New Women in the Old West: From Settlers to Suffragists, an Untold American Story

Penguin Pr. Jul. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9780735223257. $28. HIST
The catchy title of this survey of women’s history in the American West more than explains many roles—social, economic, and political—that women took on and mastered during the pivotal years of 1840 through the early 20th century. Gallagher (How the Post Office Created America) explains that this was a time when American women of all races and ethnicities had few political and legal rights. Gallagher writes in her introduction that in the history of the American West, “women’s record of double-barreled achievement has been neglected.” With this work, the author goes a long way toward filling the information gap by highlighting stories of women who are often not mentioned in history textbooks, including Black suffragist Elizabeth Piper Ensley, Metis/Turtle Mountain Chippewa suffragist Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin, and white suffragist-turned-physician Cora Smith Eaton. In each chapter, Gallagher renders portraits of a plethora of women from diverse ethnic, economic, and religious backgrounds, who exhibited independence and changed women’s roles in society.
VERDICT This well researched and expertly documented account of noteworthy women who effected change during a pivotal era in the United States is a welcome addition to all history collections. Gallagher’s emphasis on the diversity of her subjects makes the book exceptional.
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