The First We Can Remember: Colorado Pioneer Women Tell Their Stories

The First We Can Remember: Colorado Pioneer Women Tell Their Stories

The First We Can Remember: Colorado Pioneer Women Tell Their Stories

The First We Can Remember: Colorado Pioneer Women Tell Their Stories

Synopsis

Looking over the great prairie in the early 1880s, Nellie Buchanan said, "I knew I would never be contented until I had a home of our own in the wonderful West." Some were not so sanguine. Mary Cox described the prairie as "the most barren, forsaken country that we had ever seen." Like the others whose stories appear in this book, these women were describing their own thoughts and experiences traveling to and settling in what became Colorado. Sixty-seven of their original, first-person narratives, recounted to Civil Works Administration workers in 1933 and 1934, are gathered for the first time in this book.
The First We Can Remember presents richly detailed, vivid, and widely varied accounts by women pioneers during the late nineteenth century. Narratives of white American-born, European, and Native American women contending with very different circumstances and geographical challenges tell what it was like to settle during the rise of the smelting and mining industries or the gold rush era; to farm or ranch for the first time; to struggle with unfamiliar neighbors, food and water shortages, crop failure, or simply the intransigent land and unpredictable weather. Together, these narratives- historically and geographically framed by Lee Schweninger's detailed introduction- create a vibrant picture of women's experiences in the pioneering of the American West.

Excerpt

I was just thrilled, for the great prairie was one big blanket of pure white snow
with here and there a little home like a dot on the whiteness; nothing in sight
but the beautiful snow and the sky. Right there I knew I would never be
contented until I had a home of our own in the wonderful West.
Nellie Buchanan, Kit Carson County

After an overnight stop during her journey to Colorado in the early 1880s, Nellie Buchanan described her excitement about pioneering in the West. Like the other narrators whose accounts appear here, she was excited about the open spaces, the physical beauty, and the possibility of owning her own home. Like them, she also provided a firsthand, first-person account of her thoughts and experiences traveling to and settling in what became Colorado. the narrators included in this collection told their stories to Civil Works Administration (CWA) field-workers across the state in 1933 and 1934, and these field-workers sent the transcripts of the narratives to the Colorado Historical Society, where they have lain ever since.

As Nellie Buchanan hinted, the attractions accorded the “wonderful West” were many. These narrators believed that the West would offer them, in addition to natural beauty and perceived open spaces, the opportunity to possess their own piece of land; that it held forth the promise of wealth or at least a comfortable living; that it would . . .

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