Linda Lawrence Hunt
Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America (2003)
Author: Linda Lawrence Hunt
Genre (and subgenre): Non-fiction (History/Women in America)
In 1896, a Norwegian family living near Spokane, Washington found themselves about to lose their home. An injury had kept the father from working, an economic depression had put many of the local banks out of business and eight children needed to be fed. Helga Estby looked at her family's situation and then found a solution: a fashion company in New York City had offered $10,000 to the first woman to walk all the way across the country in three months. Helga believed this could be the answer to her family's problems. She packed only what she could carry and the five dollars she was allowed to take. Her oldest daughter, Clara, chose to accompany her. The women's journey took them all the way across the country, working when they needed to earn money and visiting various political candidates, artists, authors, and dignitaries along the way. SPOILER: The women were able to arrive in New York just a few days past the three month deadline, only to find that the money was a hoax and that two of the family's children had died during their absence. Helga Estby went from being a champion of women's rights and union politics, to being a vilified wife and mother. Her family never forgave Helga for leaving on the walk and refused to talk about the story after her return. After her death, her personal journals, photos, memoir, and scrapbook from the journey were all burned by her daughters. A daughter-in-law was able to save only two articles detailing the trip. In the end, Helga Estby's story is as much about the silencing of family history as it is about her incredible walk across the country.
Geographical Setting: Minnesota, Eastern Washington, journey across the United States
Time Period: 1860-1930s
Biography, follows the history of an immigrant family, local history of Minnesota and Eastern Washington; involves women's history/presidential election stories of 1896; slow pace - loads of detailed research; illustrations include photographs, cartoons, and maps of the time period; winner of the Willa Cather Award, the Washington State Book Award, and Pacific Northwest Booksellers' Award; takes on a personal story and adds the larger context of silenced stories within families and a woman's place within the family.
Similar Authors: Jane Kirkpatrick
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