By Grit & Grace, Eleven Women Who Shaped the American West, edited by Glenda Riley and Richard W. Etulain, Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colo., 1997, $22.95 paperback.
By Grit & Grace is the first offering in a new series called “Notable Westerners,” and obviously this promising series will be looking beyond Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Sitting Bull and other rugged males with big reputations. In this first volume, 10 historians (eight female, two male) tell the tales of 11 women, including at least two rugged females with big reputations–Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley. But some of the women showcased are not big names in the West, such as Susette (18541903) and Susan (18651915) LaFlesche, Omaha Indian sisters. Susette joined the ranks of Indian reformers and lectured and wrote about injustices to the Indian people. Susan was the first Indian woman to graduate from medical school and became a medical missionary and a political advocate for the Omaha tribe (so maybe there should have been a TV series called Dr. LaFlesche: Indian Medicine Woman). Other women with enough grit and grace to be included in the volume are La Tules, who was the leading monte dealer in the Mexican territory of New Mexico; Jessie Benton Frémont, who helped husband John “the Pathfinder” Frémont find the right words when reporting on his Western expeditions; Lola Montez, a theatrical performer who made Forty-Niners forget about gold for a while; Mary Ellen Pleasant, a 19th-century entrepreneur and abolitionist; Elinore Pruitt Stewart, who was to homesteading what Martha Stewart is to good housekeeping; Abigail Scott Duniway, the mother of woman suffrage in the Northwest; and Mother Katharine Drexel (18581955), who in 1891 founded a religious community called Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People.