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Bold Spirit

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,602 Ratings  ·  430 Reviews
Helga Estby left Spokane Washington and walked to NYC on a $10,000 challenge. This remarkable story of hardship and suffering was long lost and only recently discovered by the author. On Christmas Eve, 1896, the New York World reported her arrival. What followed was an American tragedy.
Published September 1st 2004 by Caxton Press (first published May 1st 2003)
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Jan 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Apr 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
In 1896, a mother and daughter accomplished the seemingly impossible, walking from Spokane, Washington to New York City in just under seven months. They didn't do it for mere folly. It wasn't a women's suffragette ploy. Or a protest. It wasn't some new health craze. (Heaven forbid, Victorian era women were considered far too frail for strenuous exercise). Nor was it an attempt at fame and fortune - though a good deal of money was on the line.

Helga Estby, Norwegian immigrant and mother of eight,
Jul 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: b-grade, nonfiction
Full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

In 1896, Helga Estby went for a walk with her seventeen-year-old daughter, Clara. They started off from Spokane, Washington, and ended up in New York City. The story of that walk is the topic of the nonfiction book, Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America.

Hunt’s book is wonderfully written, managing to make Helga’s life and the trip come to life despite not having much in the way of hard facts to go on. The writing is conversa
Terri Ehrlich
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this whole book in one day on a long flight to San Francisco... And was so glad I did! It is a must-read for everyone, but especially those interested in feminism and American history. The story seems almost to crazy to be true, and it was an absolute page turner!! I will be recommending this to all my friends. The only reason why it doesn't have 5 stars is because there were some sloppy grammar mistakes that drove me nuts, but it was always on a punctuation level so it only slightly dist ...more
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
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
Sep 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This woman was so boss. In this book Linda Hunt recounts the forgotten story of Helga Estby’s walk across America. While much of the actual historical record of the trip has been lost, Hunt gives a compelling portrait of ordinary life in America in the late 1800s. In fact I found the window into the time period in some ways more interesting than the actual details of Helga Estby’s journey, which had to be scraped together from newspaper articles. I thought it was interesting read, especially sin ...more
Kate Lawrence
What an amazing true account of courage and persistence! I'm glad Helga Estby's story is finally being told. The book is appealing, with fairly short chapters, numerous photos from the time period, and plenty of opportunities to reflect on the ways our country is both different and the same as it was in 1896. A major difference, and one frequently encountered, is society's attitudes toward women. Example 1: when Helga wears a "reform" style dress (mid-calf instead of ankle-length skirt, over leg ...more
Tari Lawson
I would probably actually give the book 3 1/2 stars if it were possible. I really liked the information laid out in the book (although at times it was a bit redundant). The author gave some interesting background regarding Helga and her family. This glimpse into who Helga was helped me to understand why she might have taken on such a challenge. It is a real tragedy that Helga's notes and manuscripts were destroyed. It would have been so insightful to have been able to read them. I would have lov ...more
Mar 17, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting historical perspective of women's place in society in the early 20th century.
Jun 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sharry Miller
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, 19th-century
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
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Kelly ...
May 22, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
An incredible story hindered by average writing.

This book is an incredible story about a woman who walked across the USA in the 1800s with only her teenage daughter as a companion. They had no money; they carried no extra clothes or food; they found themselves accosted by men and followed by mountain lions. These women are the types of women I revere. They were strong, capable women breaking - no, shattering - barriers. I loved the story. However, the writing style feels more like a history repo
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.
Amazing true story. As if the story itself wasn't enough (and it is) the author really did research into the cultural and social history of the U.S. and the Norweigian immigrant community of which Helga belongs. This understanding of time and place makes you appreciate Helga's struggle even more. It's also a story about family secrets and the judgements we make on other people.
May 07, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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!
August book club choice - 2012.

I lerve my book club.
Susan Elmore
Sep 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf-history
Not the genre I usually read, but I really enjoyed this book.
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