Monday, December 05, 2011

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart

Before email took over long distance communications, I used to write and receive handwritten letters. While some were written on stationery, others were simply on lined notebook paper. A few were in greeting cards. Those from overseas often came on blue lightweight airmail paper stamped "par avion." I enjoyed finding any of these letters from friends or family in our mailbox. Now I often forget to look in the mailbox. There is rarely anything other than bills and solicitations from charities. The era of the letter to read and reread is gone, but there is a way to go back - reading collections of letters from your library.

It does not matter that letters in collections were not written to me - I enjoy them as if they were. I can easily slip into the role of friend and lose myself in a world of the writer. It is even better when the letters are read aloud by a professional reader. I say this as I am currently enjoying Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart, read by Kate Fleming. I am sure Fleming is channeling the spirit of Elinore, who would have been a good friend to have.

In 1909, widow Elinore Pruitt left Denver with her two year old daughter to take a job as a housekeeper on a ranch near Burnt Folk, Wyoming, near the border with Utah. She planned to earn enough money to make her own land claim and escape the drudgery of doing laundry in a city. She succeeded beyond her dreams. She also found beautiful country full of deserts, forests, and mountains, which she described to her friend Mrs. Coney in Denver, who seems to have kept all of the letters. Of course, life on the frontier was not easy, but Elinore met many people who worked with her to make a good life. In her cheerful letters, she tells many stories about the cattlemen, shepherds, farmers, and other frontier folk.

Letters of a Woman Homesteader make wonderful reading and would serve as a great introduction to the world of letters.

Stewart, Elinore Pruitt. Letters of a Woman Homesteader. University of Nebraska Press, 1989. 281p. ISBN 0803251939.

In Audio, 2003. 4 compact discs. ISBN 1584724722.

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