Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson,
A Woman Tenderfoot
(Doubleday, Page & Co., 1900)

How many well-bred ladies, invited by their husbands to go on a four-month tour of the West, would design their own clothes for the trip? If a lady intends to sit astride her horses, there are no clothes in Abercrombie & Fitch made for that sort of thing. Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson settled on a wrap-around skirt that would be four inches from the ground, bloomers and high boots. The pattern she devised for the tailors to follow is in her book A Woman Tenderfoot, and it is a smashing design.

The second chapter of this delightful book is named "Outfit and advice for the woman-who-goes-hunting-with her-husband." Clothes taken care of, she takes on the question of a camp cook (she makes it clear she is not about to cook), the proper eating utensils, including a hot-water plate to keep her food warm, and silver knife, fork and spoon and Japanese napkins to set beside her plate.

Then come the sleeping arrangements: an air mattress, an eider-down bag and warm night clothes. Her own saddle, which she used for a pillow, was outfitted with a guncase. A leather duffel held a New York policeman's woolen mackintosh, a practical garment for mounted police to wear in the rain and snow.

This advice segues into the trip. At that time, a train stopped at Market Lake, Idaho. Grace and her famous writer-husband, Ernest Seton-Thompson, left the train behind and set out for Jackson's Hole in a covered wagon. Suddenly, there was the Snake River and there was no bridge. There her real trip begins, a rollercoaster ride of a trip with a hundred adventures in store for her. Dressed in her stylish, English-inspired clothes, she must have been a sight to behold as she rode on the mountain trails. Before the book ends, she acquits herself admirably. The surprise element of this story is the author's humor. I recommend the Lady Grace to one and all. I loved it.

Something else strikes me -- the timelessness of this account. When I recently read Kipling's Kim for the first time, I had the same feeling. Both books seemed new and pristine.

[ by Jean Marchand ]
Rambles: 14 September 2002

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