Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Born in White Bead Hill in the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, on June 3, 1876, Elinore Pruitt Stewart was no stranger to hardship. At eighteen, with both parents dying within a year of each other, Stewart became responsible for six siblings. A few years later, she married and presumably divorced Harry Rupert. In 1906 she moved with her daughter, Jerrine, and two sisters to Denver, where she told everyone that she was a widow. A life of poverty in Denver encouraged her to try homesteading, so in 1909 she answered Clyde Stewart's advertisement for a housekeeper in the Denver Post. Stewart and her daughter arrived in Burntfork, Wyoming, in April 1909. In May she filed on 160 acres adjoining Clyde's homestead, and within eight weeks, married her employer. Stewart spent the rest of her life on the ranch, except for a few years when the family moved to Boulder, Colorado, for the children's education. She died in a Rock Springs hospital on October 8, 1933, at the age of fifty-seven.

Stewart's life is not unique, for many women homesteaded as well as became "mail-order brides." However, her contributions to American history and literature are the letters that she wrote to a former employer in Denver, Mrs. Juliet Coney, which were published serially in the Atlantic Monthly and then in book form by Houghton Mifflin Company as Letters of a Woman Homesteader (1914) and Letters on an Elk Hunt (1915). Stewart describes in detail the joys and hardships of homesteading and raising a family on the frontier. Each letter is often a complete narrative in itself; however, together they combine to create a type of story cycle, with characters and themes recurring. Although largely autobiographical, these works were written for publication, and she was known to have "never let the facts get in the way of a good story."

Suanne K. George University of Nebraska at Kearney

George, Susanne K. The Adventures of the Woman Homesteader: The Life and Letters of Elinore Pruitt Stewart. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992.

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