Letters of a Woman Homesteader – Elinore Pruitt Stewart (1914)

A classic of its kind, this short book is composed of letters sent by Elinore Pruitt back to her old employer after Elinore has left for her new future as a pioneer homesteader in Wyoming. It also could be argued that this is an early-ish example of feminist literature in that she demonstrates through example that women are just as capable as men in this regard.

Elinore was a young widow with a small child, and knew that pioneer life would be hard. However, as demonstrated in her absolutely charming letters, she has a winning attitude to her new hard life, and is very determined to make a go of the whole project. She begins by starting as a housekeeper for a grumpy Scottish homesteading man, but after several years, they get married.

This is one of the most honest and moving accounts of early settler life I have ever read. Elinore is eloquent and clear in her writing and descriptions of life, and the people and friends who she meets, many of whom are characters in their own right: Zebbie Parker, Mrs. O’Shaugnessy, N-Yawk the ranch hand…

(It was also interesting to read about her travels into Utah and her mentions of contact with the Mormon groups down there…Fascinating when I think about what I have learnt about that religion and having been to Salt Lake City…)

It’s quite remarkable to read what she says about homesteading: “Homesteading is the solution of all poverty’s problems” – compare this with the “modern” idea of urban farming, sustainable agriculture, and buying local (a la Michael Pollen)…

And then this bit:

“Any woman who can stand her own company, can see the beauty of the sunset, loves growing things, and is willing to put as much time at careful labor as she does the washtub will certainly succeed, will have independence, plenty to eat all the time, and a home of her own at the end…”

Words to live by, indeed.

4 thoughts on “Letters of a Woman Homesteader – Elinore Pruitt Stewart (1914)

  1. I agree: I found this incredibly moving! Did you know there’s a ‘sequel’? It’s Letters from an Elk Hunt, or something to that effect. I have it on my Nook but haven’t gotten to it yet.

    • I had found out about the sequel, but did you know there was also a movie based on her experiences called “Heartland”…? One of my friends who is a prof teaches it to her undergrads, but they all say it’s too slow. So – probably right up you and my alleys! 🙂

  2. I stumbled on this book in the Internet Archives and loved it also. (A friend told me about the movie later too.) I’ll have to look for the sequel that your friend mentions above.

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