Libby: The Alaskan Diaries and Letters of Libby Beaman, 1879-1880

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9780395493250: Libby: The Alaskan Diaries and Letters of Libby Beaman, 1879-1880

Diary entries describe the experiences of Libby Beaman, who spent a year, 1879-1880, in Alaska's Pribilof Islands with her husband

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In 1879, Elizabeth Beaman accompanied her husband to the Alaskan Pribilof Islands on his government assignment overseeing the slaughter of fur seals. Her diary and letters, edited and presented here by her granddaughter, recount her life during this period. Libby Beaman was an amazing woman - she had a job as a map-maker when respectable women were not allowed careers; she sustained a four-year secret courtship and convinced her fiance to change his career in order to facilitate an introduction to her family. It was Libby's personal petition to President Hayes that was responsible for the position in the Pribilofs, although she never told her husband. As the first white woman on the Pribilof Islands, Libby was a curiosity to the natives and a source of both resentment and passion for her husband's superior. Libby and her husband survived violent sea storms, raging jealousy, and an Arctic winter that nearly killed them. Through it all, Libby appears indomitable, and above all, curious - about the people, the seals, the wildlife around her. Her husband resents the experience; she relishes it. The easy continuity and the novel-like rise and fall of action make this more an adventure story than a diary (and might cause problems for a purist who would prefer that gaps were not "filled in" by Libby's granddaughter). What makes this book important, however, is this strong-willed, spirited woman and the life she chose to lead. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister

From Publishers Weekly:

Shortly after her marriage in 1874, the well-connected Beaman discreetly induced President Hayes to offer her husband, John, employment--as a special government agent in the Alaskan Pribilof Islands, located close to the Arctic Circle. Heroically independent and, like her husband, a trained cartographer, Beaman was the first non-native American woman to set foot in this pitiless land. Her writings provide a gritty but romantic, feminist chronicle of her year-long sojourn. She describes both daily life--her relations with the Aleuts, teaching English to native children, keeping house, observing such natural phenomena as seals mating--and her own interior existence ("I do not know how to weep in words," she begins her journal). The Beamans survive a brutal seven-week winter storm; confined to one room and on the verge of starvation, they rekindle their passion for each other. John, their granddaughter, has neatly patched the fragments of Libby's diaries and letters with her own recollections of Libby's stories and with historical research. Illustrations not seen by PW .
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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