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Women Writers of the American West, 1833-1927

Uncovering a century of women's writing about the diverse West

Women Writers of the American West, 1833–1927 recovers the names and works of hundreds of women who wrote about the American West during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, some of them long forgotten and others better known novelists, poets, memoirists, and historians such as Willa Cather and Mary Austin Holley. Nina Baym mined literary and cultural histories, anthologies, scholarly essays, catalogs, advertisements, and online resources to debunk critical assumptions that women did not publish about the West as much as they did about other regions. Elucidating a substantial body of nearly 650 books of all kinds by more than 300 writers, Baym reveals how the authors showed women making lives for themselves in the West, how they represented the diverse region, and how they represented themselves.

Baym accounts for a wide range of genres and geographies, affirming that the literature of the West was always more than cowboy tales and dime novels. Nor did the West consist of a single landscape, as women living in the expanses of Texas saw a different world from that seen by women in gold rush California. Although many women writers of the American West accepted domestic agendas crucial to the development of families, farms, and businesses, they also found ways to be forceful agents of change, whether by taking on political positions, deriding male arrogance, or, as their voluminous published works show, speaking out when they were expected to be silent.

"This survey produces one revelation after another. . . . [Baym] positions her recovery project, like the best of them, as a start ... and convincingly demonstrates that plenitude is its own argument."--Christine Bold, Times Literary Supplement

"Demonstrates the vitality and diversity of early western women's writing. Highly recommended."--Choice

"An invaluable resource for scholars of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."--The New England Quarterly

"A must-read for all students and scholars of this field."--Legacy

"Rigorous and refreshing insights into books by women. Impressive."--Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature

"Baym has recovered a plethora of well-known and less-known women writers by scouring footnotes, catalogues, cultural histories, and bibliographies to assess women's contribution to America's western scene, debunking a myth that women wrote less about the West than other places. Women Writers of the American West is a must have for scholars and nonscholars alike."--American Literary Realism

"An important scholar of women's writing and longtime editor of the Norton Anthology of American Literature, Baym seems to know just about everything as she lays out the précis of the many volumes, calmly and with little overt politicizing addressing the many controversies, issues, debates that have occupied western and American studies for the past forty years."--Western American Literature

"Baym's book is indispensable for the American literature scholar because it redefines notions of what literature of the American West is: it is more than work created by authors from the geographic area west of the Mississippi River; it is more than work created about that geographic region; it is more than an Anglo experience; and it is certainly more than a male experience."--Resources for American Literary Study

"Nina Baym's work is fundamental to the field; her scholarship is meticulous and astonishing, her documentation is excellent, and her writing is consistently clear and interesting. As the first comprehensive guide to women's writing in the old West, this will become a standard and classic text."--Elaine Showalter, author of A Jury of Her Peers: Celebrating American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx

Nina Baym is a professor emeritus of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The general editor of The Norton Anthology of American Literature, she has written several books on nineteenth-century women writers, beginning with Woman's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America, 1820–70.

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