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

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4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  466 Ratings  ·  94 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
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 1st 1977 by Pruett (first published January 1969)
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Community Reviews

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Kristel
Nov 23, 2009 Kristel rated it it was amazing
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
Lucy
Aug 29, 2009 Lucy rated it liked it
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
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Sharae
Jul 21, 2009 Sharae rated it liked it
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
William C. Montgomery
Sep 21, 2015 William C. Montgomery rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
I purchased Tomboy Bride on impulse at a general store in Lake City, Colorado, in the midst of an overland camping trip I took with my college-age son through the mountains of Colorado. I had a choice of several similar regional histories and biographies that lined the general store’s shelf. I gravitated to this memoir by Hattie, as she was known, because it was a firsthand account, not something put together by a historian or biographer. I have enjoyed other memoirs by strong women living in th ...more
Jenny
May 06, 2015 Jenny rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny by: Mom
Shelves: nonfiction-read
Great read about her life as a woman in various mining areas in Colorado, British Colombia, and Idaho. Although this occurs between 1906 and 1919, it's an engaging writing style and easy to read. She's originally from Oakland, and speaks briefly of how life changed for everyone due to the 1906 earthquake. She follows her soon-to-be husband, a mining engineer, to the San Juans in Colorado. They set up home at this super high-elevation. While you could read plenty of accounts of life in the mines, ...more
Linda
Aug 10, 2014 Linda rated it liked it
Long before self-publishing became de riqueur, Harriet Fish Backus thumbed her nose at twenty year's worth of rejection letters to publish this lively account of her life in the high country, paying for the first edition out of her own pocket. She was 84 years old; My copy is the 29th edition. This is indicative of the quiet resolve that guides Backus throughout her life. With good humor and a clear-eyed, matter-of-fact prose, she describes a life of incredible hardship and constant danger to me ...more
Crystal
Jan 30, 2016 Crystal rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club, biography
While I enjoyed this account of what life was like at remote, high elevation mines at the turn of the century, the book could have used a good editor. (The book was self-published in 1969 because the author could not find anyone interested in publishing a woman’s account of mining life). Often the author begins a story and then abruptly switches to another story never to finish the first one. This book certainly made me appreciate all my modern conveniences especially central heating. I can’t im ...more
Kelly Tarr
Jul 16, 2016 Kelly Tarr rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book! Some friends and I went on a trip and explored Tulluride/Ouray/Ridgeway and this is where I purchased 'Tomboy Bride'. I LOVED being able to relate to the places Hattie wrote about and the difficulty with the altitude. We crossed the million dollar highway, which was a bit nerve-wracking due to the heights, cliffs and valleys. I can NOT imagine the men/women/children/miners/horses, etc that made that trip on a narrow dirt road.
The life of a miner was a dangerous and exhausti
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Helena Smole
Nov 23, 2015 Helena Smole rated it really liked it
What I like most about this novel is how Harriet and her husband always make a team. They never compete against each other and they are always ready for a compromise. She writes repeatedly that she has been blessed with him as a husband, but I also think he was blessed with her. She supports him in his career and is completely happy being a homemaker. The array of sometimes amusing and on other occasions dramatic incidents in mining camps of the West is flamboyant and entertaining. The only thin ...more
Charles C Bloyer
Oct 27, 2014 Charles C Bloyer rated it it was amazing
I LOVE this book. I have visited Telluride Colorado several times and fell in love with it. Having taken my 4X4 through many of the passes, I wanted to learn more about the history. I asked one of the tour guides for a recommendation, and this was one.

Harriet's account of living at the mines made me feel like I was living in the high mountain passes with her in early 1900's. She was an honest hard working woman who turned her nose at no one, while supporting her own family in harsh conditions.
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Kendra
Oct 15, 2013 Kendra rated it liked it
Fun account of life much different from mine. It was really well written and fun to read
Randy DiFrischia
Down to earth honestly written from the heart book by a genuinely devoted wife and mother.

If your looking for a really good first hand account of life during the first part of the twentieth century in rural American and written from the heart, this is it. What a brilliant devoted wife and mother she was. Her strength shines thru on every page as you read of her trials of daily life in almost unbelievable conditions along with her dedication to her husband's successes is a testament of her charac
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Steven Howes
Jul 27, 2012 Steven Howes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarahandus
Sep 17, 2012 Sarahandus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Charles C Bloyer
I LOVE this book. I have visited Telluride Colorado several times and fell in love with it. Having taken my 4X4 through many of the passes, I wanted to learn more about the history. I asked one of the tour guides for a recommendation, and this was one.

Harriet's account of living at the mines made me feel like I was living in the high mountain passes with her in early 1900's. She was an honest hard working woman who turned her nose at no one, while supporting her own family in harsh conditions.
...more
Charles C Bloyer
I LOVE this book. I have visited Telluride Colorado several times and fell in love with it. Having taken my 4X4 through many of the passes, I wanted to learn more about the history. I asked one of the tour guides for a recommendation, and this was one.

Harriet's account of living at the mines made me feel like I was living in the high mountain passes with her in early 1900's. She was an honest hard working woman who turned her nose at no one, while supporting her own family in harsh conditions.
...more
Bill
Dec 15, 2014 Bill rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book - probably because I was born and raised in the Colorado mountains and because I live in the San Juan Mountains where some of the book takes place. But also because I often look at the ruins of the old mines and wonder what kind of people it took to come to such inhospitable county, without the benefit of modern machines and technology, and build the mines and processing facilities and "moil for gold". This book tells that story from the perspective of a wife of a mine ...more
Kate
Jun 02, 2009 Kate rated it really liked it
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
Melita
Oct 07, 2013 Melita rated it really liked it
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
Helensink
Nov 18, 2015 Helensink rated it it was amazing
The writings of the woman who lived it. Fascinating read of the harsh life in early mining camps of Colorado and other locations. And yet despite hardships, the author is so positive and upbeat. She must have been an amazing woman!
Katie
Sep 20, 2015 Katie rated it really liked it
Over July 4th weekend of this year, I visited Telluride for the first time (over 100 years since the Backuses lived there!) and thoroughly enjoyed a jeep tour up the mountain--the same path on which Harriet and her family would have traveled, but by such different means. As we rode up, our guide gave us lots of history and anecdotes about the mines in those mountains, and I was aghast to believe anyone could live like that. Thus, I had to read the account myself in Tomboy Bride. I still find inc ...more
Margaret Drake
Excellent account of a woman's life in the first decades of this last century. At the end, it tells that she was a Unitarian in Oakland, Calif.
Nancy Geise
Mar 26, 2012 Nancy Geise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Joanne
Feb 26, 2009 Joanne rated it it was amazing
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
Rita
Jul 28, 2014 Rita rated it liked it
Interesting story of life in San Juan Mts. in Colorado (early 1900's). Especially enjoyed this account because I was just there!
Jinnie
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
Charlotte Nutter
Great book, her real life experiences are more amazing than fiction. Moves well.
Michele
Jun 26, 2012 Michele rated it really liked it
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
Mrs. S.
Jan 24, 2016 Mrs. S. rated it it was amazing
Bought this while on vacation in Colorado. Love reading about the history.
Deanna
Oct 15, 2014 Deanna rated it it was amazing
I don't usually read anything but fantasy, but I do love history. This was wonderfully written and fast paced. I love my Colorado home and now I know a lot more of its history. I can't wait to explore some of these old towns,
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