Date of Award

Spring 2001

Document Type



Languages & Literature

First Advisor

Debra Bernardi

Second Advisor

Kay Satre

Third Advisor

Murphy Fox


This paper is divided into three sections. The initial portion of this project looks to scholarly historians and literary critics for insight into western women’s stereotypes and those elements that contribute to women’s disillusionment, betrayal and ultimate crisis. I investigate those environmental factors integral to the western landscape: the climate and natural phenomena that add to the difficulties women run up against in this place. Finally I examine theorists’ and historians’ perspectives on creativity and the western woman as a means of coping with the strains of living in the West. The second section of the project offers analysis of B. M. Bower’s Lonesome. Landand her protagonist, Valeria Peyson Fleetwood, and then turns to the papers ofPearl Unglesbee Danniel, a homesteader to eastern Montana in the early 1900s. The final component of the paper is memoir: the story of my mother’s western experience as seen through my eyes. One wonders about truth or validity in such a narrative and I can only answer—it is my truth. It is how I witnessed and interpreted happenings as a young child, until now. My mother’s experience varies from the others as it doesn’t exactly follow the script of the traditional western woman, but it is no less valuable and no less disturbing. It is a love story gone wrong and all that follows. This thesis invites the reader to rethink and redefine the “frail western woman” so as to validate her experience and her frailty, in fact and fiction.