California’s role in western expansion |

California’s role in western expansion

This is the first in a series of articles on the Truckee Library’s collection of books about California’s – and Truckee’s – place in the story of the western expansion.

With the shorter days of winter, there seems to come a little extra time to explore subjects of interest. One of the strongest sections in the Truckee Library is the collection of books on the regional history of events and personalities in western expansion.

The stories of and by the women who accompanied their families across the continent in the 1800s are often overlooked. Fortunately, many women wrote journals and kept letters recording their daily struggles and dreams.

Often women came west not because they wanted to, but because there was no alternative to following their husbands’ westward quest.

“Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey” by Lillian Schlissel, who holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and works as director of American Studies at Brooklyn College, records the hardships of the women who struggled to keep their families together during the arduous journey across the country.

Excerpts from letters and notes track the perils and obstacles of three different eras of westward expansion: 1841-1850, 1851-1855 and 1856-1867. These are followed by the individual diaries of four women who made the western trek. The book is filled with black-and-white photos, and is a fascinating record of the daily lives of pioneer women.

“Women of the West” by Cathy Luchetti and Carol Olwell focuses on 11 women carving out new lives for themselves in the west. Its larger format and wealth of historical photos make this more of a coffee table book.

From Mariam Davis Colt’s account of her move to an experimental vegetarian settlement in Kansas where only eight of the 100 members had previous farming experience, to the story of Sarah Winnemucca – granddaughter of Chief Truckee – who devoted her life to helping her own Paiute people, the book is a fascinating look through the eyes of women during westward expansion.

In the words of the author, “History seldom tells the stories of the 800,000 women who also came west, lively stories of courtship, love, inventiveness, humor, skullduggery, passion…this book is about those women who have not had a place in academic history.”

In addition to the above-mention books on women in the west, the Truckee Library houses such volumes as “Red Light Ladies of Virginia City;” “They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush;” and “Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier.”

Truckee Library, 10031 Levon Road, 582-7846

New Truckee Library hours:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday….Noon – 6 p.m.

Thursday…………………… Noon- 8 p.m.

Saturday……………………10 a.m – 4 p.m.

Story and Toddler Time is scheduled Fridays, 11-11:30 a.m. Friends of the Library meetings (open to the public) are the third Wednesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at the library.

For information, contact Ruth Hall at 587-7499.

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