The Vengeance of Mothers, by Jim Fergus, published September 12, 2017, will make you laugh and cry. If you have European ancestors who came to the United States before the 1800s, you may wish you could change your ancestry. This is historical fiction like no other: a little romance, a lot of history, a sad but telling commentary on the way Native Americans and all women were treated by white men. I’m not so sure it is completely fiction. Fergus has created unforgettable characters who initially sought love and acceptance, but were reduced to fighting for their lives against their own people.
In this sequel to his award-winning One Thousand White Women, Fergus allows us a peek inside the journals of white women who joined the 19th century “Brides for Indians” program of the U.S. government. The program was intended to take “civilized ways” and the English language to “the savages”. These women quickly went from being part of a program to aid assimilation, to being hostile fugitives in the eyes of the government — and they had done only what they were sent to do.
One of these women had escaped prison after murdering her abusive husband who had killed her daughter. One had escaped an insane asylum after her minister husband had her committed when she questioned his religious teachings. Another was searching for her lost lover, Elizabeth Flight, an artist who went west to paint American birds for her book that could have rivaled those of James Audubon, and was killed by soldiers in a raid on an Indian camp. Others simply wanted an adventure, to escape a life of poverty in city tenements, or even to escape slavery.
These women, who had witnessed the deaths of their children, caused both directly and indirectly by the U.S. government, repeatedly said, “Do not underestimate the path of a mother’s vengeance.” After multiple raids on their village, the women vowed revenge on the soldiers, and participated in the slaughter that came to be known as “Custer’s Last Stand”. I highly recommend this book, especially for those who are serious about their love of history.
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