Eight Women, Two Model Ts, and the American West

Eight Women, Two Model Ts, and the American West

Eight Women, Two Model Ts, and the American West

Eight Women, Two Model Ts, and the American West

Synopsis

In 1924 eight young women drove across the American West in two Model T Fords. In nine weeks they traveled more than nine thousand unpaved miles on an extended car-camping trip through six national parks, "without a man or a gun along." It was the era of the flapper, but this book tells the story of a group of farm girls who met while attending Iowa's Teacher's College and who shared a "yen to see some things." A blend of oral and written history, adventure, memoir, and just plain heartfelt living, Eight Women is a story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Weaving together a granddaughter's essays with family stories and anecdotes from the 1924 trip, the book portrays four generations of women extending from nineteenth-century Norway to present-day Iowa--and sets them loose across the western United States where the perils and practicalities of automotive travel reaffirm family connections while also celebrating individual freedom.

Excerpt

In 1924 eight young women drove across the West in two Model T Fords. They camped out for nine weeks while traveling over nine thousand miles and visiting six national parks—without a man or a gun along. One of these women was my grandmother, another my great-aunt.

I was in my thirties and evaluating my own life when it struck me that their lives were unusual. I set up an interview with my Grandma Marie, her sister Laura, and another traveler named Grace. They were ninety, eighty-five, and eightyeight respectively. I thought that once they were together their eyes would light up with extraordinary memories; that they would lean forward on their canes and transport me to another time. It didn’t happen that way. the trip was no longer a whole to them—they couldn’t remember what route they took or which adventure happened where. It was as if vivid vignettes, retold and polished over time, had slipped into their memories as fragments and were now cast in something other than the day-to-day life of driving on dirt roads for nine weeks. It made me think about history, about how subjective it is and how much of it vanishes when anyone dies. It also made me wonder why certain pieces remain.

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