The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002

Book Reviews

nature, acknowledging the best and the worst in herself and fellow human be-
ings on the planet.
Temple, Texas Raye Virginia Allen
Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience. Edited by John R. Wunder, Frances W.
Kaye, and Vernon Carstensen. (Boulder: University Press of Colorado,
1999. Pp. xiii+429. Preface, acknowledgments, introduction, bibliography,
editors, index. ISBN 0-87081-507-5. $34.95, cloth.)
This book originated as a contribution of the late and highly respected Profes-
sor Vernon Carstensen to the American Historical Association's projected series
of document-based monographs on American life. The series was dropped and
Professor Carstensen's work lay dormant for thirty years until assumed by his stu-
dent John Wunder with his mentor's go-ahead. Wunder enlisted the aid of
Frances Kaye, who was editor of the Great Plains Quarterly, and with her assistance
completed the work.
Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience is organized into five divisions with
each then subdivided into collections of documents pertaining to a variety of re-
lated subjects. Multiple use of reportorial accounts taken from leading national
periodicals emphasizes the plight of farmers in the 1930s and its antecedents in
the 1920s. Similarly, accounts of farmers' protests receive extensive coverage
along with their leaders and the organizations active in the protest movement
such as the Farmers' Holiday Association and Milo Reno; the brilliant, mercurial
Producers News editor Charles Taylor, and his Farmer-Labor Party; and the Unit-
ed Farmers' League promoted by Communist Party leader "Mother" Ella Reeve
Bloor.
Among acts of protest one finds accounts of the Farmers' March on Washing-
ton in 1932; the disgraceful near-lynching of IowaJudge Charles C. Bradley; and
the clever, effective penny auctions through which communities of farmers
banded together to protect less fortunate neighbors from foreclosures.
Although the whole of the Great Plains was obviously affected, the term "Dust
Bowl" commonly applies to the area centering in the Texas and Oklahoma pan-
handles and adjoining portions of contiguous states (see maps pp. 1o and 375).
The chief coverage of this book is upon Nebraska, Iowa, and the Dakotas and
upon agricultural crises and farmers' insurgencies in those states rather than up-
on the geographical center of the Dust Bowl. In that respect, the content and
the title are somewhat out of sync and Texas readers will find relatively little of
direct concern.
The foregoing is intended more as observation than as criticism, however,
and indeed the most poignant and instructive items are those describing the
impact of dust storms upon their human victims. Most telling among these are
the letters of a sensitive, articulate woman, Caroline A. Henderson, who lived
out the dust disaster from her family farm home near Eva, Oklahoma. To this
day, the most powerful testimony to the impact of the Dust Bowl (in this re-
viewer's experience) is found among Plains people who survived it. For them it
was an event of cataclysmic dimensions entrenched in the collective memory as
strongly as would be a major war, and Sunday, April 15, 1935, the day of the

385

2001

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed July 10, 2014.