Girls of the Golden West

Prospective readers should not be put off by the words “women writers” in the title of this book.  Catharine Savage Brosman’s emphasis is not on the ideological but rather on the intellectual and artistic identity of her subjects, which complement the masculine sensibilities of their male counterparts—Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Tom Lea, John S. Van Dyke, Eugene Manlove Rhodes, Joseph Wood Krutch, Zane Grey, Edward Abbey, Charles Bowden—with their feminine ones.  (Admittedly, several of these women were, to one degree or another, feminists, as was that great writer of the Nebraska plains, Mari Sandoz, best known as the author of Old Jules, whose merged affinity with her native Sandhill country in the northwest part of the state and its indigenous people, the Sioux, is comparable to that of her Southwestern sisters considered here.)

The best known of Brosman’s subjects is, of course, Willa Cather, two of whose novels—My Ántonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop—are classics of 20th-century American literature, while a third, the semiautobiographical Song of the Lark, though not so well known, presses to be another.  Immediately after Cather, in terms of literary reputation, is Mary Austin, a supremely well-connected author in bicoastal literary circles and native Californian of whom it was said, alternately, that she was a genius...

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