A Pioneer Woman's Legacy
By Barbara Russell Chesser, PhD
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Traveling in covered wagons and by train, young Martha Jane Smith (affectionately called Mattie) and her family left Texas in the early 1900s to homestead on the wind-swept High Plains of Eastern New Mexico. Determination was ignited early in Mattie’s life—beginning with a rattlesnake bite that meant almost certain death in those days. Not for Mattie! When Mattie was eleven, her mother died. When Mattie was 22, her husband died from the Spanish Flu, leaving her with three young daughters to rear alone.
A second marriage produced three sons; the first died one day before his first birthday. Mattie’s husband died when the oldest surviving son was only nine. Heartbroken, the young widow refused to give in to futility or despair. Her dire situation again fanned the fire of fierce determination. Though others during the Great Depression lost their homes, Mattie—even as a widow—found a way to buy a house. Whereas others suffered long periods of unemployment, she “landed” a job. While many went hungry all across the United States, she found ways to feed her family as well as others. Many widows depended on relatives during this desperate time, but Mattie took care of her children and helped other families. Before the Depression was over, Mattie established a business. This was before women were accepted in the business world. Though she had no roadmap to guide her, Mattie never considered quitting or turning back. Her business thrived for more than four decades. Mattie’s remarkable life provides a role model as relevant today as it was decades ago.
Remembering Mattie: A Pioneer Woman’s Legacy of Grit, Gumption, and Grace is a treasure trove of true stories. Memorable pictures of people and places from the past and historic legal documents and papers (including long-ago newspaper clippings and love letters) add substance and interest to the book. Relevant information about what was going on in the world at the time provides a meaningful backdrop for Mattie’s life story.
New York Times bestselling author Barbara Russell Chesser, PhD, is uniquely qualified to write this book. Born in New Mexico, Barbara lived with Mattie from infancy until young adulthood. After graduating summa cum laude from Eastern New Mexico University, she earned graduate degrees, taught at several universities, and worked internationally. Author of four books, co-author of four other books, and editor of several volumes, Barbara has written for a variety of publications, including Reader’s Digest.
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