Cathy Luchetti is an award winner for good reason. Her historical, photograph-heavy book entitled Women of the West is a “myth-shattering look at the women who helped to settle the West” told through photos (150 to be exact), diaries, memoirs, letters and journals.
Luchetti is no stranger to bygone eras; she has a long pioneer history in her family with an Oregonian great great grandfather who served as one of the first legislators on The Continental Congress and was called the “Davy Crockett of the Far West.” This familial connection is what first inspired her interest in The Westward Crossing, and the stories are what kept her digging deeper and deeper into research.
To find the photographs and diaries used in Women of the West, which won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, Luchetti traveled to the near and far corners of the United States to go through the archives of churches, historical so cites and of the nation. Throughout the book, she parallels the found photos and diaries of different women to expose the universal experience of living on the frontier.
“These were extraordinary times and extraordinary women. They had nothing to work with,” Luchetti says of the female pioneers who had to raise children (husbands were often dead or gone), produce crops and tend to animals. “There was one story that I really liked about a woman who would go out and sleep at night with her sheep because everyone else was gone. She just wanted to have the feeling of something warm and breathing — and that to me is kind of emblematic of a woman’s experience on the frontier.”
Though the book was decades in the making and honors the unsung heroes of the late 1800s, in present day, it serves as a connector of enterprising people. “The idea that pioneers still affect us today [is] really exciting, and thats what I found about the book. That people would read it and find parallels to their own lives through the writings, diaries and journals.”