The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982 Page: 107
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knowledge of the overland (or in one instance oceangoing) experience.
Consistent with current interest in feminist history, attention is drawn
to women in what has too often been treated as a man's world.
Sandra Myres has explained her approach to editing holograph
works for publication in an introductory note: follow the original
most of the time but "regularize" some grammar, punctuation, and
spelling. Annotations at the bottom of the pages identify places and
provide cross-references to other diaries.
Editor Myres admits that "in and of themselves, none of the journals
is particularly significant" (p. xiii). Yet there are illuminating details:
Indians were seldom a threat; accidents were common; the middle-
class emigrants sometimes had great difficulty with firearms; women
usually did the cooking, washing, and caring for children, but there
was great flexibility, men often assisting with "household" chores.
Myres is convinced that women's work while traveling "was not neces-
sarily any more difficult, and perhaps less so, than it was at home"
Myres finds that Mormons and Missourians were more frequently
criticized than the Indians. About the Mormons she notes that "no
tale was too far fetched, no reported crime too heinous to be believed
and repeated" (p. 41). Just finishing a book on the image of Mormons
in graphics, I can confirm the popularity of that negative stereotype
but would add that it was by no means confined to travelers. Interest-
ingly, the Mormons themselves, who had been expelled from Missouri
in 1839, viewed the Missourians with disdain and suspicion. The
stereotyping process is a human trait from which no one can claim
I was somewhat disappointed to find no diary of a Mormon woman
in this group. There are some examples-those by Jean Rio Baker,
Patience Loader, and Eliza R. Snow-at least on a par with the five
accounts included. (The Snow overland diary, located in the Hunt-
ington Library, is being edited for publication by Maureen Ursenbach
Beecher.) An important comparative dimension to understanding the
overland experience is added when such examples are considered.
How typical are these five accounts? Granting, with John H. Kem-
ble, that there is no such thing as a "typical" diary, Myres emphasizes
the variety of women's reactions. Yet she presents these five as "repre-
sentative of the experiences of westering women" (p. xii). Admitting
the difficulty of generalization in history, I still think it important to
know what were the common experiences as opposed to those that
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982, periodical, 1981/1982; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/m1/127/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.