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Reviews 367 Unfortunately there is a great deal of interesting information in this book. I say unfortunately because it is so over-shadowed by the heavy-handed applica­ tion of these eight descriptive terms. The mythic re-construction is hard to forgive. BECKYJO GESTELAND University of Utah They Saw the Elephant: Women In the California Gold Rush. By JoAnn Levy. (Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Books, 1990. 265 pages, $25.00.) Levy has given us a gallery of movers and shakers, reformers and sinners, adventurers and malcontents, mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives who ac­ tively participated in all phases of the California gold rush. Her research has recovered women who “turned out to have been not ‘just prostitutes’ at all, as many histories attest or imply. Instead theywere mule riders across the Isthmus, boardinghouse keepers and miners, missionaries and actresses, church builders and gamblers, school teachers and temperance speakers, even a Wells, Fargo & Company stage driver.” Not that Levy omits the brothel keepers and their charges; in a chapter entitled “Improper Society,”Levy evidences the resource­ fulness of those engaged in prostitution, particularly in San Francisco. Yet, through their civilizing and socializing activities married and unmarried women brought to their new surroundings the habits and order of homes left behind. The female population, as Levy amply documents, made possible the establishment of families and family ties, the entrenchment of ideas and ideals of community responsibility. In excavating the underside of California gold rush culture, this bookjoins those of Schlissel (1982), Faragher (1979), Myers (1982), and Jeffrey (1979) in the project of illuminating the substantial yet neglected contribution that women made in the shaping of the West. Drawing upon a prodigious variety of sources—diaries, letters, memoirs, emigrant guides, periodicals, receipts, and records of all sorts—Levy furnishes vibrant and often amusing accounts of gender relations in the mining camps and the cities of pioneer California. Not surprisingly, the rigorous enterprise of settling in this rough and unfamiliar environment often brought women together to nurture and give solace to one another. JoAnn Levy’s readable, very informative book consistently entertains the reader with a remarkable assortment of narratives and anecdotes about the women whose perilousjourneys to California by land and by sea resulted in lives as various, as dramatic, and sometimes as tragic as the men whose tales of adventure during this colorful period have been made generally available. Levy has written a book that will engage scholars of western Americana as well as general readers. ESTHER LANIGAN The CollegeofWilliam & Mary 368 WesternAmerican Literature INTER/VIEW. Talks with America’s Writing Women. By Mickey Pearlman and Katherine Usher Henderson. (Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1990. 216 pages, $25.00.) This collection ofliterary interviews ofwomen writers conducted bywomen is the first of its kind. Continuing the focus of Pearlman’s 1989 American Women WritingFiction, it also examines the ways that perception of space, memory, and family differentiate women from men writers. Twenty-eight writers were inter/ viewed: white, black, Asian, Native American; they ranged in age from thirty-two (Mona Simpson) to ninety (Janet Lewis); their geographical distribution was principally New York and the Northeast (16), California (8), the South a stingy 3 and the Midwest and the West were totally excluded. The editors are ingenu­ ously frank in admitting their choices depended “partly on taste, on our own training at Columbia and the Graduate School of the City University of New York, and on geography, availability, and the means to do the interviewing.” They also appear to have used TheNew Yorkermap of the U.S. The observations gathered and shaped into mini-essays on each writer are candid and personal and shed light on the woman writer’sview ofherselfand of men who write. Regrettably, the format allows them only comments studded in the shaped essay rather than developed statements. The relevant quotations range from the facile to the profound: “In a book by awoman, rape won’t be fun and women won’t be simple-minded.” “Writing about family life in the twenti­ eth century may really mean writing about mothers and children. Fathers are present as absences in the family. Who really had a father? Even people who did have fathers...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 367-368
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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