Friday, November 30, 2007


One Thousand White Women, Jim Fergus, St Martin's Press, 1998, 302 pp

May Dodd was a rebellious young woman from a rich Chicago family who ran off with her lower class lover and had two children. Her parents eventually took the children and had May committed to an insane asylum.

According to fact, Cheyenne Chief Little Wolf, in an effort to preserve the life of his people, journeyed to Washington, DC, in 1874 and proposed to President Ulysses S Grant that the US government give 1000 white women as brides to his tribe in exchange for 1000 horses. In this way, the Cheyenne warriors would produce children of the Indian and White race mixed and those children would integrate the Cheyenne into the life and culture of the White man.

Not a bad idea really but of course the leaders of our country would not consider such a savage and non-Christian endeavor. Jim Fergus decided to write a "what-if-that-happened" story. May Dodd becomes one of those brides in hopes of someday being free to return to her children and family. Through her journals she tells the story.

So it is all quite improbable but most of the time Fergus kept me in a willing suspension of disbelief. He is an engaging writer and creates quite some impressive characters among the women: daughter of former slaves Euphemia, a fallen Southern woman, a zealous Christian missionary, etc.

Finally by the inevitable disastrous ending, the conceit began to wear thin for me, but it was still an enjoyable read as well as a good piece of imagination backed up by competent research.

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