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

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  998 ratings  ·  311 reviews
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 family’s farm, Helga and her teenaged daughter Clara, armed with little more than a compass, red-pepper spray, a revolver, a...more
Paperback, 307 pages
Published January 11th 2005 by Anchor (first published May 1st 2003)
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Sarah
Feb 22, 2008 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sarah by: Tim
This is an AMAZING story that was almost completely lost! Helga and her daughter WALK across the United States in 1896 in order to win $10,000 to pay their mortgage and save their farm. The fact that she left 7 children at home (the youngest was 2yrs) with her husband (recovering from injury) shows how desperate she was to save the farm, but also what an independent courageous woman she was. Stepping out of the cultural norms of acceptable female behavior at the time put her in the midst of some...more
Leslie
Apr 26, 2008 Leslie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: interpid females
Amazing book,amazing feat! (and feet)
This woman walked from Washington State to NYC in the late 1800s with her teenage daughter - WALKED!.
Many times there were no roads, and no towns to stop in.
They were allowed to have only five dollars in cash each.
They had to shoot at men who bothered them.
And in the end...
Nah, read it. It's good!
Danielle
I was intrigued by the title and synopsis of this book. As it turned out, it was my own little endurance journey to finish it, but the interesting bits made the high-school-history-report style of the writing tolerable. This was an interesting story, I just wish there was a better version of it. Hunt repeatedly emphasized (in a preface, an introduction, a forward, and an epilogue, I believe) the great tragedy that was the intentional "forgetting" of Helga Estby's cross-country walk by her embarr...more
Randy
Here's a book that would make a great film. A farm family in Eastern Washington is facing foreclosure. A mysterious patron offers Helga Estby, our heroine, the opportunity to win $10,000 (about $200,000 in today's dollars) if she can walk from Spokane to Manhattan collecting signatures from mayors along the route and modeling a new reform costume, an outfit that exposes the ankles. Helga and her 18 year old daughter Cora set out, armed with revolvers and pepper spray, following the railroad trac...more
Jody
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Terri Ehrlich
I really wanted to give this book 4.5 stars, but that option is not possible. I rounded up to counter someone else who will give it 4 for the same reason. This story is fascinating on so many levels. I live in Spokane, so there is the local interest. But the main draw is the issue of societal expectations of women and the consequences for those who dare go beyond the norm. Women in history are often disregarded, and their experiences and contributions are ignored, often to the detriment of futur...more
Monique
The fascinating true story of a woman and her daughter who walked by themselves from Spokane, WA to New York City in 1896 in hopes of winning a cash prize and saving their farm from foreclosure. The author does an excellent job in chronicling their odyssey and describing for modern readers the intense social, ethnic and familial forces that coalesced and lead to the silencing of Helga Estby's story within her family for several generations. As I read about the Estby family's financial struggles...more
Caroline
In 1896 Helga Estby, a Norwegian immigrant living in Spokane, Washington, and her daughter Clara set out to walk across America. They were attempting to win a wager of $10,000 put up by a wealthy New York sponsor, who was aiming to demonstrate that women were not the weak and feeble creatures that society believed them to be. They were not allowed to beg for rides or lifts, and they had to work for their food and clothing in towns along the way. Helga left behind her husband and seven children i...more
Agneata
I found this book at the last moment in the fiction section of the used book store. It is not fiction rather, a story the family of Helga attempted to silence and forget. They almost succeeded. To win money to save the family farm, Helga and her daughter walked unescorted across America in 1896.

Much was lost though when Helga's children burned all her papers, including the story of her and her daughter's walk across America. The author, Linda Hunt, researched and was able to bring Helga's story...more
Kari
I had forgotten how much of this biography is deeply sad, this poor family! But what guts this woman had, especially considering the restraints on women at the time. Also I am noticing this time around how strangely similar our current political/economic problems are to the period the book takes place in, ie bank failure, repossesions, the 'worst of times' kind of speeches from political candidates. In a way its comforting to know that everything thats happening now happened then, and somehow pe...more
Sharry Miller
I've become interested lately in the telling of stories about people's lives when the details of those lives are no longer available. Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt fits right into that category.

Helga Estby was a Norwegian immigrant to America in the 1800s who fought hard to ensure her family was safe and happy. Her ultimate sacrifice was to leave her family for over a year to walk from Spokane, WA to New York City with her eldest daugh...more
Sonja
Wonderful book, especially if you're a Norwegian woman! I heard Linda Hunt speak about her book at the Daughters of Norway 2008 Convention and bought a book right then but never got around to reading it until our lodge, Thea Foss, read it as a book selection in its book club and was highly recommended it. This book is more of the the history of the nation at the time this book was written so very interesting. Also, there is so little of the written word that a lot had to be assumed. Still, it is...more
Gloria
I'm not going to recap this story (I figure that's what the synopsis already provided by Goodreads is for), but I will say this book hit me.
In my head, I understand the country was a different place then-- women's suffrage was in its earliest infancy.
But I was still astounded by the reaction Helga Estby received (not positive) not only from her community, but her own family ... for merely doing the only thing she could think of in order to save her family's home and farm.

Some of the ideology and...more
Sara
What if the greatest accomplishment of your life was obliterated -- by your own family -- after your death?

Norwegian immigrant Helga Estby, together with her eldest daughter, walked across the United States, largely following railroad tracks, from Spokane Washington to New York, New York, unescorted, with only the clothes they stood up in and $5 each, in response to a challenge by an unnamed personage.

Their adventure, triumphs, and heartbreaks, were nearly lost to history, silenced by a family o...more
Ellis
If you like stories about oppressed women with few options whose incredible faith in others (unfortunately without a complimentary amount of skepticism) who perform even more incredible life-saving acts only to be heart-broken and life-shaken by the lack of integrity of others, then this story is for you!!!

I really liked Helga. She seems like a real bright spot of her age. I only wish she'd done a little more fact checking before her walk.
Kristen
I was not expecting what I got with this book. I expected a more personal biography. I found an exploration of the culture, particularily the political culture, of the late nineteenth century. It was an interesting story of the history of the time, but not really the life of Helga Estby. I also got an essay on why personal stories are lost. Again thought provoking, but not the story I curled up to read.

Finally I today I read this book and found a book about women's rights. It was well done. It w...more
Efox
I wish that more people would read this book. It's really incredible and amazing and I appreciate how much work Dr. Hunt put into piecing together a story that had more or less been completely silenced for years.

The story is about a mother and daughter who walk across the US in Victorian America. It's amazing. Hunt goes into tremendous detail about the historical and social context that the walk from Spokane to New York - and pieces it all together after the first person accounts were destroyed...more
Meredith
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dead Girl Drama
I picked this book up on a whim after reading my cousin's review of it, and, while it's not a typical read for me, I really couldn't put it down.

It is at once a story of determination and triumph, independence, bravery and great sorrow. Sadly, it is also a story that had almost entirely been erased from history but for the efforts of Helga's living ancestors and the dedication of Ms. Hunt for weaving together this historically accurate tale of women's courage in the Victorian era. In the book's...more
Tracy
What an incredible book...can you imagine walking 25 miles a day? Wearing the Victorian dress of the day for women? How about having a large family you leave behind? This is an incredible story about an incredible woman...and her daughter as they walk from Spokane WA to NYC! BEFORE 1900 and between the months of May and December! Read it!
Claire
It is hard to imagine two women walking across the continent from Spokane to New York City in the 1890s. It is hard to imagine an offer of $10,000.00 to do so. The motivation for the undertaking, however, was clear: to save a home from foreclosure.

The book is history--not of a rich and famous man, but of a poor and unknown woman, an ordinary citizen, Helga Estby. it is a history that was nearly lost until her eighth-grade grandson wrote a paper for a history contest about his grandmother's walk,...more
Sara
Helga and Clara Estby's walk across America (from Spokane, WA to New York City in 1896) is an inspiring account. The real tragedy is that this story was almost lost due to the shame Helga's "independence" brought to her family during the Victorian era when it was believed that women only belonged in the home. Her daughters destroyed all of Helga's journals and memoir of her trek. The only reason this story is not completely forgotten is due to one of Helga's daughter-in-laws preserving two newsp...more
Kristy McCaffrey
In 1896, Helga Estby and her grown daughter Clara walked across America, from Spokane to New York City, following, for the most part, rail lines. This remarkable accomplishment has been largely lost in history because Helga's writings, as well as personal recollections, were destroyed and silenced. Estby undertook the trek to win $10,000 in prize money to save her family's farm, but the sponsor refused to pay in the end. While Helga and Clara worked to earn enough funds to return home, two of He...more
Heidi
Aug 27, 2012 Heidi added it
August book club choice - 2012.

I lerve my book club.
Elizabeth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jesi
I am a firm believer that buried in every family is a story. Some stories are heroic, some are tragic, some tell of great loves, others of great losses. Unfortunately, many of these stories are lost to time due to lack of preservation. Sometimes people close to the situations are embarrassed by them. Sometimes they assume no one else would be interested. Bold Spirit tells of a story that was almost lost forever when the family of Helga Estby purposely burnt Helga’s memoires. Only a few newspaper...more
Cyndi
Just having studied the period of history in which this novel took place I was sooooo interested in how the journey played out and the perspective of the different people in the book. Helga sets out to save the family farm and finances by entering into a contract with a person from the east to walk from Spokane, WA to NYC in 1896. Her Norwegian community backed by Victorian notions that the woman should never abandon the home gave many an opportunity to criticize and condemn. Won't spoil the sto...more
Nancy
For most of my life I have been intrigued by the past. When I was a child, my mom made sure we always had a good amount of old photographs, books and stories around to tie us to our family history. I have childhood memories of exploring the old farm house that served as a wood shop for my Uncle Nordahl. I remember wishing I could go back in time and really see what it was like to grow up there, to know my grandparents and see my mother as a child. I had a craving to understand the hardships and...more
Jennifer
This book is the nonfictional story of a woman, Helga Estby, who undertook to walk across the North American Continent in 1896. Why, one might ask, would someone choose to do this? For Helga Estby it was probably not an easy decision. She had a home and many children. What she also had was a financial incentive. Fearing that her family would lose their home and livelihoods due to economic strife, she made a bold decision, to undertake a wager/promotion - basically a gamble. If she traversed the...more
Meg
The wonderful Jenny lent me this book and I devoured it.

This book covers the story of Helga Estby and her daughter, Clara, who walked from Spokane, Wa to New York City, Ny to try and win a bet that would give them the funds to save their farm from being foreclosed on. Helga emigrated from Norway with her mother and stepfather at an early age, became pregnant with her first child, Clara, married Ole Estby, and headed west to become pioneers. Linda Lawrence Hunt gives a wonderful background on Hel...more
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