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Lady's Choice: Ethel Waxham's Journals and Letters, 1905-1910

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When John McPhee discovered these journals he found that Ethel Waxham wrote with such wit, insight, grace, irony, compassion, sarcasm, stylistic elegance, and embracing humor that I could not resist her. Waxham was a Wellesley graduate who decided in 1905 to accept a teaching job at a one-room school in Wyoming. Viewers of the the PBS series The West, in which this materia When John McPhee discovered these journals he found that Ethel Waxham wrote with such wit, insight, grace, irony, compassion, sarcasm, stylistic elegance, and embracing humor that I could not resist her. Waxham was a Wellesley graduate who decided in 1905 to accept a teaching job at a one-room school in Wyoming. Viewers of the the PBS series The West, in which this material was used, will enjoy this intimate look at her five-year courtship by John Love and her attempts, as well as those of her college-educated friends, to pursue higher education and a career. These letters are among the treasures of American history, bringing to life an adventurous, quick witted woman and the laconic but determined man who wooed and won her. Together, the Loves redefine our understanding of the American Dream and what it took to win the West.--Geoffrey C. Ward and Dayton Duncan, coauthors, The West (PBS).


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When John McPhee discovered these journals he found that Ethel Waxham wrote with such wit, insight, grace, irony, compassion, sarcasm, stylistic elegance, and embracing humor that I could not resist her. Waxham was a Wellesley graduate who decided in 1905 to accept a teaching job at a one-room school in Wyoming. Viewers of the the PBS series The West, in which this materia When John McPhee discovered these journals he found that Ethel Waxham wrote with such wit, insight, grace, irony, compassion, sarcasm, stylistic elegance, and embracing humor that I could not resist her. Waxham was a Wellesley graduate who decided in 1905 to accept a teaching job at a one-room school in Wyoming. Viewers of the the PBS series The West, in which this material was used, will enjoy this intimate look at her five-year courtship by John Love and her attempts, as well as those of her college-educated friends, to pursue higher education and a career. These letters are among the treasures of American history, bringing to life an adventurous, quick witted woman and the laconic but determined man who wooed and won her. Together, the Loves redefine our understanding of the American Dream and what it took to win the West.--Geoffrey C. Ward and Dayton Duncan, coauthors, The West (PBS).

30 review for Lady's Choice: Ethel Waxham's Journals and Letters, 1905-1910

  1. 5 out of 5

    Terra

    I picked this up in a bookstore in Grand Teton National Park while I was on vacation. The grandeur and expansiveness of the wilderness made me think about what it was like during the turn of the century and the homesteading days. Doesn't everyone have some part of them deep down that wants to be a cowboy or a pioneer? Anyways, I was curious about this woman who gave up her upper-middle class life to teach in a one room school in Wyoming. The first part of the book was fascinating. I LOVED readin I picked this up in a bookstore in Grand Teton National Park while I was on vacation. The grandeur and expansiveness of the wilderness made me think about what it was like during the turn of the century and the homesteading days. Doesn't everyone have some part of them deep down that wants to be a cowboy or a pioneer? Anyways, I was curious about this woman who gave up her upper-middle class life to teach in a one room school in Wyoming. The first part of the book was fascinating. I LOVED reading about the details of her existence there. What a wild time! On the other hand, it was really striking how some of her commentary and thoughts sounded so contemporary and could fit in today's world. I guess there are elements of our nature which connect us throughout time. It was nice to be reminded of that. The rest of the book waned for me a bit, especially when it became more about Ethel running her father's household. Although, this gendered role was eye-opening and was very telling of a woman's experience during this time, even for one as witty and daring as Ethel. I was also less interested in the love story than her search for a meaningful career and to experience the world, but John's love for her was pretty amazing. I can't imagine loving someone with such intensity for so long despite being rejected by her and living several days journey apart. There were so many details about their courtship to love like that her father required references of John before he would give his blessing. But, there was one thing about their letters which drove me nuts. Constantly, John would refer to Ethel as "little girl". What was meant to be endearing just sounded patronizing and condescending in the lens of today's world. I just had to remember that it was just how it was during the time. I also wish that there was more about when they were married and she moved back to Wyoming. There was mention of another book, but I can't remember what time period of her life it was going to be about. Still, it is pretty amazing how many letters were saved from a variety of sources to give you a very full picture of her life. So often I read fiction and had to remind myself that this was really someone's life that I was reading about! I read this nearly cover to cover on our drive from Wyoming to Washington and really recommend it if you want to read about a witty, clever, daring woman of a different time.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David

    I first read parts of John Love's and Ethel Waxham's letters in John McPhee's Rising from the Plains, a book about Wyoming's Rocky Mountain geology. After piquing my interest, I bought the present book and could not help feeling connected to Ethel through her many letters to and from John Love, and from a wide array of friends that she made at Wellesley College and from teaching. A very interesting read if you are interested in the West, social and cultural conventions at the turn of the 20th ce I first read parts of John Love's and Ethel Waxham's letters in John McPhee's Rising from the Plains, a book about Wyoming's Rocky Mountain geology. After piquing my interest, I bought the present book and could not help feeling connected to Ethel through her many letters to and from John Love, and from a wide array of friends that she made at Wellesley College and from teaching. A very interesting read if you are interested in the West, social and cultural conventions at the turn of the 20th century, or just to read practiced and elegant journal and letter writing; a lost art for sure.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Judith

    Interesting to read. Itgave a good idea about what it was like to live in the west in the early 1900's. Interesting to read. Itgave a good idea about what it was like to live in the west in the early 1900's.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nicholle

    This one wasn't as exciting as Life on Muskrat Creek (for me), but I absolutely adored the letters written by John Love to Ethel in an effort to convince her to marry him and move to the ranch. What tenderness and persistence he showed! --- 2021 Extreme Book Nerd Challenge - The _____'s _______ (Lady's Choice, just missing the The, but I'm counting it.) This one wasn't as exciting as Life on Muskrat Creek (for me), but I absolutely adored the letters written by John Love to Ethel in an effort to convince her to marry him and move to the ranch. What tenderness and persistence he showed! --- 2021 Extreme Book Nerd Challenge - The _____'s _______ (Lady's Choice, just missing the The, but I'm counting it.)

  5. 4 out of 5

    John

    It is humbling to read a memoir from a time considered less enlightened and find that the author is skilled, knowledgeable and admirable. I will think about Ethel Waxham, Johnny Love and others in this book for a long time. The book is more than I expected even after reading John McPhee's "Rising from the Plains" and his introduction to this book. John McPhee says Ethel Waxham is the most interesting person he has met in his career and he only met her through her letters. And "Rising from the Pl It is humbling to read a memoir from a time considered less enlightened and find that the author is skilled, knowledgeable and admirable. I will think about Ethel Waxham, Johnny Love and others in this book for a long time. The book is more than I expected even after reading John McPhee's "Rising from the Plains" and his introduction to this book. John McPhee says Ethel Waxham is the most interesting person he has met in his career and he only met her through her letters. And "Rising from the Plains" are words written by Ethel Waxham describing the Ferris Mountains as she sees them from the stagecoach on the trip from Rawlins to Red Rock Canyon. Ethel Waxham, Isabella Bird and Elinore Stewart, all Wild West Wyoming Women, enjoyed a civil society that gave them lots of freedom to travel. Not what you would expect in the wild west. "Lady's Choice" points out that even with this freedom there were very few opportunities in life for women in those days. I am very happy that my daughters have career choices. Our progress in other areas is not always so clear.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rachel M

    I found this book in a gift shop in the Grand Teton mountains, and can honestly say that it is unequivocably the most important find I ever stumbled on in a gift shop. This is a book of letters exchanged between a quite educated schoolteacher and a cattle-driving ranch owner in the early part of the 20th Century. He pursued her for 5 years, and she said no each time in the desire of living a more vivid life. Set in the turn of the century, her resistance is amazing, but she finally married John I found this book in a gift shop in the Grand Teton mountains, and can honestly say that it is unequivocably the most important find I ever stumbled on in a gift shop. This is a book of letters exchanged between a quite educated schoolteacher and a cattle-driving ranch owner in the early part of the 20th Century. He pursued her for 5 years, and she said no each time in the desire of living a more vivid life. Set in the turn of the century, her resistance is amazing, but she finally married John Love at the spinsterish age of 29. It was hard to remember at times that this book was actually true – it read as easily as fiction. Ethel Waxham's character comes out in small snippets of lines and I found her likeable and witty.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anthony M.

    A cute romance. Love's persistence won his heart's desire. A cute romance. Love's persistence won his heart's desire.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kennedy

  9. 4 out of 5

    Audrey Hagen

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

  11. 5 out of 5

    John

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marti

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rlsalvati

  16. 5 out of 5

    Yaaresse

  17. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Desjardin

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ned

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

  21. 4 out of 5

    Becky Abbott

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Perry

  23. 5 out of 5

    Margo

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cat.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Weeks

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brandy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jess Clark

  30. 5 out of 5

    Flaubertian

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