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Twenty Thousand Roads

Twenty Thousand Roads: Women, Movement, and the West

Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 249
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  • Book Info
    Twenty Thousand Roads
    Book Description:

    From Sacagawea's travels with Lewis and Clark to rock groupie Pamela Des Barres's California trips, women have moved across the American West with profound consequences for the people and places they encounter. Virginia Scharff revisits a grand theme of United States history-our restless, relentless westward movement--but sets out in new directions, following women's trails from the early nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries. In colorful, spirited stories, she weaves a lyrical reconsideration of the processes that created, gave meaning to, and ultimately shattered the West.Twenty Thousand Roadsintroduces a cast of women mapping the world on their own terms, often crossing political and cultural boundaries defined by male-dominated institutions and perceptions. Scharff examines the faint traces left by Sacagawea and revisits Susan Magoffin's famed honeymoon journey down the Santa Fe Trail. We also meet educated women like historian Grace Hebard and government extension agent Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, who mapped the West with different voyages and visions. Scharff introduces women whose lives gave shape to the forces of gender, race, region, and modernity; participants in exploration, war, politics, empire, and struggles for social justice; and movers and shakers of everyday family life. This book powerfully and poetically shows us that to understand the American West, we must examine the lives of women who both built and resisted American expansion. Scharff remaps western history as she reveals how moving women have shaped our past, present, and future.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93703-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-8)

    In 1639 a woman by the name of Shaumpishuh, “Sachem Squaw of Menuncatuck,” sought to sell rights to lands between the Kuttawoo and Oiockcommock Rivers (later, the East River and Stony Creek) to a party of six Puritan men from the New Haven colony. It was not her first transaction. Shaumpishuh’s Narragansett band had suffered terrible losses from disease and from Mohawk and Pequot raiders, and they had come to see living near the English as a way of protecting themselves. She and her brother, Momaugin, had earlier sold their New Haven lands to English settlers. In 1639, however, she...


      (pp. 11-34)

      Before there was a west there, Native American women lived in and traversed and transformed the terrain that would, in time, become the West. But the arrival of the West meant that most of those women would be dislodged and erased, relegated to the status of missing persons. When you go looking for missing persons, you may not find them, but you are bound to find out a lot of other things. That was what happened when I went looking for the Shoshone woman we know today as Sacagawea.

      It seems odd to imagine this most famous Indian woman among...

    • CHAPTER 2 THE HEARTH OF DARKNESS: Susan Magoffin on Suspect Terrain
      (pp. 35-64)

      By the 1840s sacagawea’s country was under invasion. Americans were swarming to map the terrain between the Mississippi and the Pacific with their movements and their stories. One such American was Kentuckian Susan Shelby Magoffin, eighteen-year-old wife to St. Louis trader Samuel Magoffin and “the first American white woman ever to go over the rude trail of the Santa Fe traders.”¹ Susan Magoffin gained a measure of notice as a chronicler of men in the act of conquering. She kept a diary on her honeymoon trip in 1846 and into 1847, across the Santa Fe Trail and southward into Mexico,...


    • CHAPTER 3 EMPIRE, LIBERTY, AND LEGEND: Woman Suffrage in Wyoming
      (pp. 67-92)

      The origin myth of the American West pitted a lone man against empty wilderness. In the end, of course, the man was supposed to win. But the presence of women gave lie to the legend. As we have seen, the West would seek to take place in a collection of occupied realms and terrains in which women lived and moved. Contrary to the myth, the West did not end with the coming of women. Instead, they preceded, and then created it. For the West to come into existence as an American place at all, the presence of women—white women—...

    • CHAPTER 4 MARKING WYOMING: Grace Raymond Hebard and the West as Woman’s Place
      (pp. 93-114)

      Somewhere in the decades between Susan Magoffin’s bridal journey and the 1890 census that deemed the West “settled,” women who lived in the trans-Mississippi region began to insist on a public part and an audible voice in the story of the region. By the beginning of the twentieth century, they took an increasingly prominent place in the emerging region’s public culture, participating openly in politics, interpreting western history, and seizing the power of public institutions with an eye to shaping the future of the terrain they called home. Beneficiaries of increasing educational opportunities, economic growth, the crusade for women’s rights,...

    • CHAPTER 5 “SO MANY MILES TO A PERSON”: Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Makes New Mexico
      (pp. 115-136)

      For nearly five hundred years, an expanse of terrain that eventually became part of the American West has been identified as “Nuevo México,” a place at once prior to, part of, and at odds with the American West. In the eyes of those who built New Spain, New Mexico was the remote edge of the northern frontier, so poor and backward and tenuously attached to the mother country that the signatures of empire would be inscribed in a distinctly local hand. When Americans came to conquer in the middle of the nineteenth century, the newcomers’ ways of bounding their territory,...


    • CHAPTER 6 RESISTING ARREST: Jo Ann Robinson and the Power to Move
      (pp. 139-156)

      Markets and nations are creatures of motion. They require the circulation of people and money, goods and ideas. In the years between World War II and the 1970s, Americans in widely dispersed places lived more and more within the web of the nation and did their business more and more often with entities that operated on a national scale. Mass media, nationwide advertising and distribution of consumer goods, and, soon, multinational corporations reshaped Americans’ daily lives even as the federal government linked distant places with federally sponsored highways and military installations, entitlement programs and regulations, incitements to patriotism, and dire...

      (pp. 157-180)

      I was seven years old when John Kennedy took office, just realizing that there was a world outside the verdant curving streets of my neighborhood. That spring I lay in bed in the room I shared with my teenage sister, listening to her favorite AM station in the dark. That spring I fell in love, for the first time, with a song—a pumping beat, a man with a rough and driving voice that seemed to come from some aching place inside, and lyrics about a girl who’d somehow gotten away. Del Shannon’s great hit, “Runaway,” was a song about...

      (pp. 181-194)

      In the beginning, there were no words. The land and the creatures needed no names, no directions, no verbal cues. When humans came to live, perhaps thirty thousand years ago, the words came with them. But only in the last half millennium did Europeans arrive to pronounce that what had once been known by other names would be designated, thereafter, a remote part of a New World, first a North, then, at length, a West. The West was a protean, transient entity, first myth, then wish, then a series of episodes and encounters; a spiderwork of trails into and through...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 195-228)
  9. List of Illustrations
    (pp. 229-230)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 231-239)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 240-240)