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Into a New Country
Little, Brown
ISBN 0-316-49597-2
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Into a New Country:
Eight Remarkable Women of the West


About the Book

Women played an essential role in the dramatic changes that swept the West during the 19th century. This book profiles the lives of eight pioneer women of remarkable achievement. Born into different cultures and backgrounds, each challenged the rules and broke the barriers set down for women of her time. Their extraordinary lives offer inspiring examples of courage and determination for today’s young readers. Illustrated with period photographs, prints, and drawings.

The eight women:

  • Susan Magoffin: Born into a wealthy family, she and her husband traveled the rough Santa Fe trail during the war with Mexico; Susan’s vivid account of their adventures is a famous historical document.
  • Lotta Crabtree: She got her start as a child performer in the gold rush camps of California and became a nationally known stage celebrity.
  • Bridget “Biddy” Mason: Born a slave, she won her freedom in a California courthouse, worked as a healer and midwife, and became one of the wealthiest citizens of Los Angeles.
  • Susette “Bright Eyes” LaFlesche Tibbles: A member of the Omaha tribe, she toured the country rallying people to the cause of Native Americans and their unjust treatment.
  • Susan LaFlesche Picotte: Susette’s sister, she overcame prejudice to become the country’s first Native American woman physician and also worked hard for the rights of her people.
  • Bethenia Owens-Adair: Arriving in Oregon territory as a child in 1843, she had success as a teacher and businesswoman before becoming the first woman physician in the Pacific Northwest. (Her mother’s story inspired my novel Orphan Journey Home.)
  • Mary McGladery Tape: Sent from China to San Francisco as an orphan, she waged a battle against the segregation of Chinese students in public schools and became an artist and photographer.
  • Katherine Ryan: She mushed a team of sled dogs into the Klondike gold region on her own, then established a successful restaurant, staked her own mining claims, and was the first woman to be appointed to the Northwest Mounted Police.

Behind the Book

FAQ: What inspired you to write Into a New Country?

When I was doing research for The Gold Rush, I uncovered the stories of some fascinating women who had made history in different areas of the West. As I read about the accomplishments of these eight women, I was in awe of what they achieved, in spite of the great difficulties they had to overcome. I remembered the history books I read in school, which rarely mentioned the women who were so important to our country’s history. I hope the stories of these pioneer women will be as inspiring to young readers as they have been to me.

FAQ: How did you pick the women for Into a New Country?

I chose them for a number of reasons:

  • First, I wanted women of remarkable achievement, women who had overcome great odds to pursue a dream, or who showed unusual courage and ingenuity in their lives.
  • Second, I chose women from different cultures and backgrounds who were examples of our country’s diversity throughout history.
  • Third, since all these women lived before the invention of radio, tape recorders, or video cameras, I looked for women who had left written documents behind, such as letters, diaries, drawings, or articles, or for women whose lives had inspired others to write about them, or whose stories had been passed down in family history.
  • Fourth, I searched for women who had been photographed, even if only once or twice. Photography was in its early stages when these women were active, so few people had their pictures taken. This proved to be the biggest research challenge in the book.
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