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Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith

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Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement: Life on the Home Frontier

“Th[is] study demonstrates both the assumption that wives were essential partners in sustaining the family and that they could survive without the presence of their husbands...without the [women on] the homefront, the adventurer not only would have failed, but he would have lacked the inspiration for the enterprise.”
--Western Historical Quarterly

“Without detracting from the very real hardships and dangers endured by westering men, independent scholars Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith relate the experiences of more than 50 women...The loneliness and fears of these all-but-abandoned women speak eloquently over the years.”
--Publishers Weekly

“Wives left behind by westward-traveling husbands in search of gold, land, or merely adventure were often left in socially and economically precarious positions. Peavy and Smith have pored over family documents to 'analyze the immediate and long-term effects...of the separated family in the westward movement...Because of the nature of the sources, the stories are very personal ones that draw the reader into an intimate awareness of life on the homeward side of the frontier movement.”

“Peavy and Smith, two independent scholars, have followed the fortunes of more than 50...women [in waiting], sometimes focusing on the excruciatingly slow correspondence between the wives and their husbands. Their research reaises questions about the heroic image of these westering men and admits the women and children, themselves living on the 'home frontier,' into the pantheon.”
--USA Today

Descriptive blurb:

During the last half of the nineteenth century, thousands of men went west in search of gold, land, or adventure, leaving their wives to handle family, farm, and business affairs on their own. The experiences of these westering men have long been a part of the lore of the American frontier, but the stories of the wives they left behind have rarely been told. Ten years of research into public and private documents has enabled Peavy and Smith to tell their forgotten stories. Based on the experiences of more than fifty women, Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement offers a rare glimpse into life on the home frontier.

Selected Works

1. Western Women's History
Pioneer Women: The Lives of Women on the Frontier
“This 'patchword' of women's words and pictures captures the pioneer experience memorably and elegantly.”
--Susan Armitage, coeditor of The Women's West and Writing the Range
Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement: Life on the Home Frontier
“These families come alive in their variety, differences, and particularities. Their stories are told with power and grace, and they merit reading.”
--Annette Atkins
2. Western Family History
Frontier Children
“...a laudable 'verbal and visual montage that celebrates the experiences of children growing up in the American West..."
--Pacific Northwest Quarterly
3. Young Adult
4. Peavy-Smith Presentations
5. Musical Theatre/Opera
Opera based on the life and letters of Pamelia Fergus, Montana pioneer. Composer, Eric Funk. Librettists, Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith. Premiered August 1989 in Billings, Montana. Choral Suite from the opera performed in Carnegie Hall, May 1989.
10-minute musical based on the life and death of Dr. Karen Wetterhahn, Dartmouth University professor of chemistry who died in 1996 from a single drop of dimethylmercury. Music by Alfredo Alverez. Book and Lyrics by Linda Peavy
A Mountain on Her Mind
25-minute musical (radio drama format) based on life of Annie Smith Peck, classicist turned alpinist.
Mountains That Matter
Full-length musical based on the life of Annie Smith Peck, classicist turned alpinist. Music, lyrics, book by Linda Peavy; arrangments by Daniel Acquisto

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