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ver the years many authors have written books and articles about Jessie Benton Frémont. She was the daughter of the famous United States senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton, and the wife of famed western explorer John Charles Frémont. The works about Jessie come from varying points of view—from the historical fiction of Irving Stone’s Immortal Wife (1944) to the serious historical work of Pamela Herr’s Jessie Benton Frémont: A Biography (1987). Our book, Jessie Benton Frémont: Missouri’s Trailblazer, falls in between, because our purpose is to provide a book that is based on extensive research yet at the same time appeals to the general reader. Initially, we wanted to disengage Jessie from her father and her husband; we wanted to bring her out from under their historical influence, making her stand apart from them, to stand by herself. This was difficult because Jessie’s life was so intertwined with those two very important men. Nevertheless, by concentrating on the broad picture, we focused on pivotal events in her life and found that, in this way, Jessie did emerge as herself—a person of strength, determination, and conviction. Our work resulted in a portrait of an exceptional woman. Jessie was someone who challenged the norms of her day and by doing so found a place not only in the history of Missouri but in her adopted state of California as well. Both states can be proud to claim her as one of their own. In putting together this most recent biography of Jessie Benton Frémont, we relied on primary sources such as Jessie’s own accounts of various important events in her life, including her trek across the Panamanian Isthmus, the essential role she xi Preface O played in her husband’s career, and the emergence of her own prominence, to mention a few. Also utilized were her daughter Elizabeth’s book and John Charles Frémont’s writings. We also gave proper attention to important secondary materials. Our research led us to the writings of prominent American historians and others who distinguished themselves on this subject. In no way do we consider our work as the ultimate or definitive biography of Jessie Benton Frémont. However, the account of her life as told in this book will reflect who she was, what she stood for, how she strove to achieve what she believed in, and how she sacrificed to make her ideas a reality. We think it is a good story and hope that those who read it will enjoy it. xii / PREFACE ...


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