Book Club Queen

One Thousand White Women
Book Review

Review by Queenie B

One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

One Thousand White Women BOOK SYNOPSIS

"White mans version of slavery is to assimilate the Native American Indian into the white culture." (147)

This summarizes the One Thousand White Women book best.

An account of much emotion and sacrifice, "It is the inevitable course of history"(218). The author, Jim Fergus, follows these white women into a hostile and unknown environment during the 1800s as they work to uphold a deal made by the US Government to give the Cheyenne tribe one thousand white women in exchange for one thousand horses. The goal is to create a generation of a combined race so that the two may live in harmony and peace.


Wow! What a book this is! Fergus' keen insight into the heart and soul of the women is amazing, This is a grand marriage of fiction and history tied together for a great book club read!

The One Thousand White Women book makes argument of the white Caucasian man inflicting his civilization on a society of selfless, altruistic people, that thrive for the greater good. As in today's world, the women in the era of this book were trying to make a change for the better. It was their belief that they could cross the class and racial barrier by bearing children. Thus assimilating into the Native American culture and becoming a better society all around, believing in a united race in 1875.

The central character, May, was an optimist after living in abusive circumstances all because she loved a person of the lower class. Through the abuse of the mental institution inflicted upon her by her own family, she retains a higher sense of self and regard for the human condition. Survival was utmost and even rape could not affect ones daily life. "They cannot change what happened so they just go toward a way from it" (191). May decides to live, to adapt, to be free.


Queenie D: So I thought this was a true story until about halfway through the book. I felt a little stupid.

Queenie B: Don't! But as a side note I can't believe you skipped that page at the beginning! It was historically accurate on many accounts and definitely felt like a true story.

QD: I actually wished it had been. Not because of all the tragedy but because I thought the characters were SO great, I wanted them to be real.

QB: I know what you mean. I loved them all. From May, the nonconformist to Phemie, the African-Native American Princess, each women worked their way into my hearts. Even Daisy!

QD: That was definitely the strongest point of the One Thousand White Women book. I actually thought maybe it wasn't my type of read but Fergus does such an amazing job writing women characters I couldn't help but be drawn in. And it's totally crazy that a man can write such great perspective from a woman. Except the pregnancy stuff - clearly he has no idea what that's all about!

QB: I think what really struck me was the independence and forward thinking of these women. They were trying to make a change for the better. It was their belief that they could cross the class and racial barrier by bearing children, thus assimilating into the Native American culture and becoming a better society all around. Pretty awesome.

QD: I agree. Too bad the US Government was scamming them as well as the Natives. It's stories like these that make me ashamed of some of our country’s history. We truly suppressed and destroyed an entire culture of people.

QB: And we did it in the name of civilization! Seems to me that the Army was just as “savage” as they claimed the “savages” to be.

QD: For sure. I mean, the Cheyenne’s cut off the hands of the opposing tribes babies, and the US Army killed whole encampments of Native women and children. What's the difference?

QB: And let's not forget about the “civilized“ family that put May into an institution for bearing children with a man outside of her class.

QD: No kidding. When she had the chance to be free, she jumped on it even though it meant the possibility of never seeing her children again.

QB: I was extremely bummed when she didn't make it. I was so sure she'd get a chance to see her babies again. At least in the end they found out the truth.

QD: The end of the One Thousand White Women book was a little abrupt but at least we found out what happened to the characters. Tragic to say the least---

One Thousand White Women Book DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Were the Native Americans really savages?
  2. How did you feel about Captain Bourke?
  3. Were any of the women in the book truly mentally ill?

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This is our December Book of Month Club Pick!
Comment on this book!
AUTHOR(S): Jim Fergus

TYPE OF BOOK: Fiction (but based on some historical events)




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