TRIALS OF THE EARTH by Helen Dick Davis


The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton
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 Life at the turn of the century in the lumber camps of the Mississippi Delta, as recalled by a woman pioneer who cooked for hundreds; raised a family; and, with humor and courage, overcame a host of daunting obstacles. Written on scraps of paper in the 1930's at the request of journalist Helen Dick Davis, who edited the manuscript, Mary Hamilton's autobiography was rejected by publishers who felt that the memoirs of a pioneering woman were of no interest. Fortunately, times have changed, and we can now appreciate this remarkable tale of a woman with little formal schooling but tremendous spirit and an intuitive wisdom. Raised in the wild country of Arkansas, Hamilton met her husband, the mysterious Englishman Frank Hamilton, at the boardinghouse she helped her widowed mother run. When her dying mother made her promise to marry Frank and to raise her younger brother and sister, Mary agreed--but ``to be honest, I admired him but I did not love him.'' Over the years, admiration turned to love, but Frank--who hinted at a distinguished background--never fully took Mary into his confidence; he also drank when under pressure, and, in the resulting binges, squandered the money Mary had saved. Her life was filled with work--she did everything from baking 115 loaves of bread a day to milking cows; with hardships--floods that destroyed her home in the camps, as well as a series of financial set-backs that ended her dream of having her own house; and with death--four of her nine children died in early childhood. Courageous, never self-pitying, Mary was quick to note the help of loyal friends; the loving support of her children; and the natural beauty of the Delta in which she lived. A salutary reminder of just what those too-often unremembered women did in opening up this country. A splendid and long overdue addition to the pioneering canon.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1992
ISBN: 0-87805-579-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1992