three decades of the twentieth century. Scharff begins her story with the ad-
vent of what she calls "the motor age," taking the reader through the first experi-
ments with electric cars to the adoption of the more powerful gasoline-engine
vehicles. Gender stereotypes, she finds, played an important part not only in ad-

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed September 19, 2014.