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One Thousand White Women #1

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd

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One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.

434 pages, Paperback

First published March 15, 1998

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About the author

Jim Fergus

32 books771 followers
Jim Fergus was born in Chicago on March 23, 1950. He attended high school in Massachusetts and graduated as an English major from Colorado College in 1971. He has traveled extensively and lived over the years in Colorado, Florida, the French West Indies, Idaho, France, and Arizona. For ten years he worked as a teaching tennis professional in Colorado and Florida, and in 1980 moved to the tiny town of Rand, Colorado (pop. 13), to begin his career as a full-time freelance writer. He was a contributing editor of Rocky Mountain Magazine, as well as a correspondent of Outside magazine. His articles, essays, interviews and profiles have appeared in a wide variety of national magazines and newspapers, including Newsweek, Newsday, The Denver Post, the Dallas-Times Herald, Harrowsmith Country Life, The Paris Review, MD Magazine, Savvy, Texas Monthly, Esquire, Fly Fisherman, Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, and Field & Stream. His first book, a travel/sporting memoir titled, A Hunter's Road, was published by Henry Holt in 1992. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Kirsch called A Hunter's Road, "An absorbing, provocative, and even enchanting book."

Fergus' first novel, One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd was published by St. Martin's Press in 1998. The novel won the 1999 Fiction of the Year Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association, and has become a favorite selection of reading groups across the country. It has since sold over 250,000 copies in the United States. An international bestseller, One Thousand White Women (Milles Femmes Blanches) was also on the French bestseller list for fifty-seven weeks and has sold well over 400,000 copies in that country.

In 1999, Jim Fergus published a collection of outdoor articles and essays, titled The Sporting Road. And in the spring of 2005, his second novel, The Wild Girl: The Notebooks of Ned Giles was published by Hyperion Press. An historical fiction set in the 1930's in Chicago, Arizona, and the Sierra Madre of Mexico, The Wild Girl has also been embraced by reading groups all across the United States. Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump called it, "an exhilarating and suspenseful tale that makes the heart soar."

In 2011, Fergus published a family historical fiction in France entitled, MARIE-BLANCHE. The novel spans the entire 20th century, and tells the devastating tale of the complicated and ultimately fatal relationship between the author’s French mother and grandmother. The American edition of MARIE-BLANCHE will be published in the United States in 2014.

In the spring of 2013, Fergus published another novel in France, CHRYSIS: Portrait d’Amour, a love story set in 1920′s Paris and based on the life of a actual woman painter, Chrysis Jungbluth. Reviewing CHRYSIS in French ELLE magazine, Olivia de Lamberterie,wrote: “This novel is an arrow through the heart.”

Chrysis has just been published in America with the title THE MEMORY OF LOVE.

Jim Fergus divides his time between southern Arizona, northern Colorado, and France.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,675 reviews
Profile Image for Daniel.
203 reviews
January 13, 2009
Dear May Dodd,

I received your letter of 20 January 1876, accompanied by portions of your journal, and, in short, I'm not falling for it. They sound like they were written sometime in the 1990s, and probably by a man. While I found many reasons to come to this conclusion, the biggest giveaways were your obsession with penis size and the fact that your signature was followed by an AOL e-mail address.

Disgruntled Reader

OK, that was a bit harsh and if for some reason Mr. Fergus is reading this review, I want to say to him: I didn't completely dislike "One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd," and I give you credit for trying to adopt the viewpoint of not just a woman, but a woman from more than a century ago. That took balls. Unfortunately for your readers, those balls weren't backed up by brains.

While Fergus obviously did a lot of research to learn about the culture of the Cheyenne nation and other Indian tribes -- he even shows his work by giving us a bibliography -- he completely fails to transport his readers back to an earlier time. That's the most basic requirement of any historical novel. Few pages go by in which Fergus doesn't attribute to May Dodd words and ideas that would be completely foreign to any woman living in the 1870s -- even a woman as progressive as May is supposed to be. For most of the novel, May sounds less like a 19th century woman of any background or educational level, and more like a Volvo-driving Web designer from San Francisco who's on her way to pick up her daughter at soccer practice, has to drop her off at the ex-husband's for his weekend visitation, and then, before going to her newly purchased fixer-upper in the Mission District, plans to stop by the polling place to vote for Dianne Feinstein.

Small examples: May repeatedly refers to another character as an "amateur ethnographer," describes herself as being "agnostic" when it comes to religion, characterizes herself as being as "big as a house" when pregnant, and says that a woman who ends her pregnancy "aborted" the baby. These are simply not words or ideas that any woman living in the 1870s would use, and especially not as casually as she does. This may sound like nitpicking, but there's never a point in the whole book in which even the most forgiving reader could honestly say to herself, "This can't possibly be a novel. He must have actually found May Dodd's lost journals from the 1870s." And yet that's what we the readers are apparently expected to do, at least according to Fergus's "Reading Group Gold" notes in the back of the edition I read.

There are other annoyances too. Many of the characters are given cutesy names that reflect their personalities and interests. The woman who studies and paints birds is named, unsurprisingly, Helen Flight, while a self-important and prudish character is, naturally, Narcissa White, and a dainty Southern belle is, wait for it, Daisy Lovelace. And, aside from giving characters lines and viewpoints that feel anachronistic, Fergus also makes passing reference to things that simply didn't exist in the 1870s. Hey, Jim, there was no Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra in 1875. Even the city's earliest such orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, wasn't formed until 16 years later. (Thanks, Wikipedia.) If you're trying to really make us believe we're reading a recovered journal, this is not the way to do it. Why not just give the Indian chief a BlackBerry, and President Ulysses S. Grant a subscription to Us Weekly?

All right, I've been nasty enough. There is a reason I gave "One Thousand White Women" two stars instead of one. Aside from the anachronisms, the book is reasonably well-written, and the story is compelling and relatively fast-paced. That makes up for some of the novel's faults. But you know what would have made the novel ten times better? Given that we're supposed to be reading the journals of a woman who's first diagnosed as insane, and then becomes a bride to an Indian chief under a secret government program, why come right out and reveal to your readers that she wasn't actually crazy and really did join a Cheyenne tribe? Why not leave it an open question, and let your readers decide for themselves whether the program was real or May Dodd was just nuts? That, perhaps, would make for a better novel.

On a side note, it was interesting to read Fergus's novel right after finishing Daniel Defoe's "Moll Flanders," and less than a year after reading Larry McMurtry's "Telegraph Days." What do the three have in common? Each novel is told from a woman's point, was written by a man, and focuses on a woman who are far more liberated and self-directed than her female contemporaries. While McMurtry's book was not a lot better than Fergus's (though it was a lot more fun), neither of them should even be mentioned in the same sentence as "Moll Flanders." (Oops.) It's impossible to imagine either one being widely read almost three centuries from now, as Defoe's 1722 novel is today.
Profile Image for Jessica.
392 reviews31 followers
December 22, 2010
Author: I have this book I want to publish.
Publisher: Okay, let me make sure it has what we are looking for in a book. After all, the bulk of your previous writing experience appears to be for an outdoors magazine. Correct?
Author: Yes that is correct.
Publisher: Okay, is your book an attempt to write from a woman’s point of view?
Author: Yes!
Publisher: Fantastic, do you have the slightest clue or insight into women’s thoughts or emotions?
Author: Nope.
Publisher: Great! Is your book riddled with women being raped?
Author: As a matter of fact, yes.
Publisher: This is great! Do you have these rape victims getting all sad, depressed and shutting down emotionally and physically?
Author: Why no! The protagonist gets raped for several years in a mental institution, then decides to participate in the Brides for Indians program, and is excited and not at all concerned about sleeping with other men along the way. She even gets raped in the Brides for Indians programs. In fact all the rape victims in my book bounce back with nary an emotional scratch. None of that “oh poor rape victim me” mentality in this book.
Publisher: Wonderful, wonderful! We need more stories that tell women to suck up rape.
Author: I couldn’t agree more.
Publisher: Do you use the word “perforce” at least 10 times throughout the book?
Author: Oh! Don’t you know it, I just learned that word and I think it makes me sound smart.
Publisher: Alright, so far so good, one more question…
Author: Hit me.
Publisher: Do you assign a bunch of the main female characters flimsy ethinicities so you can write their dialogue in tired dialect and accents?
Author: Oh hell yea! I have a southern belle, a German, two Irish chicks and a frenchy. All covered.

Dear author, have you ever met a woman? Do you really think that we rebound from rape as quickly and easily as the women in your book? You are what is wrong with society. Stick to writing about kayaks and extreme snowboarding or whatever the heck it is you write about in your insulated little sportsman world.

Oh, and one more thing, nobody used the word "pregnant" back then. You're an idiot.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews45 followers
August 5, 2017
Mary Dodd's crime was falling in love with a common man. After being committed to an insane asylum...she was given the opportunity to "escape" by enlisting in the BFI program. [Brides for Indians].... a secret government program.

This program NEVER REALLY HAPPENED IN OUR HISTORY.....the idea was tossed around and tossed out. FOR DAMN GOOD REASONS!!!

So... the MAJORITY of this book is FICTION. I read 98 pages --then skipped around reading - then jumped ahead and read the last 50 pages which included the Epilogue, and an interview with the author. I've decided to call it quits. I read enough. I was forcing myself too much to invest my time and heart.

I had enough when our FICTIONAL Mary turned very red in the face. "Oh Captain, Mary asked in a whisper, "How could I refuse you"?

GIFT OFFER: If anyone here on Goodreads -in the United States - wants to read this book - I'm happy to mail you my copy. It's still NEW. It was sent to me by St. Martin's Press....
but since I just wasn't really connecting with the writing & storytelling of this book - somebody else might.
I'm happy to cover the postage - and send it to another reader who wants to give this book a better chance than I did.

Many Thanks to St.Martin. I'm sorry I couldn't get into this book - but I appreciate your sending it to me. Thanks for all that you do to support authors and readers!!!
Profile Image for Chaybyrd.
10 reviews16 followers
January 17, 2012
First let me say, it seems among GR readers that this book stinks. And I get the criticism, I do. However, I have to say that I found this an enjoyable read.

Yes, the voice of Ms. Dodd, our heroine, protagonist, would be feminist (well sort of pseudo feminist) - does sound more 20th Century and less like a believable 19th Century even 'modern' woman but honestly, it kind of made the book more readable to me. I have no interest in hearing a modern writer trying to trifle through old English in a book written in a journal format. The way it's constructed, this book would have been excruciating if our heroine pondered in her diary speaking like a languid Victorian bore.

In addition, since the plot centers around an outlandish concept - One Thousand (19th Century) White Women would 'volunteer' i.e. live such miserable suffering yet comparatively privileged lives - that they would run to live amongst Native Americans - is kind of preposterous. Soooo given that liberty Jim Fergus took, I just decided to sit back and enjoy the ride. And I found it a fun ride. It's a pretty fast read, he tries to make her a strong, independent character and tries to tell a story that demonstrates the complex clashing of cultures. I appreciated the effort and although it's not the best historical fiction I've read, it was one of the most original concepts I have seen tackled.
606 reviews16 followers
May 1, 2010
I like historical fiction. I appreciate writers who take the time to research their stories well. I like to think that I'm catching up on some of the history I missed as the same time as enjoying a good read. I like journals and memoirs. And I jump at the chance to see history from the perspective of those who are usually written out of the history books. So I was quite enthusiastic when I heard about this novel which is written in the form of the journal of a nineteenth-century Yankee woman living among the Cheyenne.

But it's not well written. Fergus may be a good journalist, and I can imagine him in his study, surrounded by charts showing the timeline of significant events of the period, trying to incorporate them into his story. But he's not much of a novelist, and he doesn't even begin to inhabit the voice of his protagonist. May Dodd is never convincing; not as a woman, not as a gently reared member of the upper class, not as the survivor of abduction and incarceration in a brutal insane asylum, not as a rape survivor. There's no depth to her emotions, her actions are incongrous and even her language seems stilted, and worse, anachronistic.The other characters are no better, a range of stereotypes from the alcoholic faded Southern belle to the Amazonian former slave. Jeez!

I guess you can tell that I'm somewhat disappointed by this. I don't usually bother to say much about books I didn't like, but this one annoys me because it could have been so much better.

I bet it was a best seller, too! Ah well.
Profile Image for Sara.
175 reviews38 followers
May 21, 2013
This is somewhat erroneously in my "read" shelf. I did not finish reading it, so keep that in mind as far as this review goes. I applaud the author's project - historical fiction disguised as history proper (I tend to love things like that), it is a well-researched story told via the faux journals of a 19th-century white woman who went to live among the Cheyenne. My problem with this book is essentially that I did not ever buy the voice in which it is told - this problem has two tiers: First, it is supposedly a 19th-century journal and the author tries to convey the 19th-century-ness by frequent use of vocabulary like "perforce", however what marks an actual primary source from a specific time period is not merely vocabulary but the nature of observation. That is, you know you're dealing with an historical document, often, not merely by how the author tells the story (what words he/she uses) but what he/she chooses to include in the story in the first place. I simply could never forget that I was reading a 21st-century person's somewhat inexpert attempt at what a 19th-century person would sound like in a personal journal and what they'd choose to include. Associated with this is tier two of my general dislike of this book. I could also not forget that I was not reading a woman's journal, but a man's idea of what a woman would write in her journal. Now, I applaud the author for attempting such a thing. I wish more men would try to crawl into the heads of women. I just don't think this author quite was up to the task. "A" for effort, but I could not make myself finish this book.
Profile Image for Chellis.
6 reviews
January 11, 2009
If this book was not assigned to me for my book club, I wouldn't have wasted my time to read it. Not only is Fergus' novel, overly sentimental, historically inaccurate, misogynistic, it is racist towards Native Americans. AND it's all told in my least favorite method of narration: the journal entry. Chapters will often begin with, "So much has happened since my last entry, I don't know where to begin...." This is an easy tool to push time forward, and overdone in poorly written novels.

Fergus' novel was chosen for the Doubleday Book Club, which means that publishers have no idea what women read. It's true that women are the main demographic in Book Clubs, but that doesn't mean that we only want to read women "survival stories," (let alone one poorly written by a man.)

Profile Image for Hiroto.
242 reviews61 followers
August 19, 2019
If you read the top reviews, however good the total rating is, you'll see the book has kinda bad reputation, and lemme tell you : it earned it. All of it. What a fuckin sham this book is.

I think this is the book I hated the most this year. Actually, more than that, it angered me until I couldn't take it anymore and basically threw it across the room. I want to burn the piece of garbage.

The plot promised me strong and independent women, I got a bunch of clichés :
-the swiss shehulk with bowling balls for tits who's a lil dumb and has an accent so thicc it's written like zat because get it? english isn't her mother language
-the ex-slave (how even was she accepted?? we don't f know) who rediscovers her African roots cause she's a motherfucking chasseresse and was accepted as such by the Natives and has always her tities out. because get it? she's black
-the sweet naïve one who went because she wanted to be with the protagonist and it was likely her only prospect to get herself married because get it? she's ugly, and she's here to make the MC look good

etc etc, but the worst of the bunch really is May Dodd, our MC and narrator. She's a marysue. She's super pretty. She's got a banging body. She knows Shakepeare by heart. She's the smartest of them all (because she's so cultivated). She's pretty much a speshul snowflake, without the YA magic touch™.

She's the ultimate fantasy of the author, and it's so painful to read because it's so clear he thinks she's the perfect woman and want to bang her. She proclaims herself to be "nonconformist", I'm like, OK, in 1875, why not, it must certainly have existed... Except that, for Mr. Fergus, an nonconformist woman only means she thinks about sex a lot, and it doesn't matter if she get raped several times in the process : she's so nonconformist she doesn't know about PTSD. She's so feminist she drags her own sisters of misfortune. Seriously how many times have I read her bash one of them as ugly, or kinda dumb, etc etc ? That's not feminism. That's being bitchy. (also I'm pretty sure she talks like she's in the 1990 at least but- whatever.)

She's so fucking perfect for the male gaze IT HURTS. Lemme explain with an exemple : She and her sisters just got to their new home : the Cheyenne Camp. Our Perfect May feels stinky and in need of a bath. She observed the male natives always go together to the river, while the women rest at the camp. So what does she do? She invites herself with the men, looses her dress, and dives directly into the water while they watch with their mouths aghast (because she has a banging body™). Indeed, she is so freakin gracefull the Cheyennes give her the name of "Swallow". I would have called her "Lunatic" but okay. (btw her sisters all got names like "Clumsy One", and she gets freaking "Swallow" wtf.)

Also what is up with rape in this book? For two years, our Perfect MC was raped by an intendent in the mental hospital she was shut in (because she lived with a man and had babies with him without being married). That's pretty rough. I mean, I think I'd be destroyed, but heh, that's just me. But once she escape it doesn't appear to bother her that much. She's already in love with her good colonel and they bang fondly, I guess?

And later in the book, a new character is introduced and he is a piece of shit, because Mr. Fergus wanted to have a villain guy. The only point of his character is to make rape threats to the girls and particularly to the MC. Every time the character is here, it's just to say "Salope, je vais t'enculer à sec" (wich I don't even want to translate because he says it in french in the book). once again : what.is.the.fucking.point.

A few pages later, all the indians of the camp are freakin smashed, because rapethreatsdouche gave them alcohol. They're so fucking drunk they gangrape a poor girl. But it's fine! It's totally OK! Because like 5 pages after, May tells us that Daisy finally loosed the broom in her ass after the "incident"! A lil dick a day keep the bitch away! YOO-FUCKING-WOO.

Also, the ex-slave woman was also raped but it’s ok because she was a slave and that’s pretty much expected ; another one I didn’t mention, the youngest of the group, she was mute, and May understands that that was ACTUALLY PTSD because when they’re all kidnapped by another group of Natives, they rape them all and the mute girl actually STRUGGLE so hard she kills her assailant but not before he manages to kill her also.
What a fucking trainwreck this chunk of the book is.

I should maybe expend on it because once again : I don’t see its point. A rival band of “their cheyennes” (I don’t remember the names help) captures the white women, rapes them, and then is slaughtered by their husbands. Like… I don’t get it ? Why did they rape them when they could’ve flee to their own camp, organize a defense line before the inevitably angry husbands come to the rescue and THEN rape them ? WHAT WAS THE POINT I’M SO FUCKING ANGRY

But do you want to know what actually made me stop reading this piece of shit? The fucking priest, that’s why.
Okay so there’s a priest at camp, he’s there to convert the heathens or whatvs. One day, he’s caught sodomizing a child. The cheyennes were never confronted to a crime of this kind, and they don’t quite know how to punish him (we don’t get to know how the child feels btw). He’s finally rejected by the camp at its outskirts, and that’s all. Ok, alright, I can understand that decision. What made me lose my shit was May, our smart and fierce narrator PITIED HIM. Because he wasn’t accepted at the camp anymore. OUR FIERCE NONCONFORMISTE FEMINIST DIDN’T QUITE CARE THAT THE DUDE IS A FUCKING CHILDRAPIST, now, she PITIED HIM.

What a bunch of shit. I’m out.

PS : if you’re wondering if I at least learned a thing or two about the Natives and their lifestyle, the answer is no. Not a thing
November 11, 2021
At a peace conference at Fort Laramie in 1854, a prominent northern Cheyenne Chief requested of the US army the gift of one thousand white women as brides for his young warriors.
Although this was an actual historical event, the story of May Dodd and her journals is entirely a work of fiction by the author.
The Cheyenne's request was not well received by the white authorities, and the peace conference collapsed and the Cheyenne's were actually sent home.
The white women did not go. But in this novel they do..and what if?
What would have happened?
The story begins with a remarkable woman named May Dodd who travels west into the unknown and marries the Chief of the Cheyenne Nation.
May Dodd tells her story through fictional diaries of the fate she left behind being committed to an insane asylum, having her babies taken away from her by her blueblood family for the "crime" of loving a man without marriage and beneath her station.
May's only hope for freedom is to sign up to a secret government program where women from the "civilized" world become brides to the Cheyenne warriors.
What follows is a breathtaking adventure of May Dodd, her brief but passionate romance with the gallant Army Captain John Bourke, her marriage to the great Chief Little Wolf and her conflict of being caught between not only two worlds but loving two men and living two lives.
What I liked about this story, was May Dodd was an incredible woman living in her time and the author did a splendid job writing from the perspective of a woman with such credibility told through her journals.
There was enough historical backdrop/details without it becoming "over-detailed" so that it took away from the story/characters.
The secondary characters (the women May travelled with) was also well done and balanced so that they too weren't distracting from May's story, and the bond that grew with these women was also neatly woven within the telling.
When I picked up this book, I thought it would be a "dry as the prairie" that they travelled on, and on and on kinda book.
Not so!
Fantastic tale of the Old West and the Native American Indians, a superb tale of sorrow, loss, sacrifice, suspense, and most of all love and triumph.
And it's not often when a book leaves this reader eagerly waiting to turn the next page to find out what will happen next.
Highly recommend this book ( book 1 ) and now I can't wait to read the next two:
The Vengeance of Mothers The Journals of Margaret Kelly & Molly McGill (One Thousand White Women, #2) by Jim Fergus Strongheart The Lost Journals of May Dodd and Molly McGill (One Thousand White Women, #3) by Jim Fergus

Edit to review: Due to the historical time period this story was set in
and although not in graphic detail, there are scenes of violence, rape and other subject matter that may not appeal to some readers.
Profile Image for Amy Sheridan.
51 reviews9 followers
September 14, 2011
If I were a member of the Cheyenne tribe featured in this book, my Indian name would be Couldn't-Finish-The-Book. If Jim Fergus were a member of the tribe, his Indian name would be Has-Never-Spoken-To-A-Woman-For-Any-Amount-Of-Time because... really. Oh, and the Indian name of this book would be Fail-Order-Brides.

I will start off by saying that I've never been a fan of historical fiction or books written as journals, but the premise of this book piqued my interest. I wasn't even slightly put off by the idea of a man writing as a woman... until I started reading, clearly the author has never had a conversation with a woman. It also seems like he didn't spend much time researching the social mores of that time. I'm thinking he spent most of his time coming up with stereotypes and trying to see how many times he could use the N word.

If I were a betting woman, I would say that Jim Fergus is a comic book and/or fan-fic fan because the narrator, May Dodd, is the biggest Mary Sue EVER, she's the prettiest (I know this not because there was any description of her, but because, from her descriptions, all of the other women were gargoyles) she stands up to authority, mouths off to everyone, all the men love and respect her and she ends up with the only good Indian name.

My iPod says I'm 40% in and I tried tried tried, but I really couldn't finish. As interesting as the premise was, there wasn't a single character I didn't dislike.
Profile Image for Taury.
505 reviews92 followers
July 8, 2022
One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus. 5+ stars. Story of May Dodd as she started out in an Asylum for the insane. In the 1800s she had a unique opportunity to leave the asylum and live amongst the Cheyenne Indians. 1000 women were sent to marry within the Cheyenne Indians and birth their babies in exchange for 1000 horses. She married Chief Little Wolf and kept a journal of her life among the Indians. It was an entertaining story of her adventurous life on the prairie. Her propound loyalty to the Cheyennes and other the other women who joined this program. This book has had a lot of mixed reviews. For me it was fascinating and entertaining. I look forward reading the other two books in the series
110 reviews
September 13, 2007
This book was really disappointing.

The premise begins with a re-telling of the proposed "Brides for Indians" pact that went on in 1854, when a whole host of Cheyenne Native Americans came into DC and asked for 1000 white women to take back to the prairie. Their idea was that by impregnating the women, they'd put the Native American seed into Caucasian culture and thus assimilate it.

Ok, so that never happened. But for Jim Fergus, he lets his imagination roll with the idea that it did. Enter May Dodd, a woman who fell in love with a guy who worked for her father and was (obviously) below her station in life. Institutionalized for promiscuity after she gives birth to two children, May is eligible for the Brides program because she is obviously fertile.

I really thought that I was going to like this book, and be able to read it over a weekend. Instead, factual misrepresentation totally got the best of me. Dates are just wrong. I can't imagine what Fergus' editor was doing when he sent in this book. For instance, there's this point where Dodd, who is writing in 1874/75, mentioned the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The CSO was begun in 1891. I hate to ask people to look up these references, but please.

Also problematic is Fergus' idea of what thoughts went through women's heads in the mid-1800s. Apparently, women were spritely, not afraid to stand up for themselves, and spoke out in crowds of men. I wouldn't call myself a traditionalist, but at the very least give an accurate portrayal of what life was like for us back in 1874.

And finally, it just seems like the author wasn't paying any sort of attention to his character. For instance, May Dodd undergoes this "treatment" in the asylum for promiscuity. Her vagina is injected with boiling hot water at regular intervals. She is also raped repeatedly by the orderlies. However, she gets out of the institution and is sleeping with a man almost immediately. It just isn't believable.

In another passage, May recounts how she and a few of the other brides have totally given up their Western attire for Native American clothing. They don't even remember WHERE their skirts and blouses are. However, when one of them has the idea to hit the sweat lodge with the rest of the Native American men, they all pull out the cotton towel they packed for just this sort of instance. Again, it's just not believable.

In something like Phillippa Gregory's books, you can overcome any factual problems because you're reading a bodice ripper. While Fergus says right at the front of the book that this is a work of fiction, you still have to do your research.
27 reviews
August 21, 2008
I read this for book club and felt distracted by the quality of writing, and therefore unable to even entertain the implausible historical premise. Maybe that is my own shortcoming. I just have a difficult time buying into a "journal" which contains pages of dialogue and real time events, and a voice that constantly contradicts itself and clearly belongs in a different century... but I tried to ignore this. As I read on, it became clear that while the author did his history homework, and has an obvious acquaintance with American topography, he had great difficulty getting into the mind of a woman, let alone a 19th century woman! (i.e. gang raped and "fine" within a month or so, pregnant, yet walking/horseback-riding great distances without mention or concern of said pregnancy, blushing and giggling after losing one's virginity doggy-style, the list goes on...) I found his stereotypes to be tiresome, and the whole story felt very contrived, particularly the relationships he "explores" throughout the novel (which in my opinion reach little to no depth). The caricatures he presents belong in a comedy, and while this novel has its humorous moments, it is ultimately a dramatic portrayal of the hardships of frontier life, and the clash between the spiritual but doomed Native Americans and the white man's Manifest Destiny.

It seems readers love most about the novel its heroine, May, for her brazen ways, fortitude in peril, and feminist ideals. Please. This character is being spoon fed to 21st century women readers. A much more likable, realistic, and complex version of this same character is Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody, who fits in perfectly in Peters' light-hearted, adventurous historical mysteries. And while Peabody would be the first to join the men for a whiskey and soda, contemplating the next "course of action," she would never, for her own amusement, make a mockery of a culture's ritualistic and spiritual traditions! Compared to the fully developed Peabody, May is a mere stick figure, propped up by the author in effort to sell his book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Karina.
825 reviews
May 26, 2022
DNF- Page 200... I have to stop reading this book. I can be away from it for months and not think about it.... I am sure that is a bad sign to any book... I've been skimming it and have not missed a single thing going on... I really really wanted to like this book. The title and cover were interesting to me & May Dodd was a real life relative to the author; yet Fergus couldn't get the story to be cohesive. I would have liked that May Dodd had her own personal story instead of the gov't sending 1,000 white women (most from insane asylums) to marry and bear the children of the aboriginals. It was a dumb premise and it didn't take off for me. It was amazingly horrible & I don't want to waste my time on something I don't want to devour overnight....
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,348 reviews4,863 followers
November 30, 2021

This is an excellent novel about an 1800's government program to send 1000 white women to marry into the Cheyenne Indian tribe in exchange for 1000 horses.

The plan is for the Caucasian-Indian couples to have children, which will theoretically promote peace between Indians and settlers.

Most of the women in the program are volunteers from prisons and insane asylums, though the dozen or so females in the story are 'nice girls' who got locked up due to unfortunate circumstances.

The novel is composed of journal entries from one of the women, May Dodd, who was committed to an asylum by her wealthy father for choosing a man below her station.

The book illustrates the women's lives in Chief Little Wolf's Cheyenne tribe in the Montana Territory, and ends with an army raid on the tribe's encampment.

The women have a fascinating adventure and the narrator, May Dodd is a kind of hoot.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Michelle.
Author 12 books1,365 followers
November 26, 2007
I have to agree with several of the previous reviewers... GREAT premise (exchange of 1,000 white women for peace - an offer actually made, but declined by Grant) and interesting insight into Native American culture. However, I had some of the same gripes as previous reviewers. For one, I thought the writing was very mediocre, it was abound with cliches. If the narrator referred to one more person being "rough around the edges" I was going to scream. Not to mention "he made my skin crawl." And, as others said, May Dodd's forthrightness/gumption in the company of men is just not believable for that time period. Even the pluckiest of women wouldn't have been so mouthy and brazen. I just had a really hard time getting into the book because of these things. I also didn't really like the narrator, probably because she was completely unbelievable and sounded very much like a man trying to write as a woman in modern day. I didn't care that much about what happened to her. But I am giving it a 3 for the premise and uniqueness of the story line. Plus I loved the info on the native americans (being part Chickasaw myself!)
Profile Image for Mary Helene.
674 reviews39 followers
November 13, 2007
It's a bodice-ripper! It took me to page 80 to figure that out and then I laughed aloud. Tana recommended it to me, and I usually value her recommendations, but I forgot that this is a genre she finds fun. I was just so disappointed. This book would appeal to those who like the "Outlander" series. There is the heroine who has no faults or failings but who is consistently misunderstood. There are evil characters lurking on the edges, but she feels safe in the arms of a series of fantastic heroes who are almost, but not quite, worthy of her. Her rivals and all who have done her wrong are dismissed with sarcasm. I cannot finish it.
Profile Image for Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.
1,055 reviews1,376 followers
August 5, 2017
Loved the book...it is in journal form and tells of how the government asked the American Indians to trade one thousand white women for horses...their main reason was to "civilize" the Indians and make them aware of and become familiar with the white people's way of life.

Very interesting book...topic not as bad as it sounds.
3 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2008
Quite a good read.

From Booklist, by Grace Fill

An American western with a most unusual twist, this is an imaginative fictional account of the participation of May Dodd and others in the controversial "Brides for Indians" program, a clandestine U.S. government^-sponsored program intended to instruct "savages" in the ways of civilization and to assimilate the Indians into white culture through the offspring of these unions. May's personal journals, loaded with humor and intelligent reflection, describe the adventures of some very colorful white brides (including one black one), their marriages to Cheyenne warriors, and the natural abundance of life on the prairie before the final press of the white man's civilization. Fergus is gifted in his ability to portray the perceptions and emotions of women. He writes with tremendous insight and sensitivity about the individual community and the political and religious issues of the time, many of which are still relevant today. This book is artistically rendered with meticulous attention to small details that bring to life the daily concerns of a group of hardy souls at a pivotal time in U.S. history. Grace Fill
Profile Image for TL .
1,826 reviews35 followers
May 27, 2017
3.5 stars... an interesting look at "what could have happened" if history had gone a little differently .

Hard to get fully into at first, but still fascinating. When it did pull me in, I was hooked.. dragged a bit near the end but was never boring (part of that may have been me having an idea or two of what was happening and dreading it too)

The way May's journal entries are written, it feels like you have gone back in time and catching a glimpse of a forgotten past. It feels like I could have been reading about my own ancestor or close friend.

Everyone/Everything is brought vividly to life through May's eyes as well. Nothing felt forced/cardboard/out of place.

Potential trigger:

I admired May for doing her best to adapt to her circumstances and not giving in when things got bleak. She was a woman ahead of her time in one sense but I don't see how she couldn't have forseen how her family would react. In her defense , I guess she couldn't have predicted her family sending her to the asylum *shrugs *

The ending of May's portion.. my heart broke and I was angry in equal turns... Many times I was throwing things at these characters and cursing them... to explain fully even in spoiler tags would be a long rant so I will say no more here.

The Codicil and Epilogue were nice touches.

Would recommend when you have the time to focus on it (unlike me haha)

*will fix any errors later*
Profile Image for MAP.
511 reviews154 followers
November 19, 2012
1.5 stars.

This is another one of those disappointing books where the idea is really neat and the execution is incredibly bad. The main issue is how flawed the writing of the characters is. For one thing, he seems to confuse people having accents for people having personalities. There are Irish accents, southern accents, German accents. And he WRITES OUT the accents, which is supremely annoying. (He also sporadically writes things in French and then doesn't translate them.) On top of that, there's every cliche in the book: the pedophile priest, the hypocritical evangelical, the magical negro. May's husband, Little Wolf, is barely in the damn book. He's like a shadowy figure with no personality or impact on the book whatsoever. May says over and over that she feels integrated into the Cheyenne society, but we the readers never feel it.

Finally, you just don't CARE about any of the characters. I had no emotional connection or reaction to anything that happened, ever.

After reading all my friends' negative reviews, I was hoping it would at least be fun terrible and trashy. But no, it was just pathetic terrible and trashy.

It's rounded up to 2 stars and is given 1.5 stars simply because it doesn't quite reach the unreadable monstrosity of the likes of The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel.
Profile Image for Rachel.
51 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2008
I fear I'm going to be overly harsh on this book. First, this book took me 3 months to read, which is nearly unheard of, especially for ~300 pages. I kept wanting to just stop reading, but I wanted to finish it so I could say I finished it.
The basic story of the book I think is intriguing and could be the basis for a really good book if done correctly. I just think the author missed terribly here. The book is bogged down by dialogue, and crappy dialogue at that. He felt it necessary to write conversation out to sound (in your head while you read it) like the person's accent... very amateur I thought.
The main character is just too much. He attempts to give her flaws, but makes her appear too "good" or "important" for a character that is supposed to be flawed.
I wouldn't really recommend this book at all...

655 reviews1 follower
March 31, 2012
So I liked the entire book, especially the main character. However, I was a bit bummed by the end. And I even had a little trouble figuring out who the characters were in the final pages (lineage). But what a well written book. I had never read a book about Indians, and while I am sure it only scratched the surface of their customs and way of life, it did present a lot of information about them. In the end though, it was ironic that the main character was unable to identify with either the Indians (due to their hideous act at the end) or the Whites (due to THEIR hideous act at the end). It left me feeling that she must have been so sad,
Profile Image for Christa.
2,214 reviews421 followers
January 12, 2009
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd is a very interesting and original book. In 1854 a Cheyenne chief proposed a plan to exchange 1000 horses for 1000 white brides for his warriors. The plan was rejected, but Fergus basis his fictional novel on a similar situation set in 1875. In the novel, the Cheyenne are promised 1000 white brides, and May Dodd, resident of an insane asylum, is one of the women selected. The character May Dodd was a strong woman and her story was compelling.

1875 finds May Dodd living in an insane asylum in Chicago. Her parents placed her there unwillingly because she was living with a man of a much lower social station without the benefit of marriage. May and her lover had two children together, and her wealthy parents used her promiscuity as means to have her committed. The asylum is a hopeless place, and May misses her beloved children greatly. When she is offered the opportunity to go west as a bride for a Cheyenne warrior in order to help assimilate the tribe into the white culture, she decides that this may be her only possibility of leaving the asylum. She journeys west with a group of other "brides," many of them from prisons or other undesirable situations. On the journey to meet her bridegroom, May comes to have deep feelings for an army officer. Knowing that their relationship is hopeless, May resolutely goes to her new home with the Cheyenne. She finds her new husband to be a man of honor, and she greatly respects him. As May and the other women who journeyed with her settle into their new lives, the U.S. government decides not to honor their bargain but to instead force these Cheyenne to a reservation. When violence strikes the Cheyenne in the form of the U.S. Army, many of the brides and their new families come to a tragic end.

I enjoyed this book. I quickly became caught up in the story, and was saddened by the tragic end that came to many of the characters. May Dodd was an unusual, but likeable heroine. I enjoyed the manner in which the beginning and end of the book take place in the present with one of her desendants searching for information about May after the family story of her dying in the Chicago asylum is derailed.
Profile Image for Sherril.
260 reviews56 followers
January 29, 2022
That so many on GR did not like One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd is a mystery to me. Perhaps they did not appreciate that it was written in Journal form, which for me is always a plus. Perhaps they didn't know how to appreciate the idiosyncratic descriptions of the women involved. Or perhaps they just don't know a wonderful book when it's right in front of their eyes. ImThe book is intelligent, sensitive and intuitive. In other words, Jim Fergus's book is a gem!

I Loved Loved Loved this book! It was one of the first books we read in my Bookclub, which started in 2005 and we all loved it. I would go so far as to say, it was one of my all time favorite books.

Jim Fergus, the author, has the uncanny ability to write well in a woman's voice. And I say this as a 65 year old long time feminist. He also writes with sensitivity to the great legacy of Native Americans without being sappy and with being thorough. His research for this book was evident. He writes with language that begs to be highlighted, so as to be able to recall it at will. I own the book and am now reviewing the many inserts I put in it to remember passages I loved, and there are many. "Notebook 1-A Train Bound for Glory - "Frankly, from the way I have been treated by the so-called 'civilized' people in my life, I rather look forward to residency among the savages." (from the journals of May Dodd)

I do not give five stars lightly, but I give them enthusiastically to One Thousand White Women! It is a book to savor until the very last page.
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,225 reviews172 followers
June 4, 2023
Utterly compelling alternate history!

Every once in a very long while, I am privileged to read a novel that is so compelling, so breathtaking and so utterly absorbing that I find myself holding my breath in awe as I turn the final page. ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN is one of those novels!

In 1854 at a peace conference held at Fort Laramie, a prominent Cheyenne chief had the temerity (or so the white US Army negotiators thought) to request the gift of one thousand white women as brides for his warriors. Coming from the perspective of a man in a matrilineal society in which all children born belong to their mother's tribe, it seemed to be the perfect solution to the integration of white and native people, society and culture. In fact, white society of the day was appalled at the suggestion and the peace talks collapsed. This novel explores, in fiction, how events might have unfolded had the government acceded to the request and what the lives of the volunteer white brides might have been like in an aboriginal Cheyenne society that knew they were facing possible genocidal extinction in an unwelcoming modern world!

Fergus has done a positively masterful job crafting a fast-paced novel that could be read purely on the surface as a wonderful period piece in the 19th century American West! You'll find it all here - romance, knee-slapping humour, outrageous stereotypes, credible dialogue, a magnificent cast of wildly disparate characters, pathos, sex, violence, guns, battles, bravery and derring-do, political bafflegab and adventure! But even a moment's pause will furrow more thinking readers' foreheads as they question their stance on a wide array of socially and politically charged issues that persist even to this day - racially mixed marriages; men's roles vs women's roles in both modern and nomadic hunter-gatherer societies; homosexuality; charges of pedophilia in Catholic and Christian ministry (hmm ... plus ça change, plus ... ); the efficacy (or even validity) of overly zealous Christian missionaries in pagan societies; the current status of aboriginals in modern society; the perennial flouting of treaties between white and aboriginal society negotiated in good faith; the demise of aboriginal language; the forced placement of aboriginal people into reservations, white settlements and parochial schools; and so very many more.

"Must read" is a term far too loosely bandied about in this era of marketing of blockbuster best sellers but I put it to those who enjoy historical fiction that ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN easily earns it! (I'm willing to lay odds that more than one reader will find themselves teary-eyed at the close of this novel).

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
733 reviews1,778 followers
May 24, 2012
What an amazing novel!!! The diary style writing worked perfectly, giving the reader the truest sense of May Dodd's experience!!! Really, really good!!!
Profile Image for Karen.
805 reviews1,012 followers
March 12, 2019

“I, personally, have resolved never to display weakness, to be always strong and firm and forthright, to show neither fear nor uncertainty-- no matter how fearful and uncertain I may be inside; I see no other way to survive this ordeal.”

I really enjoyed this book. I have been meaning to read it for years. It is a fictional story written in the form of a series of journals about a true event that occurred in 1854, when Chief Little Wolf, of the Cheyenne Tribe met with US President Ulysses S. Grant to request the trade of 1000 white women for 1000 horses. The trade was rejected at the time. And this book is a kind of "what if" example of what may have occurred as a result. Hence the book's fictional account of the Brides for Indians program sanctioned by the US Government in 1875. Which, of course never actually occurred. Fascinating to contemplate though. Interesting read.
Audiobook narration very well done by Laura Hicks and Erik Steele.
Profile Image for Jennifer Love.
39 reviews
July 10, 2007
The friend who loaned me this book raved about it, and I really trust her opinion. However, I just couldn't love this book. It is an interesting topic-it's based on a true bit of history, when the Native Americans and the U.S. were trying to integrate, and the Native Americans requested 1000 of American white women to help the process and have their children. Of course, Grant turned it down, but this book is a fictional account of what might have been. It was an extremely interesting idea, and I especially enjoyed learning more of the Indian cultures, but for one, the characters seemed typical, almost soap opera figures. You know, the racist southern belle, the large, loud woman, the drunk prostitute....the characters were, although very developed, very unbelievable, in my opinion. My main problem of the book is that it was written by a man, and narrated by a woman. I think it nearly impossible for a man to write from a woman's view. It just didn't ring true to me.
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,294 reviews2,964 followers
February 12, 2018
According to the author, at a peace conference in 1854, a Cheyenne Indian chief asked U.S. Army authorities for the gift of 1000 women. The idea was these women would become the brides of young Indian warriors and produce offspring which would lead to assimilation into the white man's world. This request was not well received and declined. In this fictional book however, President Ulysses S. Grant agrees to the proposal and women from different backgrounds are sent out west to become wives. The book is a collection of journal entries and letters to family by the young woman, May Dodd who agreed to become a wife in order to leave the insane asylum where she was put in by her parents.

I really found this book fascinating and loved how the author took one kernel of truth and then created a whole fictional book about what might have happened if the government had agreed to the proposal. Right off the bat I loved the character of May Dodd and enjoyed her thoughtful narrations. I also grew to love the other female characters and how they adjusted to their new lives. I thought the book did a good job in showing all of the difficulties the Indians faced and how horribly they were treated by the hands of the government.

While other reviewers have stated that they could tell this was written by a man, I personally never once thought while reading that it didn't sound like a woman's voice. All in all, I ended up being surprised at how much I enjoyed this book and am interested in reading the sequel.

I received a free copy from St. Martin's Press and Life of a Book Addict. I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinions.
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