Letters of a Woman Homesteader

by Elinore Pruitt Stewart

Paperback, 1988




Houghton Miffilin Co (1988), 282 pages


Letters of a Woman Homesteader presents an outstanding first-person account of life on the American frontier. Elinore Pruitt Stewart took up homesteading in Burnt Fork, Wyoming, in 1909, to prove that a woman could ranch. Her captivating letters, sent to a former employer in Denver, reveal the isolation, the beauty, and the joy of working the prairie.The basis for the acclaimed movie Heartland, this charming chronicle is part of our vanished past. Stewart's courage and her delight in the world around her cannot fail to capture the hearts of her listeners.


(179 ratings; 4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member mldavis2
While not a novel as such, this is an interesting publication of a series of letters written by a homestead woman around 1909 in Wyoming. The letters were written to a former female employer and, apparently good friend, and chronicles her life during a short period of time and the struggles and
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optimism and her love of nature. No replies are recorded and the letters are written in a semi-diary format. The value of this book lies in the attitude of the writer, her self-sufficiency and her descriptions of a wide-open country life.
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LibraryThing member Clueless
Thoroughly enjoyable tale told in letters. A plucky widow moves west with her infant. With humor, wit and optimism she writes of her riveting life. Hard work doesn't daunt her.
LibraryThing member NancyLang
I thoroughly enjoyed Elinore's letters and her optimitstic view of a possible brutal time. She continually challenged herself and shared her achievements in a most delightful way. I too appreciated her clear view and appreciation of the natural beauty around her and her affection for her husband.
LibraryThing member BoundTogetherForGood
What a delightful book! Elinore Pruitt Rupert Stewart was a prolific writer of letters. After her husband died, leaving her with a young infant, she decided to head west and see as much of the world as possible.

After a bout of flu she was advised that she should travel out to Wyoming as she was
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supposed to fare better there. On a whim she contacted a man who was advertising for a housekeeper. She moved from Denver to Wyoming, near the Bad Land hills.

This book is a collection of letters which she wrote to a dear friend and former employer in Denver. Over the course of the letters on learns bits and pieces about her life...a few secrets even. If you've never read this type of book or if you just think you might not be interested, I would still encourage you to broaden your reading horizons and read this little gem.

At only 112 pages it is certainly a page-turner. I couldn't wait to see what Elinore and her gang might be upt to next. The best part is that she is quite the humorist. Not only does she find humor in many things, she is also able to convey humor through her writing. What a talent! How pleased must have been those people to whom she wrote letters! I can only imagine what a pleasure it must have been to know her. With such a bright and giving spirit, those around her must truly have been blessed.

She, too, was blessed. Moving to Wyoming brought her to a land that was much less inhabited than where she had previously lived. She had to learn new ways. She also learned independence as she was also on a quest to prove her own homestead! In the course of doing that she also made many life-long friends and found that she did not have to be always so fiercely independent because she was surrounded by people who loved her and cared for her.
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LibraryThing member Sundownr
I really enjoyed reading her letters and wish there had been more!
LibraryThing member etxgardener
This book is a collection of letters from a woman who leaves the east to homestead and be a housekeeper for a Scottish man in Wyoming to her former employer., and are a delight to read. The author reveals herself to be an intrepid woman to which nothing is too big a problem to surmount. She grabs
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life with both hands & enjoys the ride.

At first I doubted that this was actually a work of non-fiction, but upon researching the author after I finished the book, I found that, indeed, she was a real person. I would compare her to the fictional Amelia Peabody of the famous mystery series. She is a woman of heart and pluck.
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LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
Elinore Pruitt Stewart was a strong pioneer woman, an adventurer, a loving mother, a hard worker, an imaginative problem solver and a great letter writer. She describes homesteading in Wyoming at the beginning of the 20th century in letters full of joy, love of the land, self assurance, community
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spirit and optimism. She thought any woman who tired of dreary, repetitive hard work in town should and could be a homesteader. She thought the work was no harder and the rewards far greater. She appeared to be a woman with no self doubt an an inspiration to us all.
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LibraryThing member countrylife
”To me, homesteading is the solution of all poverty’s problems, but I realize that temperament has much to do with success in any undertaking, and persons afraid of coyotes and work and loneliness had better let ranching alone. At the same time, any woman who can stand her own company, can see
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the beauty of the sunset, loves growing things and is willing to put in as much time at careful labor as she does over the washtub, will certainly succeed; will have independence, plenty to eat all the time, and a home of her own in the end.”

Elinor Pruitt takes her future into her own hands and heads to Wyoming with her young daughter. While proving up her own homestead, she keeps house and cooks for the bachelor at the next homestead, in this way making an income meantime. Her letters back home to her friend are full of the beauties of her surroundings, and accounts of encounters with neighbors, Mormons, wild creatures, and weather. The saved letters cover her years in Wyoming from 1909-1913. I would love to have letters such as these in my family history. They are full of emotion and fact and held me rapt for the duration of the book.

”Did you ever eat pork and beans heated in a frying-pan on a camp-fire for breakfast? Then if you have not, there is one delight left you. But you must be away out in Wyoming, with the morning sun just gilding the distant peaks, and your pork and beans must be out of a can, heated in a disreputable old frying-pan, served with coffee boiled in a battered old pail and drunk from a tomato-can. ”
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LibraryThing member jules72653
A very descriptive look at life in Wyoming during the early 1900s. I believe it took a remarkable woman to do what she did. Very entertaining book and I hope to get a hard copy for my mom. I think she would enjoy it as well.
LibraryThing member thornton37814
Did you ever wonder what life might be like on the early 20th century frontier for a woman and her daughter? In this series of letters written to persons back home, we find the story of a woman who was tough enough to make it. In some of the letters she details how she settled her claim which
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provides valuable information for persons researching pioneer settlers. Her life is truly remarkable and inspirational.
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LibraryThing member itsJUSTme
Some of it was interesting. I like historical books but I guess I don't really care for books made up just of letters. I found it harder to follow and real slow. I think if it was written in story form I would have enjoyed it more.
LibraryThing member satyridae
Loved this! Stewart's letters are delightful. Betsy-Tacy is always my frame of reference for the early teens, and I kept thinking about how while Elinore was mowing the meadow or helping someone deliver a baby, Betsy was trying to get a bath in a German hostel. Stewart is indomitable, plucky, and
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amusing as all get-out. Her life is interesting, her voice unique.

The narrator was good. The letters, terrific!

Highly recommended for all the BT folks.
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LibraryThing member heylucy
A timeless collection of vignettes about life on the frontier at the turn of the century.
LibraryThing member Jillian_Kay
An excellent audiobook -- adventurous and touching.
LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
Written in a warm chatty style, Letters of a Woman Homesteader paints an interesting picture of homesteading in Wyoming in the early 1900’s. The author, a widow with a young child, takes on the role of housekeeper on a ranch while at the same time files her own claim on land that adjoins this
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ranch. To prove her claim she plants and grows vegetables and makes some basic improvements on the property. She marries the rancher and all the while continues to write letters to her friend in Denver describing her life.

With both humor and insight she describes her day to day activities and that of her neighbours. This isn’t an easy life, they are miles from any town or railroad and have to learn to be self-sufficient in many areas, including medicine. Even going to a neighbours for a dinner party means a long overnight camping trip to get there. Yet even while living such an isolated life, her letters portray her love of life and nature. Her prose is simple and heartfelt, and her descriptions of the natural world that surround her allow the reader to feel part of that world as well.

Eleanor Pruitt Stewart was a strong, independent woman, as I imagine most women who homesteaded had to be. When there wasn’t a minister available for a funeral service, she went ahead and conducted the services for her new-born son herself. But beyond having this core of steel, she was a woman who found the place she was meant to be. “I love the flicker of an open fire, the smell of the pines, the pure, sweet air, and I went to sleep thinking how blest I was to be able to enjoy the things I love most.” An enjoyable read.
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LibraryThing member anitatally
I loved this book. The letter-writer must have been a wonderful woman. I would have loved to have known her.
LibraryThing member wealhtheowwylfing
Literally sick from the hard work and poor living conditions in Denver, widowed Elinore took her ~4 year old daughter and settled in the wilds of Wyoming. Although the territory was largely unpeopled and filled with physical hardship, Elinore loved it. She wrote amusing letters filled with
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anecdotes to her friends back home; this is a collection of some of them. Her descriptions of the beautiful landscapes and odd people she encounters are wonderfully wrought. Altogether, it's rather like a sarcastic, grown-up version of the Little House books.

*note: Elinore was a Southerner writing in 1909-1913, and she unapologetically uses the n-word throughout the book.
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LibraryThing member LudieGrace
I had never heard of this book before, just stumbled across it while looking for volumes of letters to download from Project Gutenberg. I’m so glad I did. Engrossing, well-written, often humorous letters of a widow who decided to start a new life on the Wyoming frontier. If you enjoy reading
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letters and don’t mind that key bits of the story are revealed gradually, then I recommend this! I’d certainly read it again—her voice is a delight.
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LibraryThing member reader1009
nonfiction (letters from early 1900s). use of 'n' word and Negro as vernacular of the day.
LibraryThing member cbl_tn
In the early 20th century, a widow with a young daughter takes up a homestead claim in Wyoming and writes letters about her life and adventures to her former employer in Denver. Elinore wanted to prove that a woman could ranch on her own. She claimed success in her letters, but she really wasn’t
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on her own since she married the Scotsman with the neighboring claim almost as soon as she arrived. She did show how much a generous-hearted homesteader could accomplish with the aid of equally generous neighbors. Her down-to-earth descriptions of her home, her neighbors and their homes, her travels and the people she met, and holidays and special events will quickly captivate most readers.

I listened to the audio version. The reader’s voice reminded me of a voice mail assistant or GPS navigator so much that I wondered at first if it was being read by a computer. Since she changed accents when someone else was speaking, I decided it was a real person speaking and not a computer!
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LibraryThing member classyhomemaker
I enjoyed reading this---mainly because it was fun to imagine "old Wyoming". Also, some of the characters came from Arkansas, namely Yell County, so that was fun. I would recommend not reading the forward if one doesn't want the entire thing summed up in a few short paragraphs.
LibraryThing member magnolia2
This is an interesting read showing an upbeat look at life as a woman homesteader. The book is a series of letters from Mrs. Stewart to a friend back east.
LibraryThing member 73pctGeek
Was very interesting to read. Things were very different in 1909, and yet not so different at all. I would have enjoyed an annotated version more, as there was much I didn’t understand due to shifting vocabularies and changes in society. I also would have liked the whole collection of letters to
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have been placed in context by an editor. It would have been nice to know what became of Elinore, and who she was before going off to homestead.
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Original publication date


Physical description

282 p.


0395321379 / 9780395321379
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