One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

Well folks, I’m going to make a strong statement here. I just finished one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. It was one of those books that you just can’t put down – once I started reading it, I had to continue.

One Thousand White Women cover

I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd, by Jim Fergus. It’s been on my “to-read” list for a very long time, and my mom had told me on multiple occasions that I would really enjoy it. Leave it to mom to know what’s best, right?

Anyway, One Thousand White Women is the fictional journal of May Dodd, who was sent by the U.S. government in 1875 (along with a group of other women) to become wives of the Cheyenne Indians as a part of the “Brides for Indians” program. The program’s goal was to assist in assimilating the Indians into American culture. May Dodd happens to be committed to an insane asylum by her family at the time, and jumps at the chance to gain her freedom through participating in the program. The story follows her journey west, her marriage to the Cheyenne chief Little Wolf, and her transformation/conflict of living in two different worlds.

The storytelling within this novel is so vivid – Jim Fergus has a wonderful way of making the characters come to life through the pages: I could hear their voices and see their faces so clearly…which is a rare find in a book for me as of late. Each character was so unique and original. I found myself quite attached to a number of them, and as the pages dwindled in number, I was sad to part with them.

I was actually surprised when I looked at the reviews of the book posted on Goodreads and saw quite a few unfavorable reviews…many readers seem hung up on technicalities of the historical fiction aspect of it. But in my mind: it’s fiction…I am not a history buff, so I am not as particular about certain details; I knew the premise of the story was imaginative (apparently the trading of women for horses WAS actually presented to President Grant by the Cheyenne, but not approved….and Fergus wanted to imagine an alternate situation), so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. If you are a history fan, then perhaps there are details about the story that would make you raise an eyebrow. I totally understand the various criticisms. However, this was such an enjoyable read for me – I definitely recommend adding it to your bookshelf if you have not already done so!

Have you read One Thousand White Women? Were you a fan?

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  • I really liked this book too. It’s been a long time since I read it, but when you mentioned it on Twitter, the thing I remembered about it was that there are just so many parts of history that have either been “covered up” or removed from history books altogether (or in this case weren’t ever in them due to plan rejection), that it’s really interesting to get a glimpse into what might have been.

    • I know I’m really late on replying, but I’m glad you liked the book too! I am not much of a history buff, but it’s a really interesting idea to consider what might have been if history took a different turn…

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