Bold, talented, and ambitious, Jessie Benton Fremont was one of Victorian America's most controversial women. As the daughter of powerful Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri and the wife of John Charles Fremont - western explorer, presidential candidate, and Civil War general - she not only witnessed but struggled to influence many of the major events of her time. Despite the restrictions she faced as a woman, she managed to carve out a vital role for herself as a writer, dedicated abolitionist, and secretary and other ...
Bold, talented, and ambitious, Jessie Benton Fremont was one of Victorian America's most controversial women. As the daughter of powerful Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri and the wife of John Charles Fremont - western explorer, presidential candidate, and Civil War general - she not only witnessed but struggled to influence many of the major events of her time. Despite the restrictions she faced as a woman, she managed to carve out a vital role for herself as a writer, dedicated abolitionist, and secretary and other self to her mercurial husband. She collaborated on his best-selling exploration reports, served as his behind-the-scenes political advisor and chief Civil War aide, and worked as a lobbyist for Arizona mining interests. In The Letters of Jessie Benton Fremont, Pamela Herr and Mary Lee Spence create a compelling portrait of this remarkable woman. They supplement their collection of 271 fully annotated letters, selected from 800 they uncovered, with an elegant introduction and seven authoritative chapter essays that elucidate the significant periods of her life. The correspondents range from intimate friends like Elizabeth Blair Lee to public figures like Horace Greeley, Abraham Lincoln, Dorothea Dix, John Greenleaf Whittier, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, William T. Sherman, and Theodore Roosevelt. Readers interested in women's studies, the westward movement, the Civil War, and the Gilded Age will find a rich source in The Letters of Jessie Benton Fremont.
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First edition. Edited by Pamela Herr and Mary Lee Spence. xxxvi, 595pp. Numerous photographs; notes, bibliography, index. Green cloth. A very fine copy with pictorial dust jacket. Jessie Benton Frémont was the daughter of Senator Thomas Hart Benton, and wife of John Charles Frémont. These letters provide a wealth of information. Jessie witnessed and influenced major political events and helped her husband write his reports and his memoirs. She also worked as a lobbyist for Arizona mining interests.
I enjoyed this book slowly, like a complex glass of wine-- picking it up and putting it down many times over a period of many days. When it was done, I was sorry to leave Jessie-- who by now, it seemed, had become a friend. Jessie's letters reveal much about human character, the way of life in the author's time (the most exciting period in US history), and some of the prominent people that shaped her times. We gain insight into her anxiety about making her way on a dangerous passage to California, her prideful public defenses of her (sometimes indefensible) husband, her idealistic passion about abolition; we see her behind-the-scenes political maneuvering in defense of her family interests, her broader idealism about our country, and finally we share her suffering about the physical illnesses and emotional and financial losses that concluded her life. This book also includes excellent explanatory introductory sections that help the reader make his way through the material.
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