Sharon's Reviews > One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd

One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
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5* Rating

If I didn’t know before hand that this book was a work of fiction, it would have been easy to think otherwise.

The Intro:

(1996) by J. Will Dodd, editor in chief of Chicago’s city magazine and great-grandson of the (h) May Dodd, writes very convincingly. Thru the years rumors had circulated within the ‘family’ about the “crazy woman”, born 1850, hospitalized at 23 for a nervous disorder, then died in the asylum in 1876. Ancestral insanity, an embarrassment, was a well kept hidden little secret.

While doing research on a piece about the old scions of Chicago, J.W. came across his great-grandmother’s name and became obsessed to learn more about her. Finding a letter in the family archives, written by May to her children while incarcerated in the asylum, he became driven to unravel the family dynasty’s dirty little secret. This obsession eventually led him to the Tongue River Indian res of the Northern Cheyenne where he was granted access to May Dodd’s journals…which he published in their entirety in this book.

The Prologue:

In 1874, Little Wolf, the great Cheyenne Sweet Medicine Chief, accompanied with a delegation of his tribesmen, journeyed to Washington to meet with President Ulysses S Grant. His purpose: To make a lasting peace with the whites to ensure the survival of his people. His plan expressed through an interpreter: A request for the gift of 1,000 white women as wives, “to teach us and our children the new life that must be lived when the buffalo are gone.”

Oh, this was great.

Fergus’ writing is vivid. Since this was an historical occasion, those in attendance were the President’s wife, his aides, members of the Washington press corps, photographers…

All hell broke loose.

In a sad way, the entire episode was kind of funny.

Well, I could go on, but to shorten a long story…in the end, the government’s secret “Brides for Indians” program was born. Women volunteers were recruited from jails, penitentiaries, debtor’s prisons, and mental institutions. The volunteers were offered full pardons or unconditional release for participation in this ‘noble duty to serve their country’ through this government program. HA

The Journals:

May Dodd was one diligent writer. Coming from one of the wealthiest families in Chicago, she was also a true Women’s Libber, a scandalous embarrassment to one of Chicago’s most prestigious families.

That last is what got her incarcerated into the Insane her family...for the remainder of her life.

Her journals read like a story. She misses nothing. She begins while imprisoned in the asylum, covering events that led her to that point, through to the very end of her life’s adventures.

I loved this character. Fergus included everything I like in a female, adventurous, strong, courageous, fun, loving... He did her credit in writing from a woman’s perspective. As well as in his characterizations of the other women who made this journey with May on their “Train Bound for Glory”.

Each individual was unique with descriptions as to what led each of them to embark on this adventure. The author's details of their unique personalities brought them right off the pages to life:

John Bourke: Captain in the Cavalry whose life and heart gets entwined with our May

Jimmy: The muleskinner who turns out to actually be Dirty Gertie.

Phemie: One of the 'brides', a Negress slave who made escape on the underground railroad, was sent to Canada, then decided to join the 'BFI program', making her very first 'free' decision regarding her life.

Martha: Employee of the Insane Asylum, true friend of May who chose to come along versus facing possible criminal prosecution.

Elizabeth Flight: English cigar smoking, rifle toting English woman who ran out of funds for her research on her new Audubon type project, thus volunteering so she could continue with her project.

The Kelly twin sisters from Chicago's Irish town: Volunteers to escape their 10 yr. sentences in the Illinois State Penitentiary for charges of prostitution and grand theft.

Many more interesting characters...I enjoyed every one of them.

Even the author's portrayal of the Cheyenne as a primitive people is unique from other authors I've read. Took me to another place with the people.

I have to add that the scene that took place when the Cheyenne warriors made their first appearance to check out their 'wives' in all their painted glory was spectacular. So spectacular that many of the 'volunteers' among these Easteners lost their ever lovin minds. LOL

This one is a Keeper.
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Reading Progress

01/09 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Karla (new) - added it

Karla Sounds excellent!

Sharon Karla (Mossy Love Grotto) wrote: "Sounds excellent!"

You know, I was just thinking this would make a very good movie.

message 3: by Karla (new) - added it

Karla I wish they'd make movies based on stuff like this than yet another comic book. :P

Sharon If they had a good director, and hired...ah, the actor's and actresses...have to give that some thought. That character in the story...Jules Seminole, man I can see him so would be a challenge to find someone to play this SOB to perfection.

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