Last updated: August 10, 2015
Nearly forty years ago author Dorothy Gray wrote a book of informative biographical essays on women whose lives affected the American West. The book, simply called Women of the West, inspired many other writers to delve deeper into the subject.
When the book was originally published, many writers were still portraying women as secondary figures in the history of the American West. Minority western women were all but invisible. Gray decided she wanted to change that and included as wide a variety of women as she could in one volume.
Her biographical entries include women such as Sacajawea, Narcissa Whitman and Willa Cather. Others in the volume are Brigham Young’s ninth wife, Ann Eliza Young, black freedom fighter Biddy Mason, and Bethenia Owens-Adair, who overcame strong social resistance to become a physician. Readers will also find passages on suffragettes Esther Morris and Carrie Chapmen Catt, and American Indian Sussette “Bright Eyes” La Flesche.
The book’s biographical essays are based, whenever possible, on the individual’s writings. Gray was determined to get at the core of each of her subjects. The women featured in the book all had experiences in the West that called for resourcefulness, self-reliance and heroism. Readers will certainly learn a great deal from Gray’s collection of insightful biographical essays.