One of the best books I have read in a very long time. It was hard at times to remember that it is a work of fiction. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical works.
Set against the true historical facts of what the government under President Grant was doing to the native populations (broken treaties, half fulfilled or non fulfillment of promises and the discovery of gold in the sacred Black Hills) and the willingness of Generals like Crook and Custer to annihilate any "savage" who would not move to a reservation, a fictional story is told.
In the words of May Dodd, the black sheep daughter of a wealthy Chicago family who was in an insane asylum as a result of what her family called a perverted personality, the story is told of what might have happened if white women had been asked to marry with the native population in an effort to make peace. This is a compelling story and plays out very well against the historical facts of the years 1874-1876 in the Indian Territories of NE, WY and SD.
The sign of an amazing novel is that its content can address harsh topics such as rape, murder, infanticide and betrayal yet still be remembered fondly and soberly. It was difficult to read, true, but I could not put it down - the unfailing courage and difficult choices continued to surprise and capture me.
All the characters were highly satisfactory - none were god-like in quality but the evil were evil and the good simply humans with real, understandable faults. By focusing much of the perspective on May, the struggles between the Cheyenne and the "whites" were truly portrayed without bias. Fergus sugarcoats nothing, preferring to illustrate each civilization as fully as possible, and leave it to the reader to lay or reserve judgment.
I picked this book up without knowing what its subject matter would be - there was no summary on the back - but it immediately stole my attention, keeping me engrossed until its end.
If you choose to read this, be prepared for a heavy but extremely memorable read.
I found this book to be extremely interesting. In May Dodd's words, in referring to her wedding night to an Indian chief "Yes, I think that's a fine way of putting it. Like this whole adventure, a dream that's actually happening." May, a socialite from Chicogo, finds herself institutionalized by her family for promiscuity for marrying and having children with a man "below her status". At the same time a deal has been struck by the U.S. government to civilize the Indian population through trading 1,000 white women for 1,000 horses so that the Indian population, through having children with white women will be tamed and become civilized. May agrees to become an Indian bride to escape the horrors of the asylum. Her optimizim through it all gives us a unique insight into the Indian culture of the late 1800s. I enjoyed the book and recommend it highly.
Am I the only one who absolutely HATED this book? I would give it negative stars if possible. No surprise this was written by a man because his female protagonist is such a cliche...the rebellious, "modern" woman who is shunned by early 20th century society because she LOVES the wrong man. Not to mention the other cliched women featured in this book, including the proud black Amazon-like former slave (who becomes a proud black Amazon-like warrior among the Indian braves), and the battered and abused girl-child who thrives out West (and of course is the first to die).
This is an unbelievably, soft and fuzzy harlequin version of the American Indians. I cannot believe the men of the tribe would tolerate some of the behaviour of the white women (in one chapter, May Dodd bursts into a tentful of naked Indian males in their traditional males-only steam tent, just to show "she can"). Also, after May gives birth to a clearly Caucasian baby (she had an affair with one of the soldiers) her Indian chief husband is absurdly HAPPY??? and acts like he doesn't know he's been cuckolded.
I wish I'd passed on reading this book.
This story was interesting and easy to get into, however, I have read several other books on this locale and time period (including The Captured by Scott Zesch) and I often found parts of the white women's freedom and goddess-like treatment by the Cheyenne unrealistic. That being said, the originality of this story, the touching ending and May's strength of character and quick intelligence made this a worthwhile, memorable novel. I'm rating this down a point for the hard-to-believe passages.
Author Jim Fergus prefaces this novel with a note about a prominent Northern Cheyenne chief requesting 1000 white women in exchange for horses, at an 1854 peace conference. The request was denied, but this book imagines what might have happened if the request had been granted. The novel is written from the perspective of a fictional personal journal kept by one of the white women.
Right up front, I have to say that this is, perhaps, one of the WORST books I've ever read from cover to cover. If you're going to write about Native American tribes, it helps to do some research... this book uses outrageous caricatures in place of true representation. Fergus has his Cheyenne warriors replying "hou" to everything; he has his heroine repeatedly refer to Native Americans as "savages," even after she has supposedly been living with them for some time; and the dialogue is, quite frankly, the most abysmal trash I've had the misfortune to suffer through for a very long time.
Speaking of dialogue in particular, I have several beefs with Jim Fergus and his ham-handed attempt at writing REAL people:
1. In real conversation, real participants do not address each other by name in every sentence. In Jim Fergus's world, they do. Example - "Marge, please hand me that kettle." "Here you are, Joan." "Thank you, Marge. How is your toast, Marge?" "Oh, Joan, it's very tasty, thank you." "I'm so pleased, Marge, that you like it." This book is filled, from start to finish, with this amateur dribble. These are not real people talking.
2. Was it truly necessary to italicize every word spoken with a cartoon accent by the characters? Fergus has thrown in numerous cartoon characters who speak with outlandish caricature accents (ie. Fluttering Racist Southern Belle, Feisty Irish Twin Wenches, Sturdy Swiss Bosomy Farmgal, Sleazy French Half-Breed, just to name a few) and then proceeds to have them use horrible pronunciations of English dialogue printed in constant italics, as if we, the readers, were too stupid to notice that these folks don't speak plainly. And, furthermore, we are supposed to buy into the premise that all of this was written in a personal journal? Oh come on, Fergus. It's all too much eye-rolling.
3. The constant interjections of "Good God!!!" and "Hah!!" from the narrator. No one writes, or speaks, like that.
4. The narrator, writing in her journal, frequently states that she is desperately scrambling for a moment to write of current events as all manner of drama is raining down on her head, and yet she then proceeds to write 4-5 pages of intricately detailed dialogue between various characters, and flowery, stilted descriptions of various inane and inconsequential things. If the narrator truly only had a moment to scribble down a quick entry, she wouldn't have babbled on and on like a preteen at a slumber party. It's all just completely ridiculous.
5. Constant repetition. Constant, never ending, monotonous repetition. Yes, Mr. Fergus, you've established that the narrator dreams of some day rejoining her children in Chicago. We get it. You don't need to keep bashing us over the head with it.
6. Rampant over-use of quotation marks. I suggest that Jim Fergus's editor remove the quotation mark key from Mr. Fergus's keyboard (and disable his italics, while he's at it). Because he "thinks" that by "using" quotation marks, that he is being "clever" with his "writing," when, in fact, he is only being "annoying" as "hell" and making absolutely no "sense" at all.
Ach, I could go on and on all day about how bloody awful this book is. I haven't even scratched the surface.
I just finished this book and found it very enjoyable. Fictional account based on a historical event it gave a good description of life on the plains in 1875. The characters were believable and very human. I loved it and recommend it.
Amy M. (ajmtym2003) - , reviewed One Thousand White Women : The Journals Of May Dodd on
Helpful Score: 5
I had to make myself finish the book, a waste of time. I still thought it was too depressing and frustrating story line. I thought the way the women talked about sex or dealt with it, seem more like mens reactions not womens.
Sophie S. (notemily) - , reviewed One Thousand White Women : The Journals Of May Dodd on
Helpful Score: 4
This is one of the worst books I've ever read. Not only does it seem to not have been proofread, but not a single thing about it rings true. It reads exactly like some dude's fantasy of what these women went through, not like an authentic story with three-dimensional characters. I'm surprised I even finished it, but I kept hoping it would get better.
Excellent read. May Dodd's journals gave an insight into America's growth in terms of the people displaced by that growth. The Cheyenne family group that she lived with were as complex as any family group anywhere. Amazing story.
Elizabeth reviewed One Thousand White Women : The Journals Of May Dodd on
Helpful Score: 3
Engaging, however, Fergus reveals from the beginning that he knows very little about the life of a woman during this time period. Worse yet is the portrayal of secondary characters that become nothing more than caricatures.
Wonderful historical account by Jim Fergus. The diaries of May Dodd seem so real that you are almost there with her as she experiences the wonder and awe of the olde West and Indian territory. Great read.
I found myself rushing through the book just to get somewhere. The narrator just didn't seem real to me. I understand she was "progressive" for her time, but it just seemed like he put a modern day woman in the past. Everyone else was a caricature of people from the past. It's hard to suspend belief as much as you have to in order to read this.
This book was based on a true incident when a Native American chief suggested to U.S. Grant that marrying white women would better assimilate the tribes. The story is about women who decided to do just that. A reverse Dances with Wolves!
While reading the book I didnt realize how much I got to know and love the white women in the story. When the characters, especially May Dodd, went through the conclusion of the book, I cried my eyes out. I was surprised that even through journal entries I could be so moved by a story. A fabulous read.
Historical fiction at it's best! I couldn't put the book down once I started reading it. The characters are well constructed and the mingling of real events and the author's translation of the story make this book a keeper. I was gripped by how real and vivid the book was about the situations the characters found themselves in.I didn't realize that this was a fictional account until I was finished!
Teresa S. (oldrose) reviewed One Thousand White Women : The Journals Of May Dodd on
Helpful Score: 2
I found this book shallow, and with little merit. The writing was jerky and uninspiring; I didn't like how he moved from a diary style to narrative and back again. I take exception to the use of the word squaw (yes it was an offensive word then as it is now). It was again a man trying to write in a womens voice without a true understanding of how we work/think. I do NOT recommend it.
What an interesting premise. I thought the book was very well written, the history to be accurate and the images conveyed realistic. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and have recommended it to all of my reading friends!
A wonderful and powerful story: the insightful, sensitive journals of May Dodd, one of "one thousand white women" who volunteered in 1874 to travel from Chicago to the Nebraska territory to marry Cheyenne Indians, to create a caucasian/Indian race, and to promote peace and understanding between the white settlers and the Indians.
A very entertaining book. It was hard to beleive it a work of fiction. Enjoyed the plight of the Indians as the author depicted. Very beleivable. The characters came alive from the pages. Was dissappointed when I finished it. Didn't want it to end. Highly recommend if you like a little fiction of history. Some parts not for the squemish.
A fictional journal of a woman thought to have actually lived among the American Indians in the U.S. A look at the family life of the Native Americans and a contrast with the lives of the White Americans around them and about to take over their territories.
This is NOT a non-fiction book. The author notes this at the beginning of the book. The book grew from an actual historical event. In 1854 at a peace conference at Fort Laramie, a Cheyenne chief requested from the U.S. Army the gift of one thousand women as brides for his young warriors. The Cheyenne, like most Native American tribes, are a matrilineal society so any children born from these groupings would be part of the white man's world. The request was ignored, the peace conference ended, and the women never came. BUT in this novel, they do. It's a very detailed account of one woman's journey from insane asylum (because she married someone her parents did not approve of) to the Great Plains. The sad thing about the whole story is the fact that the Native Americans STILL get a raw deal! And, as you ge to the end, nothing has changed. They still live in poverty, in third-world type housing, being shunned. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. By the end of the book, I was crying and couldn't stop.
I really enjoyed this book and I didn't want to read the ending because I didn't want it to be over. It was a page turner for me. This fictional idea that the U.S. government would try to integrate 1,000 white women into the Cheyenne society in order to change that society into an accepted "white" life style sounded just crazy enough to really be true. Jim Fergus wrote this book from a woman's point of view perfectly.
This is the story of Mary Dodd. Her family took away her children conceived out of wedlock and relegated her to an insane asylum. She is offered the chance for freedom if she would go west and become the bride of a native american. She accepts this offer and thus the story progresses telling about her life and her adventures in the old west.
This is a good book. The characters are pretty well developed. I will definitely check out other books by this author.
Very interesting premise - 1,000 white women given as brides to native americans to help "civilize" the savages. The book has an interesting beginning but it got a bit bogged down to me once the women were in the native village.
The book description is inacurate. It WAS NOT BASED ON AN ACTUAL HISTORICAL EVENT as anyone who read the introductory material would know! It was inspired by a never acted upon request of a Cheyenne chief. I did not like this book. It was way too contrived, the characters were not believable and the relationships that developed in the book between the white women and the Cheyenne would have taken much longer than a few months to develop.
I recently finished this book and I must say that I was thoroughly captivated by it the entire time I read it. I loved how the women were thrown together on a train (not many of them knew each other before hand) and learned to consider each other to be "family." their adventure was fascinating, and yes, though it was fiction, you really are left wondering if it is not based on a real person's life. I suspect it is. It is a really wonderful read that I will be recommending to my book club!
A so-so, alternative-history book. Three things fell flat for me... 1) The way the accents (Irish and Southern) were written made me gloss over their dialogue. 2) Too many characters to fully flesh out any one woman. 3) The low points in this story's plot (torture, rape, battle, etc.) far outweigh any moments of tenderness or happiness. With that said, I did find it good enough to add Fergus' other fiction, "The Wild Girl," to my TBR pile.
his is an intrigueing book with an unusual premise: This novel rewrites an actual historical event. In 1854, a Cheyenne chief requested that the U.S. Army provide a thousand white brides for the young warriors in his tribe. The U.S., of course, refused, but Fergus considers what might have happened if a "Brides for Indians" program had been instituted. One of the brides is a volunteer, a woman who was about to be institutionalized by her family for an unfortunate love affair, and the novel is primarily her story, as she must choose between an Indian chief and a U.S. Army captain.
I read this book for book club and I have told countless people since I finished it that they must read this too. It was amazing! I loved it. By the end, even though you know that the story itself is fiction, you wish the characters were real. Loved this story!
I'm not sure why so many loved this book. I thought it was boring. There wasn't one character that I really liked. While the storyline seemed promising, it was really just another story about white women going to live with Indians, and not a very good one at that.
The book started really great for me with May Dodd committed to that asylum just for falling in love below her status and for having children out of wedlock. The story about the brides for the indians kept me going but somehow the story lost its momentum. May turned out to be not the heroine I thought she would be.
The stereotypes -most of them were sure included- , the native names given to the women were a bit ludicrous and lacked originality. It all sounded like a tongue in cheek kind of light humor but I didn't find it amusing. I would have liked to learn more about the Cheyenne way of life rather than their parties around the fire.
The culmination of the story felt rushed and filled with lots of voids, perhaps if the story would have focused more about the real life, customs and rituals of the people in more depth instead of May Dodd trying to break the Cheyenne's glass ceiling, it would have been better. I think the only character that I loved was that of Little Sara, the mute who found a loving husband in young Yellow Wolf and the power of speech through a tongue that wasn't her own.
Maybe I started the book with too high expectations. I gave it 3 stars and I won't be keeping the book. I'll swap it as soon as it's requested from my shelf.
Gosh i loved this novel! It is based on part truth and part fiction. It was wonderful entertainment. Of course when i finished i had to get on the putter and look up these people, (the captain was very handsome) and go further into the story. If you enjoy a historical read, you might enjoy this one. Read the reviews and i'm sure you will see that it has been enjoyed by many. Was very interesting.
This book transported me to a place and time I could not have ever imagined! It was brutal at times, but I loved it overall. If I were actually a character in the book, I feel I would be known as "Sturdy Little Mule Woman!" I chose this book from the most traveled copies list- I am so glad I did!
This was an interesting, insightful read of American History. Also it is about a strong woman and what she does to survive in a hostel environment and make the most of it. Thou difficult to read, at times it is similar to "These are my words", another excellent book based on a strong woman. "One thousand White Women" points up some of the mistakes made in America about women and Indians. Interesting enough both having to do with relations ships with some one different than ourselves. there are lessons to be learned if one just recognizes them.
I don't usually write reviews but I really enjoyed this book--the writing was excellent, characters well developed. I'd never given the plight of the American Indian much more than cursory consideration in a historical sense. This novel opened my eyes to this particular injustice.
I absolutely loved this book. Devoured it in one sitting. Even though it is not a true story, it certainly could have been. I will look for more of Jim Fergus' works as he is a fabulous writer and can certainly keep the pages turning. He brought each character to life so that you could actually picture them as you read. I felt the cold snow and the spring air. Having read much of Native American history and the failed treaties of the times this is just one more through provoking work that most certainly could have taken place in the American West. Sent it on to my son in the military who is a history buff and always looking for good books to read. I give it five stars.
I am a big fan of books that re-imagine historic events. In One Thousand White Women, a side-note in American history is recast to create a very engaging, quick read that is more Western adventure than romance in the traditional sense. The Brides for Indians program that is the historic centerpiece of the story of May Dodd was never seriously considered by President Grant, but it provides a nice "what if" to launch a story about a group of diverse women, all undesirable for one reason or another, who are brought together to marry and help civilize the Cheyenne.
The book isn't perfect. As one example, many of the character names are over-the-top allegorical, and it drove me a little crazy. But the story as a whole is a really interesting snapshot of a social experiment gone wrong, from the perspective of a woman who was ahead of her time.
It reads as though it is written by a man in the 1990s that is trying to write like a woman in the 1870s. The research doesn't seem that good. Maybe I'm not in the mood. although, I just read a book written in the 2000s by a woman from the voice of a man in the 1770s, that was FANTASTIC!
Please, male authors, women just don't talk/think/lingur on thoughts of sex that much. We just don't. Sorry to burst your bubble. And congratsulations on having been exposed to apparently so many highly sexulally active/comfortable woman in your life. You hit the lottery.
May Dodd is an energetic and exciting young woman in very interesting circumstances. As a was to escape committment to a mental institution, she embarks on the greatest adventure of her life. This book provides interesting perspective on the settlement of the Western United States and the implications of "civilization". Set in the 1870's with a Cheyenne tribe the unexpected thrills and horrors of life are exposed to white women placed in this great experiment.
Quick read. A little more sexually explicit than I expected. May Dodd and the other white women seemed to be women way ahead of their time and I found some of their reactions to their sexual batteries a bit understated. However, it's an interesting concept and an an interesting read.
The title is a little misleading, so just for clarification the story is about a Cheyenne Indian chief who wants to match up 1,000 white women with 1,000 Cheyenne warriors so that the two races could blend into one and there would be peace throughout our land.
The only thing keeping me from giving this book a higher rating is the main character sounds too modern. Not that a woman from this time frame wouldn't have some of the modernistic thoughts, I just think she would have stated her beliefs a bit differently. I've read numerous real diaries of this time period. The story itself is fascinating and overall I did thoroughly enjoy the book. Others may find the "diary's" style to be too flowery and wordy (although I think it fits the time period and character).
Depressing. Well-written enough to carry through to the end, but not a book I wish to keep. Some of the comparisons by other authors suggest Mr. Fergus writes along the lines of Dee Brown, which I find to be totally ludicrous. Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, is a splendid and straightforward compilation of the facts. This is a work of fiction, that while containing components of fact, is most certainly not. Mr. Fergus skill as a writer is just fine, however he does not match Dee Brown. That being said, the story cannot help but be depressing, based as it is, upon circumstances which truly came to pass and should be a source of much shame for this country. In that regard, Mr. Fergus has accomplished his mission.
this was a very interesting read. During the Indian/Cowboy days one of the chiefs had wanted to trade 1000 horses for 1000 white women - the US govern. said no. This book is from the Diary of May Dodd as if that trade had taken place.
Fergus has twisted an historical oddity here to create a most unusual tale of white women sent to the Cheyenne nation as brides. The proposal was actually made by a Cheyenne chieftain in 1845 and promptly dismissed by the government. Fergus moves it forward in time to 1875 and creates a "what-if" fiction in which a small group of women do undertake the task. Generally well-written, but he loses points for his annoying and inaccurate use of dialect by some of the women. Fergus apparently never heard an authentic Irish brogue or a true Southern drawl in his life, and someone's decision to set this linguistic massacre in italics only makes it worse.
A fictional memoir recorded chronologically,diary style, and based on historical events. This book is a gem. I'm not a fan of this type of storytelling but the author managed to blend facts with fantasy in such an engaging manner that you just can't help falling in love with May Dodd, and probably every other female character on this book. I highly recommend it.
The author of this book took a moment in history and said "what if". What a great and interesting idea. The book reads like an historical journal, and the reader needs to remind themself that it is fiction.
This book is so well written it hard to believe that it's not a true story. It's based on a Cheyenne Indian Chief's request to President Ulysses S. Grant for 1,000 white women be given as brides to Cheyenne warriors, to teach them and their children how to live with the 'Whites' when the buffalo are gone.
The story is narrated through the journals of May Dodd. May was institutionalized in a lunatic asylum by her rich family because she left home to live out of wedlock and had two children with a man they considered to be beneath her station. She uses the 'Brides for Indians' program as a way to escape the asylum.
I thought this was engrossing -- the story of May Dodd who was sent to an insane asylum by her parents after giving birth to two children out of wedlock. She then volunteers to be sent as a white bride and live among the Cheyenne as a part of President Grant's Brides for Indians (BFI) program to escape the asylum. This of course, is a fiction of the author based upon an actual historical event where in 1854 at a peace conference at Fort Laramie, a prominent Cheyenne chief requested of the Army a gift of 1,000 white women as brides to provide a means of assimilation by the Cheyenne into white society. The story of May's time with the Indians, her becoming pregnant, giving birth and the ultimate outcome is a great story. It includes some very memorable characters including the other white women who volunteered for this program, the Native American Cheyennes, and the other whites including Captain John Bourke, who actually served with General Crook during the Indian wars. I do think that Fergus may have borrowed a few ideas from Thomas Berger's Little Big Man which I also read recently. There is a character in the novel named "Dirty Gertie", a female muleskinner, who is very reminiscent of Jack Crabb's sister in Big Man. Also, some of the Indian practices are very similar, although these could have come from other sources, but towards the end of the novel one of the female Indians states "this looks like a good day to die." This expression was used a lot in Big Man. Overall, though, I did really enjoy White Women and its depictions of life among the Cheyenne.
May's story is fascinating, and anything but cookie-cutter. I didn't know how the story would end until it ended--I liked that. Written as journal entries, the perspective is limited but detailed. You don't get much of anyone else's thoughts and feelings, but May is very observant, and it doesn't feel claustrophobic in her head.
I wasn't really sure what to expect of this book and I was pleasantly surprised. What a wonderful journal of a woman's experience. Although May didn't always lead a charmed life, she did get the opportunity to experience a life few were able to.
This book is absolutely one of the best I have read in a while. I had a hard time putting it down. The characters were so well done I kept forgetting it was fiction and not an actual journal. It made me laugh & cry. I have already recommended it to many friends.
I absolutely enjoyed this book. I was skeptical since it was written by a man and it's supposed to be the journals of a 19th century woman but he pulled it off well. The story starts out on a walloping adventure and winds up into heart-ache and a satisfying conclusion. I found the characters very likable and believable. One can't help but be aghast at the way Native Americans were treated by the government during these times and up till the mid (even late) twentieth century.
This book was something I couldn't put down. I understand it was a fictional telling, but read it like it was an actual diary written by May Dodd. The story was at times heartbreaking, hilarious, sobering and enlightening. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to get away from the modern world for awhile.
BFI Brides for Indians, A fictional federal program authorized and implemented by the president of the united states. While ethically and morally wrong, the proud and strong women engaged in this experiment, win our hearts and make us proud.
The historical research in this volume is impressive. The cultural insight is intriguing and this reader wanted to be there. Beautifully written story with a unique storyline. Highly recommended. Enjoy.
I really enjoyed this book although it was disturbing. May was sent to live with the Cheyenne indians along with other wives for the tribes braves to teach them the "civilized" white man ways. In the long run, the Indians were much more civilized. This book chronicles the horrendous things that were done to a peaceful and noble people in the name of progress. A wonderful read, I could not put it down! It is somewhat graphic at times but probably close to fact.
I LOVED this book. A group of white women in 1875 are traded to the American Indians for horses. These women are misfits from society. They have a real adventure, find love and happiness....but will it last??
Read this for my Book Club. I really liked it. Don't let the 304 pages fool you, it's a long read because of the small print. But the character of May Dodd is very entertaining; as are many of her companions, both White and Cheyenne. A good Book Club book; we talked about the story at length during our meeting. Just remember this is FICTION, with historical facts woven in. That would be my only complaint is I didn't know what to believe and what not to. But taken as a whole work of fiction it is an enjoyable read. Gave it 4 stars. (Nov 2010)
Loved this book, as well as The Wild Girl, by Jim Fergus. Reader is drawn into the life of the Cheyenne and the white women who marry into the tribe. Definitely a 3 hanky finish, but well worth the journey.
I love this genre but his story annoyed me. I did finish it and usually cannot do that with books I am not enjoying. May Dodd was quite likable even if Jim Fergus was not. I just struggled with the whole concept, which is probably a good thing.
I really liked this book. For anyone who is interested in Native American life, this is the one to read. It is a fictionalized book, but still informative. I was left wondering whether or not these events actually happened.
I received a free copy of One Thousand White Women by Colorado author Jim Fergus, and recommended it to my neighborhood book club. It is a strange read. The cover made me think I'd be reading something like the recent retelling of the Little House series through Ma's eyes, Caroline, by Sarah Miller. Not quite.
The premise of White Women is based in fact: a few years after the Civil War, a Cheyenne chief proposed that his tribe should exchange one thousand horses for one thousand white brides, so that they would bear his tribe's children and raise them in the white culture. This, of course, never came to pass, but Fergus asks, what if it had?
Our heroine, May Dodd, joins the band of white women (which ends up counting only about fifty women, not a thousand) in order to escape the asylum where she has been confined against her will for promiscuity. She meets a motley crew of other women who make up a blatantly stereotypical microcosm. It is as if Fergus gave these two-dimensional characters the most obvious names as placeholders while he wrote, then forgot to go back and change them. We have the brazen Irish twins, who share the last name Kelly; the impoverished and jilted Southern belle, Daisy; the stout Swiss maid, Gretchen; the proud, strong ex-slave Phemie; etc., etc.
The women meet and marry their braves and quite quickly (perhaps implausibly so) become enamored of their new culture. Like âDances with Wolves,â White Women presents a mostly positive portrait of the ânoble savage.â U.S. policy certainly deserves the critique, but the delivery is not what one might call nuanced.
May Dodd is a fictional heroine who has been put into an asylum because she chose to live with a man she loved without marriage. Employed by her father, he was viewed by her family as beneath their status. Her life changes when in the middle of the night men swoop down on her, kidnap her and her two children, and put May into the asylum for her behavior. When the government offers her freedom if she signs up for a program to become wives of Cheyenne Indians, she leaps at the chance. It is apparently true that this suggestion came from the tribe to help assimilate them into white culture but it was never accepted. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the author's take on "what if."
I did find the means by which May is freed hard to believe when she forges a note from her father for her release. Yes, May is depicted as a larger than life individualist who leads the group of women participating in the program. Her human failings seem to be few but her sense of fairness and commitment are admired by all she meets. Why not? After all this is fiction.
The attitude of people about Indians, warped by tall tales of their more gruesome activities, is demonstrated by settlers and military men alike. It is generally assumed that all Indians are alike without respect to tribal differences. The author does a marvelous job of depicting prairie scenery and goes in depth about life within the Cheyenne tribe, differences between genders and the nomadic life they led. It's a most interesting read and I found the ending quite appropriate for a novel written about this period in our history.
Rachelle S. (MSW2b) - , reviewed One Thousand White Women : The Journals Of May Dodd on
I anticipated this book and was disappointed. There I liked about the book a lot and things that I found hard to get past. Disliked--stereotypes ie: southerners name Daisy Lovelace, woman that studied birds : Helen Flight, Christian bigot Narcissa White. Main character appeared to be a very modern 21st century woman versus a woman of the 1870's. Her language was not vastly different than mine. Liked: general writing style, discussion of Native American culture and American history.
I enjoyed the book overall- but had a hard time with May's attitude. Wish her verbiage was more reflective of the time.
This painful and beautiful tale of historical fiction had my heart soaring at one moment and broken the next. What a powerful story of something that could have easily occurred in our American history. The main character tells her fascinating tale through her journals so we feel like we are being spoken to by a friend in letters. Recommend with a box of tissues...
A great read! Completely bought the story, and loved the "journal" aspect of this writing! Living here on the reservation myself, I also enjoyed that the author did not take too many liberties at glorifying or damning the natives--but he let them be what they were--a proud, fierce people who had not yet been industrialized and whose way of life was changed inexplicably with the arrival of modern life. I recommend this book to any who love historical fiction!
This is one of those books that manages to be entertaining, gut-wrenching, and thought-provoking all at once. A kind of "what if?" historial novel, ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN explores a woman's journey to an almost alien world, where her concept of "civilized" people is quickly turned around on itself.
If you liked the non-fiction BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE, you'll enjoy this fictional account of the white man's war against the plains Indians.
The chief of the Cheyennes proposes to President Grant that the US provide his tribe 1000 brides for the men in his tribe for a period of 2 years in order to create a better harmony between the Cheyenne people and America, and produce children which might be a bridge between the US and his tribe. The main character of the book has been wrongly institutionalized in an asylum and volunteers for the project to escape her imprisonment. The story is about her and the journal she keeps for a short time of her life with the Cheyenne people and the close relationship she and the women develop for the Cheyenne lifestyle. The book follows her journal and provides an insight into the life of the Cheyenne before they are forced to move to a reservation, and gives the reader a glimpse at the results of the broken promises of Grant and his subordinates. It combines elements of history with fiction making it not only entertaining but an enjoyable read.
The story seemed to take FOREVER to get started with the author's various introductions to the story (acknowledgments, quote, author's note, introduction, and prologue). When I FINALLY got to the story it was pretty fast,since it is written in a journal or diary type format. It is a different style of writing though; the author quotes others throughout the journal which makes it more of a book than a journal. I don't know many people that would write an actual journal and quote dialogues between people, but it seemed weird and took the idea of realness away from the story. But, the author does inform the reader in the introduction that the story is NOT true. I was really bummed when I read it. I like to be persuaded and find out in the end. So, you read the story isn't true and you go throughout the story knowing it isn't true-just doesn't make it a "fun" read.
A lot of feminism, "poor native americans", "big bad government", and "african american power" throughout the story, which makes it difficult to read without some emotion for each.
Overall, it was just O.K.
Reading the description made me REALLY want to read the story because of the idea of a woman overcoming the odds. Not at all what I had anticipated.
Absolutely love this book. Wish it were a true story, but I know it's based a lot of historical facts. Great read for book clubs, too. The narrative flows well and it touches on some great topics. I also like "The Bondswoman's Narrative", for a similar historical story.
May Dodd is from a wealthy family and has been locked away to keep quiet. When she sees a chance to escape her prison she takes it. She becomes a pioneer in a new Govt program to help assimilate the Natives into the White World. Her journals of her travels with the Natives, gives us a look into what might have happened if this program was entertained during the Late 1800s.
I never connected with any of the characters and they were easily forgotten. The writing just does not sound like a woman wrote it. It does not flow well not sure if that is the authors writing or the style of the book.
This book sounded so interesting. I am glad that I read it but not one I would highly recommend. I would recommend it to people who like Non-fiction works. Even though this is a fiction work it is written in journal style.
liked it alot. i love historical fiction and this one had pretty good development of the characters. the pace seemed too fast (things that would, in reality, probably take years took only a few months) and it's based on an alte4rnative ending to an actual historical situation but..suspend reality a little bit and it's a great read.
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd is an alternative history novel written in the form of letters and the journal of one of the "white" women, May Dodd.
In the early 1870s, the chief of the Cheyenne nation requested a thousand white women to inter-marry with the men of his tribe as part of a peace settlement. The women would help the men learn to live in the white man's world, once the buffalo were gone. (In exchange, the Cheyenne gave the "white" men 1000 horses.) This was an actual proposal that was rejected by the US government, but the book carries out the story as if this did happen.
May Dodd joins the group of woman who go to marry the Cheyenne as a way to escape from the insane asylum which she had been sent to because she'd chose to have children (and NOT marry) a man who was beneath her station in life.
Her journals and letters talk about why she chose to join the group, what life with the Cheyenne was like for the women and how she and the other women influenced the Cheyenne.
I found the story to be a fascinating look into what the world of the Cheyenne was like in the late 1800s and what there was about their life they the "white men" could learn from them.
If I didnt know before hand that this book was a work of fiction, it would have been easy to think otherwise.
(1996) by J. Will Dodd, editor in chief of Chicagos city magazine and great-grandson of the (h) May Dodd, writes very convincingly. Thru the years rumors had circulated within the family about the crazy woman, born 1850, hospitalized at 23 for a nervous disorder, then died in the asylum in 1876. Ancestral insanity, an embarrassment, was a well kept hidden little secret.
While doing research on a piece about the old scions of Chicago, J.W. came across his great-grandmothers name and became obsessed to learn more about her... which eventually leads him to the Tongue River Indian Res of the Northern Cheyenne where he is granted access to May Dodds journals These he published in their entirety in this book.
In 1874, Little Wolf, the great Cheyenne Sweet Medicine Chief, accompanied with a delegation of his tribesmen, journeyed to Washington to meet with President Ulysses S Grant. His purpose: To make a lasting peace with the whites to ensure the survival of his people. His plan expressed through an interpreter: A request for the gift of 1,000 white women as wives, to teach us and our children the new life that must be lived when the buffalo are gone.
Oh, this was great.
Fergus writing is vivid. Of course...
All hell broke loose.
In a sad way, the entire episode was kind of funny.
Well, I could go on, but to shorten a long storyin the end, the governments secret Brides for Indians program was born. Women volunteers were recruited from jails, penitentiaries, debtors prisons, and mental institutions. The volunteers were offered full pardons or unconditional release for participation in this noble duty to serve their country through this government program. HA HA
May Dodd was one diligent writer. Coming from one of the wealthiest families in Chicago, she was also a true Womens Libber, a scandalous embarrassment to one of Chicagos most prestigious families.
That last is what got her incarcerated into the Insane Asylum...by her family...for the remainder of her life.
Her journals read like a story. She misses nothing. She begins while imprisoned in the asylum, covering events that led her to that point, then on through to the very end of her lifes adventures.
I loved this character. Fergus included everything I like in a female lead...smart, adventurous, strong, courageous, fun, loving... He did her credit in writing from a womans perspective. As well as in his characterizations of the other women who made this journey with May on their Train Bound for Glory.
Each individual was unique with descriptions as to what led each of them to embark on this adventure. The author's details of their unique personalities brought them right off the pages to life.
I enjoyed every one of them.
Even the author's portrayal of the Cheyenne as a very primitive people is unique comparing it to other authors I've read. Took me to another place with the people.
I have to add that the scene which took place when the Cheyenne warriors 1st made their appearance to check out their 'wives' in all their painted glory was spectacular. So spectacular that some of the 'volunteers' among these Easteners lost their ever lovin minds. LOL
This is a wonderful book. The format of this novel is a diary that seems so real it is hard to believe it is fiction. The plot moves quickly, the characters are fully believable. The reader learns much about Cheyenne tribal culture, as well as the political times of the late 1800's in which the novel is set. I highly recommend it.
This was a fascinating story! The characters were so unique, the idea of the book was also. This is also a great book for people who enjoy historical fiction. Although the story is completely fiction it took me back to a time in history of both the old west as well as Indian life before reservations. The writer made me feel like I was actually in their village as well as functioning as a part of their families. The main character has a grasp on both aspects of life. The story is fantastic!
I really liked this book. I highly recommend reading it you wont be disappointed.A great story about women and what they went through when they went to live as wifes of the Indians. I loved these women and found myself cheering for them.
I couldn't put this book down, although the writing was a little bit clunky and some of the characters were one-dimensional. The story was wonderful and absorbing, and I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen.
This book is fiction but it will leave you wondering....could it be true? This book is wonderfully written and keeps your interest. It is a different kind of love story but one you will be glad you read. When you finish the book you will swear its an autobiography and that May Dodd really did exist!
Started out interesting, but I couldn't get past the main character's 'style'-other minor characters were well written and interesting, especially 'Gertie'-the ending was a little bit of a surprise, not bad all in all, not sure what I was expecting, really.
I purchased this book based on the reviews of PBS members.. and the book did not disappoint. As others have mentioned, it was hard to remember that the book is historical Fiction. So well has Fergus woven in the history and feel of that period with the refreshing story of May Dodd. Would highly recommend reading.
This book was recommended by a good friend and it was awesome! Fast moving, real (even though it's fiction)and showing how human we are. So well written that I didn't want to do anything but read! I'll be looking for more books from this author!
This was the best book I have read in a long time. like many other reviewers have said, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a work of fiction. in the beginning the protagonist came across as very self important and I found her a little off-putting. However, as the story went on she became much more endearing. The descriptions of the prairie are vivid. The story is captivating. Highly recommended!
Captivating, didn't want to put this one down. I had to constantly remind myself the story is completely fiction. The author does a surperb job of drawing the reader completely into the story to the point of feeling so many emotions that any woman would have experienced if actually placed in the position of May Dodd & her friends. I highly recommend this book even if the reader isn't a fan of historical or western fiction. Loved it.
The premise of this fictional novel is based on what the author claims to be a historical fact in which a Northern Cheyenne chief, in hopes to assimilate his people and finally bring peace between the tribe and the U.S. gov't, proposes to gift the U.S. 1,000 horses in exchange for 1,000 white women. Whether this is true or not (I couldnt find any evidence to support the authors claim), the story is a fascinating tale of the Native peoples perseverance in the face of all the painful challenges dealt to them, as well as an insightful look of how the assimilation program might have shaped our world today. The book was engaging from beginning to end so much so that I have taken up an interest in learning more about the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Crow. I didnt want the story to end and miss the characters dearly.
The characters in this book are absolutely convincing and real, with one caveat: there is NO WAY a woman of that era, and in those circumstances, would be able to talk so openly and assertively to the male characters. Be it Indian or Caucasian, it was another 200 years before women could freely speak their minds, even to the point of interrupting an Indian council meeting! Other than that, I was absolutely convinced that these journals exist in some family's historical archives, especially with the final ending it was given that made it so real.
This is one of the best books that I have had to pass on! It is written as in true story form but it is fiction...May Dodd is one of many women that volunteer to marry into an Indian Tribe and have children with their Indian husbands to try to bridge the gap between the "white" world and the "indian' world..these are her journals of her life before and during her life as an Indian...a wonderful book!