The diaries and letters of women who braved the overland trails during the great nineteenth-century westward migration are treasured documents in the study of the American West. These eight firsthand accounts are among the best ever written. They were selected for the power with which they portray the hardship, adventure, and boundless love for friends and family that characterized the overland experience. Some were written with the skilled pens of educated women. Others bear the marks of crude cabin learning, with archaic and imaginative spelling and a simplicity of expression. All convey the profound effect the westward trek had on these women.
For too long these diaries and letters were secreted away in attics and basements or collected dust on the shelves of manuscript collections across the country. Their publication gives us a fresh perspective on the pioneer experience.