The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992

Southwestern Historzcal Quarterly

assertion that "no single, simple, interpretation" can encompass all of the fe-
male frontier experience. Westering women included both adventurous non-
conformists and "true women" who clung to Victorian sex-role definitions; the
editors suggest that insistence on maintaining "ladylike" standards may have
been an active attempt at self-protection in a strange new environment rather
than mere passive endurance.
Financial resources, personal and family relationships, and the physical en-
vironment itself all affected women's response to the West. For every woman
like Annie Green, who wrote of the dusty plains of Greeley, Colorado, "I tried
with all my soul to feel that it was my home but in vain were my attempts"
(p. 127), there was a Carrie Martin, who looked back on Wisconsin from the
California Sierras and penned in her diary, "Money could not hire me to go
back there to live!" (p. 60). Teacher Angeline Mitchell spent a year on the Ari-
zona frontier, where she was roughed up by Indians, twice helped turn stam-
peding cattle away from trampling the pole house where she boarded, endured
nocturnal invasions by skunks and a mountain lion, and learned to share her
schoolroom with a resident Gila monster. Her comment, "My goodness-but
this is a lively place to live-only its [sic] a bit wearing on one's nerves" (p. 280),
may be the most understated truth of all.
University of Texas at Austzn JUDITH N. MCARTHUR
Unbroken Circle. By Mary Jane Weaver. (Austin: Plain View Press, 1986. Pp.
viii+ lo9. Foreword, preface, black-and-white photographs, illustration.
$1o, paper.)
Unbroken Czrcle vividly reveals the range and limits of oral testimony as his-
tory. Mary Jane Weaver was born in Arkansas in 1855 and lived much of her
life as a pioneer woman in Texas. She told her stories to a daughter-in-law,
Minnie Dee Weaver, who took notes in shorthand. The notes were prepared
for publication by one of Weaver's daughters, a granddaughter, and a great-
granddaughter. Her memories range in time from the Civil War she witnessed
as a small child, to the arrival of the telephone and automobile, to the changes
brought on by the start of World War II, until her death in 1942.
At one end of the spectrum, the oral memoir of Mary Jane Weaver should
hearten those who see value in passing down a sense of family history. It can be
a relatively simple thing to do, and older relatives may be able to provide rich
details about a family's history that cannot be found elsewhere.
It is also a basic and straightforward example of how oral testimony can be
useful in teaching social history. Weaver's volume certainly conveys some of the
flavor of life for women in the West in the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, and much detail about Texas. Weaver tells stories of rural life, of
poor farmers moving from one plot to another when enticed by the promise of
a better crop, of women farming small plots while men took jobs on the newly
constructed railroads, and of running boarding houses in the "cowtowns" that
had sprung up on the western frontier.
Unbroken Circle also makes clear, however, the difficulty of using oral testi-
mony. In the absence of a controlling context-for example, the impact of

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed August 21, 2014.