The Life of an Ordinary Woman (a fascinating book)

“To really learn about history, there is nothing quite as good as a memoir.”

-KS

This book. I am mesmerized as I turn the pages. I am transported to a time that few books have written about, particularly by women. What was it like during the mining booms? What was it like to live in the mountains in a time where corsets, trains, and horse drawn sleighs were the norm? One could read textbooks and proper dates and names, but to be transported there, a memoir is necessary.

I love memoirs about homesteading and farming (not to mention memoirs from the 1800’s or travel memoirs, or autobiographies- I just love to know about people) and I find that I learn so much more in tales of recollection than I do in DIY books. The Life of an Ordinary Woman by Anne Ellis is a fascinating and clear account of her life. She came to Colorado in a covered wagon. She was raised in a mining town. Her coming of age story speaks openly about her first love, her exasperation with her mother being with child all of the time, her accounts of helping to raise her siblings. The entertainment, decor, and lifestyles of this time are at the same time so different than our current lives, yet oddly similar.

This memoir spans from 1875 to 1918 but continues the dialogue in the introduction and in a second book. We read a lot of male accounts of history but this brave woman’s accounts showed me intimately just how damn hard it was back then. Anything we face in this day and age just cannot compare to the trials and every day dilemmas of that time. Her mother had a phrase when people were doing well, “They are having their white bread now.”

I had a dear friend when I was young who was born in 1892 so it reminds me that this story was not so long ago. I find myself wanting a long black dress trimmed in velvet with hoops beneath. I wonder if that will come back into style. The fun of this book is that it takes place in Colorado, not very far from where I reside. So the names from Pueblo to Westcliff, to Denver and Salida are at once familiar yet foreign, as it was all so very different. This book is a fascinating account of a women’s life as a bride and mother, life in mining camps in Colorado in the 1800’s, of life, love, loss, and hope, and most importantly, it is an accurate account of history. I do hope you will read it!

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