Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2012


Great Plains Quarterly 32:4 (Fall 2012).


Copyright © 2012 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska.


Although the term "pioneer" in the book title recalls Turner's West where white emigrants were the vanguard of civilization, Lee Schweninger places these narratives within the contexts of gendered and postcolonial scholarship. In a thoughtful introduction, Schweninger emphasizes the value of firsthand testimony from ordinary people, especially women, who lived outside circles of public leadership and power. Women's narratives provide insight into changing family and community relations; links between local, regional, and national economies; contests over land and resources; racial-ethnic identities and tensions; and how women made meaning out of their western experience.

In the winter of 1933-34, the Civil Works Administration launched an oral history project on Colorado settlement from the 1870s through the early 1900s. Thirty field workers supervised by LeRoy Hafen were hired on. In response to field worker Laura White's initiative, the project continued with funding from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. For this collection, Schweninger selected sixtynine narratives told by women and recorded in the first person. Most are Euro-American, some native born, others first-generation immigrants. A handful of Native American women tell their stories as well, offering glimpses of Navajo, Ute, and Goshute experiences in the region.