Book Report: One Thousand White Women


by Jim Fergus

Several years ago, when I lived in California, I belonged to my first Book Club – being in a book club had been a goal of mine for many years. I met this group of women in a Los Angeles Unified School District intensive training for Literacy Coaches – so we were all pretty serious about reading!

I thoroughly enjoyed my two years with these ladies, in our book club and in our training sessions (before we moved back to Texas). They were such voracious readers, and they had such varied interests, that I was always challenged to keep up! The way that we worked it was, at the first meeting, each of usl brought a few books that we had read and loved, along with the names of a few books that we had interest in reading next. We drew straws to see who would “go first,” then that person got to choose the first book to read. We did one each month, then met at someone’s house for dinner, wine and discussion. I’ll never forget, that the first book was The Orchid Thief (totally NOT my favorite!). But, somewhere down the line, we came up with One Thousand White Women. I loved it then, and I love it now, in my rereading of it 13 years later.

I was in Target the other day and walked down the Book aisle. They do have a great selection there, and I can pretend that I am shopping for groceries and sneak over to the books, undetected! While I read most of my books on Kindle or iPad nowadays, every once in a while, I just need to feel a real book in my hands. So, when I spotted One Thousand White Women, I knew I had to get it. And, I’m so glad that I did.

I spent the afternoon of the Fourth of July, at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic, sitting in the tiny bit of shade on the field, reading One Thousand White Women. I overheard more than one person say, “Look, she’s sitting there reading a book at Willie’s Picnic!” But, I didn’t care. I figure that the founding fathers gave me the right to my own pursuit of happiness. Reading is how I find mine!

One Thousand White Women is the fictional story of May Dodd and an eccentric group of pioneer women, who under the auspices of the US Government, travel west to marry among the Cheyenne Indians in a covert and controversial “Brides for Indians” program, launched during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. This scheme, which actually was discussed, then discarded because of the political implications brought by this “intermarriage,” is brought to fictional fruition by Jim Fergus in this fascinating read.

The author tells the story through the fictional diaries of May Dodd, a high-born woman, institutionalized in an insane asylum by her family because of her relationship with a man “beneath her station” in life, with whom she bore two illegitimate children. May Dodd signed on to the “Brides for Indians” scheme to gain her freedom from what would certainly have been a lifetime of institutionalization.

This book gives a fascinating look into the lives of the Cheyenne Indians and a peek into the role of women in the 1800’s. While it is a fictional account, the historical references are accurate and the characters come alive on the pages. I think you will enjoy it! 🙂

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