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HISTORY AS LITERATURE The Diary of Lydia Rudd based on a map by Marguerite Gibson, courtesy of Missouri Historical Society Diary of Lydia Rudd—1852 / Lydia Rudd Introduction Diaries kept by women taking part in the pioneer westward movement of 1840-1870 were often sent back east to be used as guides by family members intending to make the same journey. Surviving until the late twentieth century, they become guides by which we can understand in sometimes poignant, sometimes monotonous detail, the lives of families caught up in a momentous period of American history. Selections from the diary kept by Lydia Allen Rudd appear in Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey, edited by Lillian Schlisse! (Schocken Books). Rudd's diary is printed here in its entirety and, with the exception of added punctuation and paragraphs, just as she wrote it day after day. She writes of their bland and meager diet, fatigue brought on by maintaining a household in constant motion, and of frequent confrontations with death either by accident or from any one of a number of diseases that swept the trail route and Native American tribes living in the West. As a group, few diarists convey an automatic or overwhelming dread of Indians—the fear of illness was far more prominent—and conflict between Indians and whites, and among whites, arose from theft or business dealings. Rudd tells us of trading frequently with Indians along the trail. She reveals the duress under which women performed their traditional familial duties, and the frequency with which they took over men's work as well. The westward migration is one of the two or three central myths of our country, exploited by the entertainment industry and examined at length by historians looking for the keys to the history and character of the American people. Lydia Rudd's diary demonstrates in simplicity and straightforwardness the tremendous challenges of organization, prudence, and economy these adventurers faced as they made their way across prairies and mountain ranges in small covered wagons. Thanks to Peter Blodgett of the Huntington Library for his help, and to Charlotte Overby and Jill Bailey for their patient work in helping prepare the manuscript. May 6th 1852. Left the Missouri River for our long journey across the wild uncultivated plains and uninhabited except by the red The Missouri Review · 47 man. As we left the river bottom and ascended the bluffs the view from them was handsome. In front of us as far as vision could reach extended the green hills covered with fine grass, which I presume to us had more than its usual beauty, it being the scarcity of it which had detained us some days on the bank of the river. Behind us lay the Missouri with its muddy water hurrying past as if in great haste to reach some destined point ahead, all unheeding the impatient emigrants on the opposite shore at the ferrying which arrived faster than they could be conveyed over. About half a mile down the river lay a steamboat stuck fast on a sandbar. Still farther down lay the busy village of St. Joseph looking us a good-bye and reminding us that we were leaving all signs of civilized life for the present. But with good courage and not one sigh of regret I mounted my pony (whose name by the way is Sammy) and rode slowly on. In going some two miles the scene changed from bright sunshine to drenching showers of rain. This was not quite so agreeable for in spite of our good blankets and intentions otherwise, we got some wet. The rain detained us so that we have not made but ten miles today. It has cleared up this evening, leaving us a pleasant time to encamp, which we have improved finding plenty of wood and water on the bank of a small run. May 7th. I found myself this morning with a severe headache from the effects of yesterday's rain, company that I would have been glad to bid good-bye to and left with the States. I find that the rain did not improve the roads. They are quite muddy. The surface of...


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