Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Summer 1998


Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer 1998, pp. 272-73.


Copyright 1998 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Linda Hasselstrom (rancher and author of Windbreak, Going Over East, Land Circle, and Caught by One Wing), Gaydell Collier (rancher, director of the Crook County Public Library in Wyoming, and co-author of several books on horse training), and Nancy Curtis (rancher and owner-operator of the highly acclaimed High Plains Press) combined talents to edit Leaning into the Wind: Women Write from the Heart of the West. Contributors-of which there are at least two hundred-to this anthology of western women's writings offer a counter-balance to High Plains stereotypes popularized by those historians and writers who erased women's existence from the West, and, to quote Hasselstrom in her introduction, "jumbled legitimate accounts [of the West] with pure hogwash from cheap western novels."

Leaning into the Wind is a welcome addition to the growing body of women's ranch writing. Following on the boot heels of such works as Hasselstrom's Land Circle, Kathleen Norris's Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, Teresa Jordan's Riding the White Horse Home, and Gretel Ehrlich's The Solace of Open Spaces, the collection explores themes involving women's strength and their sturdy relationship with the land and a ranching life.

As an anthology, the book distinguishes itself from much contemporary women's ranch writing by bringing toge~her in a single text a diverse chorus of western women's voices in dialogue, a dialogue that continually supports, reinforces, debates, and disagrees with itself. Also to its credit, many of its entries are not by women who define themselves as writers. These women are first and foremost ranchers, farmers, park service workers, and veterinarians, among other land and animal related professionals, who share with us the honest realities of their lives. Their words rise from almost every type of text, from handwritten manuscripts, letters, diary entries, reminiscences, photo albums, and notebooks, to self published histories, essays, and articles. In choosing entries the editors judged the writing on clarity of expression rather than grammar or "political correctness." A lack of scholarly style in some entries is a blessing: the women whose stories are recorded here are authentic, as are their idiom and intonation.

Leaning into the Wind offers fresh perspectives on ranch life, detailing the experiences of rural women who have made their livelihoods from the land.