The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998

Book Reviews

charts, lists, and statistical data show what historians have believed all along, that
Polk was determined to appoint only Democratic generals whenever possible,
and when such possibilities did not exist, he simply appointed them anyway.
Polk was never bipartisan, even in his ultimate selection of Whigs Zachary Taylor
and Winfield Scott. The choices were made under enormous pressure. The
plain fact is he needed a winning commander, and the Democratic Party just did
not have one. Polk knew that he had to win an unpopular war as soon as possible
or face inevitable crippling consequences; and he got what he wanted-victory
in eighteen months without the loss of a single battle. (Regrettably, ensuing
presidents did not learn from Polk's example.) It is doubtful that Polk ever read
Sun Tzu; it was in limited circulation and then only in French translation, but
had he done so, he surely would have agreed with the sage observation, "I have
not seen a clever war that was prolonged."
This book is good in so many ways that a brief review can cite merely a few of
its contributions. One that merits particular commendation is Winders's demoli-
tion of the myth that the United States did not pay dearly in blood. On a per-
centage basis, there was an enormous loss of life when compared with other
wars. Telling as well is the unfortunately too brief epilogue appropriately subti-
tled "A Pyrrhic Victory." It is Winders's contention that the president's handling
of the war effectively injured his own party not only by the loss of the election of
1848, apparent enough, but also by long-term ramifications that led, inevitably,
to its more nearly complete demise in 1860. The reviewer warmly recommends
this work and congratulates the author on his exceptional study.
Southwest Texas State University JAMES W. POHL
Writing the Range: Race, Class, and Culture in the Women's West. Edited and with an
introduction by Elizabeth Jameson and Susan Armitage. (Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1997. Pp. xiii+656. List of illustrations,
acknowledgments, introduction, selected and general bibliographies, con-
tributors, index. ISBN o-8061-2952-2. $45.00, cloth. $21.95, paper.)
The opening paragraph of the editors' introduction to Writing the Range: Race,
Class, and Culture in the Women's West, a companion volume to the editors' 1987
anthology, The Women's West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press), clearly
posits that this anthology represents a "commitment to an inclusive history that is
yet to be written," which aims "to include women of all regions, races, and classes"
in the American West (p. 3). The hefty size of the book (656 pages) reflects its
attempts to cover such an all-inclusive subject; at one point, the editors suggest
that western history starts with the "first migrations across the Bering land bridge"
(p. 13). For a reader who is not part of the Coalition for Western Women's
History (founded by the editors after the groundbreaking Women's West
Conference in 1983), this reflexive anthology is a bit overwhelming at first. In
order to benefit fully from the scope of these essays, it would be helpful for the
reader to have as background a working knowledge of The Women's West as well as
the journal, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. The enigmatic title, a complex

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/. Accessed September 16, 2014.