Land of Many Hands: Women in the American West

By Harriet Sigerman | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
“I LOVE TO WORK
WITH CATTLE”
WESTERN WOMEN
AT WORK

During her honeymoon in the winter of 1897, Marietta Palmer Wetherill accompanied her husband, Richard, on an expedition into Grand Gulch, Utah, to collect archaeological specimens for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He also wanted to document the discovery of the Anasazi Basketmakers, an Indian tribe that lived in the cliffs of New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon. Marietta Wetherill was the only woman in a trekking party of 13 men and 68 pack animals—and probably the first Anglo woman to make such a dangerous journey. The trekkers slowly picked their way up the steep cliffs. “It was so crooked that even a rattlesnake would have a hard time getting down without breaking its back,” she wrote later. Nine of the horses tumbled down the cliffs to their deaths. At the camp they set up, Wetherill kept records of all the artifacts that her husband and the other explorers brought in. The work days were long, from dawn to darkness, and the temperature was frigid at night. During one snowy night, as they lay in their makeshift bed beneath the ledge of a cave, her husband suddenly said, “Those mummies, they’ll get wet.” He sprung out of bed and Marietta, nearly asleep, could hear footsteps padding back and forth. Then

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