Books

HopeAmidHardshipHope Amid Hardship:  Pioneer Voices from Kansas Territory

In a fresh approach to history, Hope Amid Hardship: Pioneer Voices from Kansas Territory brings together the words of sixty settlers who wrote about the brighter side of pioneer life from 1854 to 1861.  Through their writing, these men and women reveal moments when their burdens were lighter – times that gave them reason to sing, dance, and celebrate.

In addition to the political turmoil and ensuing violence surrounding the slavery question in the new territory, citizens of Kansas faced the additional challenges of disease, drought, and homesickness.  In this collection of letters, diary entries, and newspaper items, readers gain insight into how settlers coped with these challenges.  They attend a prairie wedding with Thomas Wells, share in Fourth of July festivities with Sara Robinson, and camp along the Kansas River with Joseph Savage on the future site of Lawrence.  Through vivid descriptions from Miriam Colt, Lucy Carruth, and James Griffing, readers learn about prairie wildflowers and birds.  They will accompany Daniel Mulford Valentine to hear Abraham Lincoln speak in Leavenworth.  THroughout the book, newspaper items provide colorful and informative context for community news and social events.

The unique format of Hope Amid Hardship preserves the character and charm of the writers’ words and the whimsical watercolor illustrations give the book a journal-like feel, making it irresistible to those who enjoy history, memoir, art, and nature.  Thoughtfully researched and illustrated, this piece of Americana presents the hopeful, light-hearted side of life in Kansas Territory.

Why I Wrote this Book

My objectives in introducing settlers from Kansas Territory through diaries and letters begin with the desire to make history personal by taking readers between the tics on the timeline.  In any history book, one can read about people who make history.  I wanted to write about the everyday people who are history.  I wanted to bring life to the somber black and white photographs that are most people’s impression of pioneers.  After years of research, I felt a responsibility to define Kansas pioneers not just by what they endured, but also by what gave them the strength to carry on and to show them that these people also had times of celebration and joy.

The artistic format of the book, with over one hundred watercolor illustrations, meets another of my objective to preserve the personal character of the letters, diaries, and memoirs.  In organizing the text and illustrations by seasons, it gives readers the feel of an actual journal.  This makes the book, and in turn history, appealing to a wider audience, including some who would hesitate to pick up a book on American history.  I wanted to show that history can and should be viewed from many perspectives and make it interesting to historians, yes, but also to artists, naturalists, and memoir readers as well.

In addition, I wanted to underscore the importance of the personal record in any form – letter, diary, sketchbook, or memoir.

Finally, I wanted others to get to know these fascinating men and women who helped form the character of the Sunflower State.

Linda