The Biography of a Prairie Girl

9781511679862: The Biography of a Prairie Girl

A masterpiece of frontier fiction; an autobiographical novel of growing up on a lonely prairie farm in 1880’s South Dakota.

“California has a good claim upon Eleanor Gates, author of ‘The Biography of a Prairie Girl,” and should be proud to put forth its claim since the book is an altogether notable contribution to the literature of the west. ’The Biography of a Prairie Girl” is aptly named. It tells of the life of a girl born and bred on a Dakota farm, and it tells it in a simple, unadorned way that makes it interesting. It is a book without a plot, without even the always-expected love story. It is just a series of pictures, showing the development of a guileless life in a part of the world new to civilization, and yet it has a charm that is indescribable. One follows, with absorbing interest, the trivial incidents that fill the days of the little prairie girl. One feels a keen delight over her triumph at the Christmas entertainment, listens intently to the story of her pet cowbird, of her tame badger, of her first day at school, and stands, fear-filled, with the anxious mother and brothers when death hovers over the little girl’s cot.

“The book is refreshingly free from the thread-bare tricks that so many authors rely upon for success. There is none of the strife to be original or smart and the temptation to be melodramatic has been resisted, although there are abundant opportunities for this in the prairie fire, the death in the blizzard, an Indian foray, a cattle stampede. The experiences are given in plain fashion and it is this simplicity and sincerity that gives the book its effectiveness.

“To readers the world over the book must appeal, but it should have a particular interest to Californians for, as has been said, California has a claim upon the book, since California did much to make the writing of it possible.” Leavenworth Macnar, “Sunset,” “A Magazine of the Border,” Vol. X, No. 1, November, 1902.


I The Coming of the Stork

II A Frontier Christening

III "Little Boy Blue"

IV A Pariah of the Prairies

V The Misfit Scholar

VI The Story of a Planting

VII Twice in Jeopardy

VIII A Harvest Wedding

IX The Price of Convalescence

X "Badgy"

XI A Trade and a Trick

XII The Professor's "Find"

XIII A Race and a Rescue

XIV Hard Times

XV The Fate of a Crowing Hen

XVI The Reservation Trip

XVII Another Mound on the Bluff

XVIII The Little Teacher

XIX Toward the Rising Sun

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About the Author:

“Eleanor Gates, the original of the prairie girl, left the Dakota far at the age of twelve and came with her family to California. For several years she lived on a ranch not far from Redding and many of the incidents recorded the book happened there. It was there that Miss Gates taught school. Her idle hours were spent in riding about the country and to the intimate knowledge of the trails and byways of the mountains, thus gained, she may be said to owe her launching on the uncertain sea of journalism. A reporter from a San Francisco newspaper was sent up Redding way for news of a desperado who made much good ‘copy’ in his day. Through the aid of the daring, little school mistress the bandit was traced to his hiding place and was, finally, captured. It was, no doubt, this coming in touch with the exciting side of journalism that turned Miss Gates’ thoughts toward the pencil as a means of livelihood, for, a short time after the capture, she startled her family by the announcement that she was going to San Francisco to try her fortune among the newspapers. “Miss Gates was not a ‘pronounced success’ as a journalist. It is recorded that a city editor once remarked while blue-penciling a story written by her: “That girl is either an idiot or a genius.’ If he is still in doubt, a perusal of the prairie girl’s story, that story that has set all the literary world talking, will convince him that she has in her possession, at least, a spark of the fire that never goes out. “Miss Gates’ one ambition was to take a university course and to that end she worked. She attended Stanford for a while and later entered the University of California. While there she wrote several plays, two of which were produced by the students. It was also there that she met her husband, Richard Tully, who is making a name for himself as a dramatist.” Leavenworth Macnar, “Sunset,” “A Magazine of the Border,” Vol. X, No. 1, November, 1902.

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