An interesting look at life through the eyes of women from 1896-1942. This was an interesting story from history that few have probably ever heard of and one that I had certainly never heard.
In 1896 a mother accepted a wager from the fashion industry to walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City within seven months to earn ten thousand dollars. Helga Estby hoped to save the family farm with the money and thus set out with her oldest daughter leaving behind her husband and seven other children.
Clara, eighteen, was not happy about having to trek across the US with her mom but the journey shaped her in ways she never could have imagined. After the year long trek she left her family behind and sought to make her own way in the world.
The first half of the book is about the trek that Clara and Helga Estby completed in 1896. While the first part is the most historically accurate of the book I found it hard to get into and ended up skimming it. The second half was more interesting and read more like a novel. But it’s based more on educated guesses.
Clara’s family hated it that their mom and sister had been gone for so long and refused to let them speak of it. Clara left for that reason and kept in her possession some of the memorabilia of the trip. Those items were found later by a grand or great-grand niece and it is from those items that the story was finally revealed to the world.
I wouldn’t call this a great book but it was truly fascinating to learn about women in business in the early 1900s. The author does a good job portraying the emotions behind decisions and showing how ordinary life was affected and not affected by World War I, suffragettes, and politics. The portrayal of family and friendship is another well done aspect of the story.
Read it if you’re interested in women’s history and life in Washington in the first part of the 1900s.
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