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Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America (2003)

by Linda Hunt

Other authors: Sue Armitage (Foreword)

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5242546,780 (3.57)21
History. Sociology. Women's Studies. Nonfiction. HTML:In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant and mother of eight children named Helga Estby was behind on taxes and the mortgage when she learned that a mysterious sponsor would pay $10,000 to a woman who walked across America.
Hoping to win the wager and save her familyâ??s farm, Helga and her teenaged daughter Clara, armed with little more than a compass, red-pepper spray, a revolver, and Claraâ??s curling iron, set out on foot from Eastern Washington. Their route would pass through 14 states, but they were not allowed to carry more than five dollars each. As they visited Indian reservations, Western boomtowns, remote ranches and local civic leaders, they confronted snowstorms, hunger, thieves and mountain lions with equal aplomb.
Their treacherous and inspirational journey to New York challenged contemporary notions of femininity and captured the public imagination. But their trip had such devastating consequences that the Estby women's achievement was blanketed
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» See also 21 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
I found this book because it's mentioned at the end of [b:The Daughter's Walk: A Novel|9602318|The Daughter's Walk A Novel|Jane Kirkpatrick|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1289505864s/9602318.jpg|14489445]. A Daughter's Walk is a novel based on a cross-country walk made by Helga & Clara Estby in 1896. Bold Spirit is a factual account of the walk, put together almost exclusively from newspaper accounts of the walk. Helga kept a diary as they walked, but her bag containing her money and her diary was stolen in New York City. Her family destroyed the letters she wrote them on her journey. Later in life, she started writing a memior, but after her death, her children burned it, wanting no reminders of what they saw as their mother's shame and betrayal.

This factual account is actually more heart-breaking than the novel, perhaps because everything is there in black and white with no invented dialogue or assumed motivations to get in the way.

I would recommend reading Bold Spirit before A Daughter's Walk, simply because A Daughter's Walk fills in blanks that you don't realize are even there until you read Bold Spirit. It's kind of like watching the movie before you read the book. Bold Spirit is the book and A Daughter's Walk is the "movie". ( )
  amandabeaty | Jan 4, 2024 |
In 1896, a 36-year-old Norwegian immigrant named Helga Estby set out with her 18-year-old daughter, Clara, to walk from Spokane, Washington, to New York City, in hopes of winning a $10,000 cash prize. She wanted to use the winnings to prevent foreclosure on the family’s Washington farm and to provide a more secure life for herself, her husband, and their eight children.

[Bold Spirit] is the story of that walk – of the culture that formed Estby, of the personal and national events that led to the family’s distress, of the changing roles of American women as the Victorian era waned, and of the societal norms that nearly resulted in the story disappearing from the pages of history.

It’s a huge, complex, and ultimately distressing story, and one that Hunt keeps firmly within the realm of scholarship, which is probably the book’s biggest flaw. Like Lauren Kessler’s [Stubborn Twig], which dealt with a Japanese-American family’s internment during World War II, Bold Spirit is essentially stripped of its inherent drama and keeps the reader firmly at arm’s length.

There’s still a lot to digest here, though it takes some reading between the lines. The story is worth knowing, and Hunt’s retelling simply cracks open the door. One hopes a writer who is as interested in the heart of this amazing woman as in the journey she made will revisit this rich and multi-faceted American tale. ( )
  LyndaInOregon | Jan 25, 2023 |
This was a totally fascinating story that would have scored higher in my book if the author had more information about Helga. The point of the book is that many women's stories have been intentionally buried by society. This leads to a book that tries to string you along to the next part of the story because there isn't enough of the story known to merit a book of this size, and pads out any empty space with rants about burying women's history. The format got old after a while. ( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
Ok biography, not much detail about the walk just info that could be found from newspaper accounts of the era. ( )
  kevn57 | Dec 8, 2021 |
How can a story of a woman and her daughter walking across the country in 1897 nearly have been lost to history?
Author Linda Lawrence Hunt does an amazing job bringing this story to our awareness. There's heartbreak at almost every turn - not the least of which is that the letters and Helga Estby's autobiography telling of her adventures which would have been so fascinating were destroyed by her family who were ashamed of her for undertaking such an "unfeminine" adventure. The fact that Hunt manages to flesh out the story, including what led up to Helga's decision and the backdrop against which it unfolded, is a credit to her researching skills. ( )
1 vote ErinMa | Feb 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Bold Spirit is an amazing book about a young pioneer woman (Helga Estby) and her daughter who crossed America by foot in 1896. This journey is amazing on a variety of levels. First, the modern day reader becomes immersed in the struggles that were the everyday life of American pioneers--and this offers us a lesson on the trials lived by many of our ancestors so that we, their descendants, live a life of of greater choice and ease (in comparison).
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hunt, Lindaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Armitage, SueForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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To Thelma Portch and Dorothy, Darrell, Darillyn and Doug Bahr, who became keepers of this family story and to Evelyn Christensen another ordinary woman who lives an extraordinary life.
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Helga Estby, a thrity-six-year-old Norwegian immigrant, woke early on a mid-June morning in 1896 and slipped on her full-length gray Victorian skirt, simple wool jacket, and new leather shoes.
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History. Sociology. Women's Studies. Nonfiction. HTML:In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant and mother of eight children named Helga Estby was behind on taxes and the mortgage when she learned that a mysterious sponsor would pay $10,000 to a woman who walked across America.
Hoping to win the wager and save her familyâ??s farm, Helga and her teenaged daughter Clara, armed with little more than a compass, red-pepper spray, a revolver, and Claraâ??s curling iron, set out on foot from Eastern Washington. Their route would pass through 14 states, but they were not allowed to carry more than five dollars each. As they visited Indian reservations, Western boomtowns, remote ranches and local civic leaders, they confronted snowstorms, hunger, thieves and mountain lions with equal aplomb.
Their treacherous and inspirational journey to New York challenged contemporary notions of femininity and captured the public imagination. But their trip had such devastating consequences that the Estby women's achievement was blanketed

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