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Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America

Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America

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.

Preface

INTRODUCTION

Chapter 1. On Foot to New York

Chapter 2. Motherhood on a Minnesota Prairie

Chapter 3. The Crucible Years

Chapter 4. Surprises in Spokane Falls

Chapter 5. Frontier Vices and the Move to Mica Creek

Chapter 6. Financial Fears and a Family Death

Chapter 7. The Wager

Chapter 8. Undaunted by Rain, Sleet, and Snow

Chapter 9. Hot, Hungry, and Hopeful

Chapter 10. Night Terrors

Chapter 11. “New Women’s” Actions and Old Victorian Attitudes

Chapter 12. An Electrifying Presidential Election

Chapter 13. Earning Their Own Way

Chapter 14. A Rush to the Finish

Chapter 15. The Impossible Happens

Chapter 16. Heartbreak at the Mica Creek Homestead

Chapter 17. Homeward Bound

Chapter 18. Lost and Found

A Reflection on the Silencing of Family Stories

Notes

Bibliography