In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant and mother of eight children named Helga Estby was behind on taxes and the mortgage when she learned that a mysterious sponsor would pay $10,000 to a woman who walked across America.
Hoping to win the wager and save her family’s farm, Helga and her teenaged daughter Clara, armed with little more than a compass, red-pepper spray, a revolver, and Clara’s curling iron, set out on foot from Eastern Washington. Their route would pass through 14 states, but they were not allowed to carry more than five dollars each. As they visited Indian reservations, Western boomtowns, remote ranches and local civic leaders, they confronted snowstorms, hunger, thieves and mountain lions with equal aplomb.
Their treacherous and inspirational journey to New York challenged contemporary notions of femininity and captured the public imagination. But their trip had such devastating consequences that the Estby women's achievement was blanketed in silence until, nearly a century later, Linda Lawrence Hunt encountered their extraordinary story.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of History eBook: Bold Spirit|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
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On Foot to New York
Helga Estby, a thirty-six-year-old Norwegian immigrant, woke early on a mid-June morning in 1896 and slipped on her full-length gray Victorian skirt, simple wool jacket, and new leather shoes. She was eager to leave Boise, Idaho, before 6 a.m. to avoid walking during the scorching midday sun in southern Idaho, a hazard she had failed to consider earlier. Her daughter Clara, an artistic, intelligent, and pretty eighteen year old, helped fill their small satchels with emergency necessities: a Smith-and-Wesson revolver and a red-pepper spray gun to thwart dangerous highwaymen or wild animals, a compass and map, a few medical supplies, a lantern for night walking, photographs of themselves to sell, and a curling iron for Clara's soft hair.
Even when carrying a little food, their bundles weighed less than eight pounds. Wanting to travel light, neither brought a change of clothes, but Helga packed a notebook and pen to record their experiences, and Clara brought materials for sketching. Perhaps more important, they carried a document from Mayor Belt of their hometown of Spokane, Washington, that introduced Helga as "a lady of good character and reputation" and commending her and her daughter to "the kindly consideration of all persons with whom they may have contact." As vital as a calling card to open doors, this introduction was especially useful with people in politics and the media.
They left Boise grateful for the kind considerations shown to them in Idaho's new capital city. The Idaho Daily Statesman had alerted readers of the mother and daughter's arrival and of their brave quest across