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One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

One Thousand White Women (1998)

by Jim Fergus

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for TLC book club; reread for book club. More believeable this time and heartbreaking what we did in the name of "civilization" ( )
  nancynova | Mar 29, 2014 |
I thought the premise of this book sounded really interesting, although it's not based on actual historical fact--Fergus imagines what might have happened if the government had consented to send "one thousand white women" out west as brides for Cheyenne men as a Cheyenne chief requested in the 1870s. May Dodd, Fergus's heroine, volunteers for the "Brides for Indians" program as a way to escape her painful past, and I looked forward to reading about her experiences adjusting to her new circumstances.

Unfortunately, poorly developed characters doom this novel. May herself is overly modern in her outlook and rather obnoxious as well, as one of those heroines who somehow convinces all the other characters in the book to share her overly high opinion of herself. (By way of example, all the other white women receive unfortunate Indian nicknames such as "Big Feet" or "Falls Down Woman", while May is christened "Swallow" because she's so graceful and beautiful...) I found it very hard to believe that a woman who grew up in the late 19th century would be so blase about going to "live with the Indians" and so cavalier about flouting their cultural rules without worrying about possible consequences. This obvious lack of historical accuracy made it hard for me to get lost in the book.

The other white women are all basically ethnic stereotypes, a fact that is only reinforced by Fergus's decision to have May faithfully write out their accents in her journal entries ("I don't care if he's daaaak as naaaght, Ah luuuve the man."). Meanwhile, not a single Native American character is developed beyond anything other than the "noble savage" stereotype and May repeatedly marvels at their charming, "child-like" ways. Even after learning Cheyenne, she never seems to feel the need to try to have a conversation with her husband or with his wives. I had expected much more of a focus on cross-cultural differences and attempts to reach an understanding, and was disappointed to instead get relationships that never deepened beyond the superficial. All in all, I wouldn't recommend this book to others. ( )
  mrlzbth | Feb 7, 2014 |
I like the premise of the story: What if President Grant agreed to a proposal by the Cheyenne tribe to send one thousand white women to marry into the tribe? The Cheyenne believed that your family comes from your mother's side, so if the Native Americans and white women procreated, their offspring would be more "white" and "American."

Told through a collection of journal entries by May Dodd, the reader learns about the life of the Cheyenne and their relations with neighboring tribes and Americans. The historical information in the novel was interesting. Unfortunately, I didn't like how May was depicted and thought she seemed inauthentic. I ended up skimming the last 100 pages of the book because she finally got on my last nerves.

May just wasn't my type of heroine, I'm afraid. ( )
  mrstreme | Jan 8, 2014 |
Excellent work of fiction. I recommend it highly. ( )
  Strawberryga | Dec 28, 2013 |
Enjoyed reading this book about "what if" alternate history of America's relationship with the Native Americans. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
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Women will love her, that she is a woman

More worth than any man; men that she is
The rarest of all women.

- William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale, V.1
To Dillon
First words
23 March 1875: Today is my birthday, and I have received the greatest gift of all - freedom!
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
One Thousand White Women begins with May Dodd's journey west into the unknown. A government program, in which woman are brought west as brides for the Cheyenne, is her vehicle. What follows is the story of May's adventures: her marriage to Little Wolf, chief of the Cheyenne nation, and her conflict of being caught between two worlds, loving two men, living two lives. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312199430, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

An Indian request in 1854 for 1,000 white brides to ensure peace is secretly approved by the U.S. government in this alternate-history novel. Their journey west is described by May Dodd, a high-society woman released from an asylum where she was incarcerated by her family for an affair.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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