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Rachel Bella Kahn was born in a Jewish shtetl in Russia. Her mother died when she was very young, and she and her siblings were often mistreated by an uncaring housekeeper and stepmother. Then her father deserted the family. In 1894, at age 18, Rachel traveled to the USA for an arranged marriage to Abraham Calof, an immigrant homesteader in North Dakota whom she had never met. She and her new husband lived for several years crowded into a 12-by-14 foot dirt-floor shanty with her parents-in-law, her husband’s brother and his family, plus their chickens and a cow. She bore nine children on the frontier and endured hunger, brutal cold, blinding snowstorms, and other adversities. Rachel Calof chronicled these years at age 55 while she was living in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her manuscript, written in Yiddish, was discovered by her children after her death and eventually published as "Rachel Calof’s Story" in 1995 by Indiana University Press. Her account combines a personal memoir of a hard pioneering life on the prairie with valuable historical and cultural background.
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