One Thousand White Women, the first book in a three part series, was published in 1998 and received mixed reviews. Some thought it was too raw to accept and others found it possible that the history was the un-sanitized version of the US patriarchal culture. The book series is written in journal format. I loved White Women; although it was violent and tough to read in parts.
The historical fiction series is set in the wild West of 1875. The United States government enacted plans to clear the path for “Manifest Destiny”, the belief that God wills democracy and capitalism to expand westward to the Pacific. As we all know -the native peoples and the open range stood in their way.
The Cheyenne hope to find a way to co-exist with the white men by merging cultures and offer to marry white women. The US government set up a clandestine project, Brides for Indians (BFI) with the intent that the women would “civilize” and teach English to the heathens. Volunteers brides from insane asylums and prisons, women whose crimes generally defined by men, were sent westward. White Women is written as the journal of May Dodd.
The women came to love native life; even with its hardships and dangers. The book ends with a dead-of-night murderous raid by US Infantry on the Cheyenne Indian village setting the stage for the second book, Vengeance of Mothers.
9 March 1876
My name is Meggie Kelly and I take up this pencil with my twin sister, Susie. We have nothing left, less than nothing. The village of our People has been destroyed, all our possessions burned, our friends butchered by the soldiers, our baby daughters gone, frozen to death on an ungodly trek across these rocky mountains . . .
Vengeance of Mothers finds the survivors of the murderous raid racing into the mountains in the dead of night in the cold brutal winter weather; most barefoot wearing nothing more than their bedclothes. In the first book, we followed the lives of these white brides as they assimilated into native life by reading May Dodd’s journal. In this sequel, we learn that May and her journal did not survive the raid.
The few surviving brides include the fiery red-headed Irish twins, Meggie and Susie Kelly. These intrepid women begin journaling, like May Dodd, with the hopes that their words will survive and the world would not forget them and the other “brides” and mothers. These unwanted castoffs from the white man’s world, now find themselves entangled in the murderous struggle to clear the land of indigenous peoples for the westward advancement of white culture.
The graphic raids on the native villages will break the reader’s heart. The strength of the native peoples to keep trying to maintain their culture is admirable. The depth of depravity at the heart of the United States government’s plan to eradicate a culture, viewed as inferior and uncivilized, is despicable. And the brutal and horrifying actions of the mothers of all tribes to the loss of their beloved children and other family at the hands of the US military is understandable.
As the vanquished mothers are often quoted, “… do not underestimate the wrath of a mother’s vengeance. It is only that which keeps us alive, don’t ya see? We will stay here and fight to the end, because what else is there to do?”
The book is not for the squeamish. I found myself turning away for relief at the times. Always I returned as I felt I owed it to the memory of all women who have been pressed under the power of a patriarchal society.
Strongheart, the final installment to the One Thousand White Women trilogy, will be published April of 2021.