A Norwegian Woman in Frontier Texas
Texas History - Women's Studies
6 x 9, 248 pp.
16 b&w photos., 3 maps.
Pub Date: 10/20/2005
Tarleton State University Southwestern Studies in the Humanities
Price:        $29.95

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2006 Ottis Lock Award, presented by the East Texas Historical Association
2006 Liz Carpenter Award Finalist for Best Scholarly Book on the History of Women and Texas, presented by the Texas State Historical Association


A Norwegian Woman in Frontier Texas

By Charles H. Russell

Elise Waerenskjold is known to fans of Texas women writers as "the lady with the pen," from the title of a book of her writings. A forward-looking journalist, she sent letters and articles back to Norway that encouraged others to follow her footsteps to Texas, where a small colony of Norwegian settlers were making a new life alongside—but distinct from—other European immigrants.

Undaunted is the first full biography of Waerenskjold during her Texas years, a life story that shows much about Texas, especially in the Norwegian colonies, from 1847 until near the end of the century. Moreover, it tells the story of a strong and independent thinker who championed women's rights, was pro-Union and against slavery (though her husband was in the Confederate army and was subsequently murdered in Reconstruction-era violence), and left an intriguing body of writing about life on the edges of Texas settlement.

Charles Russell's vivid account of Waerenskjold describes not only her influence among her countrymen but also her own life, which was a saga of considerable drama itself. It offers a clear and entertaining window onto immigrant life in Texas and the issues that shaped women's lives and elicited their talents in an earlier century.

Charles H. Russell is a retired college dean and professor of history, with a Ph.D. from Columbia University. His interest in Waerenskjold, a Norwegian writer who immigrated to Texas in the mid-nineteenth century, is shared with his Norwegian wife, Inger, who has helped him translate Waerenskjold's writing as he has done the research for this book.

What Readers Are Saying:

“. . . a significant contribution to the history of Texas women who have mattered in the development literarily and historically of this state.”--Lou Halsell Rodenberger, McMurry University (Retired), co-editor of Let’s Hear It: Stories by Texas Women Writers and Texas Women Writers: A Tradition of Their Own

“Dr. Russell has written an insightful and comprehensive biography of a cultured and courageous pioneer Norwegian lady whose travels and trials are skillfully chronicled in the context of the turbulent events of the first half century of Texas’ statehood.”--Derwood Johnson, past executive board member, Norwegian-American Historical Association

“…gracefully written…It delivers much more than its title suggests as it carefully details the Norway form which the recently divorced Elise Tvede emigrated in the spring of 1847. Charles H. Russell takes the reader with Tvede as she moves from stuffy respectability in a rigidly organized society toward economic opportunity and democratic freedoms in northeastern Texas…Russell opens up a fascinating immigrant experience that deviates from the stereotype just as much as it complicates the understanding of the frontier.” --Journal of Southern History

“…does not only function as a well researched historical narrative, but a story of an exemplary life, a life that may guide both the narrator and his readers to an fuller understanding an appreciation of their own lives. The life of his main character belongs to the 1800s, yet her values are valid. This is all the more convincing since his heroine’s story is an epic narrative of a lived life, not a romantic tale, nor a story of success. It is a story of how decisions sometimes lead to disasters, how choices made may have unforeseen consequences, how dreams run counter to reality, how implementations of personal plans may lead to the faulty notion that life is essentially controllable, how periods of vast hopes interchange with tragedy and sudden deaths, and, how the blessing of work sometime fade into a dire travail and hardship. Yet, we are convincingly led to think that all this is understood, accepted, and lived through by the heroine in an integral system of religious stoicism and vivid pragmatism of hers.” --American Studies in Scandinavia


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