Author: Jim Fergus
Pages (or KB): 324 (627)
Links: Paperback, Kindle
One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.
What did you think of the book? (Why this book?, New Author? Read more by author? Keeping? Thoughts on Hero? Heroine?)
The title caught my attention for whatever reason. Upon reading the back of the book I was intrigued by this idea that the Cheyenne Chief thought they could assimilate better in the white mans world if they had white brides to which their children would then be part of the woman's tribe (i.e. the white world). It sounded fascinating and in the beginning I really thought it was.
May is ripped from the lives of her children because she is deemed "mad" all because she chose to love someone below her station in life though part of me feels it would also have to do with the fact that in the 1800s choosing who you want was less of a shock than living with him and being unwed. Still, May is clearly not mad and you feel for her.
She chooses to become one of the white brides because she can't stand the thought of being in the asylum any longer. Through May you meet more of the brides and the Indian people themselves.
There are things that my own beliefs and sensibilities had trouble with, one being that May becomes the third wife to Chief Little Wolf. Third? Then there is the fact that I don't really understand being in love with someone and wanting to have children with them and yet not being married to them. Though I suppose it frees her to marry the Indian Chief. Then there is, of course, her affair with her captain. May does seem to be a woman of little sense in a time when woman aren't always looked on favorably. Still at times you can't help but stand by her side.
Still the life among the Cheyenne people and the women who've come to care about those around them is a very beautiful story of friendship and love. And while you are getting everything from the perspective of May, she doesn't seem to be too inclined to tone things down. Her thoughts and opinions seems honest and heartfelt.
And I have to admit by the end I cried. But then I'm a weeper and so it was bound to happen. Overall a good story with a bit of a slow middle and a truly good yet bittersweet ending. I find myself still thinking about May and her friends hours after finishing the book.