Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman

Mary Mann Hamilton. Little, Brown, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-0-316-34139-4
This compelling, no-frills posthumous memoir from Hamilton (1866–1936) reveals the hidden nature of late 19th-century American life through the joys and heartbreak of homesteading in the Mississippi Delta. The manuscript was originally submitted to Little, Brown in 1933; the publisher passed on it before purchasing the rights from Hamilton’s descendants for a new version in 2015. Hamilton wasn’t famous, nor did she wield political or social power; her experiences attest to the considerable contributions average women made to the settlement of the U.S. Around 1883, Mary’s father moved the family to Sedgwick, Ark., which boasted a sawmill and a railroad. After he died, Mary’s brothers found work at the mill while she and her sisters helped their mother turn their home into a boardinghouse. She married Frank Hamilton, a handsome, mysterious English immigrant who worked for the railroad and the sawmill, but the marriage did little to improve her circumstances: Frank drank and was accident-prone, several of their children died young, and money was tight. So Mary continued working after the Hamiltons carved out their own homestead in the Delta. Mary’s unsentimental story crackles with personality, putting a face on the unsung, nameless tillers of the soil. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/02/2016
Release date: 07/12/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-316-34136-3
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