Tomboy Bride: A Woman's Personal Account of Life in Mining Camps of the West
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Tomboy Bride: A Woman's Personal Account of Life in Mining Camps of the West

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  295 ratings  ·  68 reviews
A true pioneer of the West, Harriet Backus writes about her amusing and often challenging experiences with heart-felt emotion and vivid detail. New foreword by Pam Houston and afterword by author's grandson Rob Walton are featured.

It is a woman named Hattie's personal account of life in the mining camps of the American West, beginning with her marriage to George and conclu...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 1st 1977 by Pruett (first published January 1969)
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On route to the Tomboy Mine which hovered 3,000ft above the mountain town of Telluride, CO. A sleigh driven by two, over-worked horses pulled Harriet and George Backus up an ever winding and steep road covered with ice that clung to a rock wall. Treacherous switchback after switchback with just inches separating the sled from the thousand foot sheer drop offs. Stricken with frigid temperatures and an altitude that made every breath an ever increasing difficulty; this was the predicament of Harri...more
I read Tomboy Bride as part of a church bookgroup that I decided to crash (it wasn't my ward) with the hopes of being taken up to the Tomboy Mine near Telluride as part of the book's discussion.

The tour of the mine and mountain ghost settlement never happened, but a really fun discussion with a member of a Victorian society present made the entire experience of reading this book a lot more fun than I expected.

As far as the book goes, I was enchanted with Harriet Fish Backus living as a new bride...more
On a recent trip to Teluride, CO I found a book written by Harriet Fish Backus. I decided to buy it after listening to a guide tell us about her life during a four wheeling trip up the steep and scary mountain that she used to travel with her husband by horseback and wagons. I found her history of living in mining towns during the early 1900's to be fascinating. After reading this book I feel even more grateful to be born in this era of time when walking through 3 or 4 feet of snow to get somewh...more
Fun account of life much different from mine. It was really well written and fun to read
Steve Howes
A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to go on a geology/jeep tour of the Savage Basin above Telluride, Colorado. On the trip, we passed the ruins and other industrial detritus of several old mining operations (circa early last century)and I wondered how people lived and worked in what was essentially a cirque basin located above 11,000 feet elevation and that was covered with snow for a good part of the year. One of the largest operations was the Tomboy Mine and the author's husband was...more
I was misled by the title and have a hard time giving a rating to this book, honestly I would say I didn't like it but that wouldn't be fair. Tomboy is the name of the mine where the story started, not the attitude of the bride.
While I was enchanted at the beginning because I was born in the region and the names of towns and places sang with memories of childhood, I am not in the mood for a story about women's lives.

The book is very well written story of Harriet Backus' life as the wife of min...more
This book was a really fascinating look into the life of a woman living as the wife of a mine engineer in some of the most remote areas of the US around 1910. This book is not a drama, there's no flowery descriptions of emotional solitude or deep looks into the human soul. It is simply a first person account of what Mrs. Backus did to ensure her family's health and survival.

The best part of the book is that she is as much a product of her times as we all are. 1910 was far past the gold rush yea...more
Having hiked & camped in the Rocky Mountains, whilst on holiday from Australia & visiting the gift shop at the top of the Rocky Mountains in August, I was wanting to read a book on the history of women of the area, I picked up a Tomboy Bride & glad I did over others!

I've really enjoyed her account of her & her husbands life, often during reading, I put the book down to google earth where she was & the area she was writing about. Her anecdotes about the mules, burros, horses...more
Nancy Geise
I am so grateful to my daughter for purchasing a copy of this book for me. I had never heard of it. It is a remarkable true story of a young bride and her husband who lived in areas so remote that I can hardly comprehend all they endured.

It is a simple story in its writing of a courageous and loving woman whose spirit never falters as she strives to create a sense of order out of her anything but normal circumstances. Having spent several years living in Colorado, I cannot imagine facing what s...more
I LOVED this book. Colorado history is one of my passions, so this novel, set predominantly in Telluride and Leadville, Colorado was very interesting to me. Harriet Fish Backus tells wonderful details about beginning her life with George Backus as a young bride, not even knowing how to cook. They encountered blizzards, avalanches, freezing temperatures, and isolation while building their lives together in a shack on the edge of a mountain. Only once a month would food be delivered to them by mul...more
Wonderfully written first-hand account of an educated young city woman who got married and moved with her assessor husband to various rural, rustic locations in the west. In the very early half of the 20th century, they lived in Telluride and Fairplay, Colorado, as well as mining towns in Canada and Idaho. An unusual perspective on those mining towns where many people, and especially women, were illiterate or spoke a foreign language. Along will tales of a new bride attempting to cook under prim...more
This is an autobiography of a woman who lived in the late 1800s to the 1900s. She basically chronicles her early married life as the wife of a miner, providing details of the places they lived, the hardhips of life at that time, and details about the mining industry. The first 100 pages were a little slow for me, but after that I really enjoyed her story. Amazing to think how harsh and primitive living conditions were in mountainous areas back then. Yet, she enjoyed the challenges and never seem...more
Delightful book -- the author is a wonderful writer who shares as a young bride and mother, the joys, perils and hardships of living at high altitudes in the beautiful and unforgiving mountains of Colorado and Idaho and California. I recently visited these areas mentioned which made the book come alive! However, one might wish to read another more exciting book alongside (which I did) and go back and forth between books to keep things interesting. Some might find the book a little boring, it is...more
Her style is very personal and it was like listening to someone tell stories from their life. In my experience with autobiographies/memoirs, that tone is very difficult to achieve and if you can do it, it makes the book infinitely more readable. A lot of the locales and people she described and knew were familiar to me but her perspective was new. I recognized some of the names only from buildings or street or town names in Colorado but didn’t know anything about the people so this book filled i...more
Harriet Fish Backus wrote an excellent memoir of her married life focusing primarily on the first year of her marriage when she and her lived in Tomboy, Colorado where her husband worked as a mining engineer. I was disappointed in the publisher as no attempt was made to give a brief biographical overview of her family, nor was any background information provided. Like other reviewers mention, her years at Tomboy are the highlight of this book, but that is just a fact of her life not a negative.
Amron Gravett /  Wild Clover Book Services
"I heard more incredible stories of packrat ingenuity and achievement but no one could tell why the rats hid the food instead of eating it."
The author recounts life at the Tomboy Mine nearly 12,000 feet high in a mountain near Telluride. She retells their lives moving around to British Columbia, Idaho and Leadville. After numerous rejections, it was finally published when she was 84 years old. This is an important memoir from Colorado mining history and the conditions of the families who endured...more
I am fascinated by people's true life stories. No detail is too minute for me. Nothing monumental happens in this book, besides the fact that this author and her family and other families endured and survived very harsh living conditions with continued grace and good character. That alone was enough for me. I loved how Mrs. Backus still had a desire to create a lovely home in the face of multiple daily challenges. She was Donna Reed in a thousand inches of snow!
This is such a great and interesting account of one woman's life and hardships that she faced at the turn of the century married to a mining man and learning everything that she did regarding mining, the landscape, housekeeping, and becoming a mother. It is not a sad book, which is a relief. She writes with such an innocent voice and humor strewn throughout. It was a pleasant read and I am glad to know a bit more about that particular life style.
An excellent journal of life in mining communities in early 1900's in the western states. Upbeat, Harriet Fish Backus writes about winter's with snow over the roof of their uninsulated house with the privy being 50 to 100 feet behind the house, medical care sometimes being 3-5 hours away by horse down snowy mountain passes, water & coal having to be carried from distances that would tax any of us today. A great historical journal!
Janet Iona
I enjoyed this book. One of the members of our book group obtained a great set of discussion questions and we had a very lively discussion on the role of women, how society coped with poverty and what lif was like for women at the turn of the last century. If you like a good story, historical fiction or a good memoir you will enjoy this book. If you are a woman it will make you grateful that you live in this century.
Rae Ann Norell
True story about a young woman whose husband works at the mine at the
little mining camp/town Tomboy above Telluride (13,000 feet in the early
1900's. Fascinating. I picked it because I lived in Telluride in
the 50's and 60;s during the summers, and have been to the ghost
town of Tomboy. Need a 4-WD jeep to get there, one lane dirt road,
with straight drops down high cliffs on one side---scary drive! But
worth it.
Nice biography. The writing isn't spectacular but the story is. I liked learning about like in a mining camp at 10,000 feet from the perspective of a wife. My only beef was that the author's memories were a little too rosy. On the other hand, I found it a fascinating part of her personality - to always be in the right. The author's personality was just as interesting study as was her life's story.
If you like memoirs by women who lived in mining camps in the early 1900's as much as I do, then you willl LOVE this book. Harriet was an amazing woman who didn't seem to mind living in a log cabin at 10,000 ft., walking to an outhouse in a blizzard or having to order all your food for the entire month and wait for the mules to deliver it. It was a great read.
Loved this book. Its so much fun to explore the Colorado ghost towns and this book is an account by a lady who lived in mining towns in Colorado, Idaho and Canada around the turn of the century. Those abandoned buildings will have a new sense of life about them to me from now on! Very interesting and well-written by Harriet Fish a novel.
I loved it. Mrs. Backus finally published this when she was 84 years old. I can't understand how she received rejection letters on this invaluable, insightful piece of history. The up-close look at life in the harsh mining camps is just amazing. Easily one of the best books I've read this year. Best part is that I found it in a used bookstore in Colorado.
I love the author's description of her life at the Tomboy mine. Her experiences there were quite extraordinary. The reason I did not rate this book higher is because I could tell by reading the book that the author herself became bored with it after a certain point, the point being her and her family's departure from the Tomboy.
Evlyn Vander Vliet
Feb 12, 2012 Evlyn Vander Vliet rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
What a wonderful real-life adventure story! I loved experiencing this woman's joys, challenges, and new scenery. Her memoir is full to the brim of unbelievable excursions, tragic accidents, questionable living arrangements, and happy endings. It was refreshing to read a tale so full of joy and so devoid of materialism.
This was such an interesting look at life in CO in the early 1900's and life in mining towns like Telluride and Leadville. It made me want to go visit these areas again. Colorado is rich in minerals, mountains and tough mining folks who created this beautiful state. Thanks for a nice slice of CO history Hattie!
Chris Babcock
I have read this book multiple times and it never fails to keep me interested. Backus joined her engineer husband at the Tomboy Mine in the mountains above Telluride, Colorado. Winter proves to be difficult, but manageable in the deep snows and friendships run deep as well.
Reading this book is like talking to your grandma. It lacks clever literary nuances and it transitions between stories with connectors like, "Well, that was the end of that." But it leaves you absolutely fascinated by the chutzpah of those who have come before you.
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