Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman

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The Powerful, Only Known First-Person Account of One Woman's Struggles and Triumphs Taming the Mississippi Delta

Near the end of her life, Mary Mann Hamilton (1866-c.1936) was encouraged to record her experiences as a female pioneer. The result is the only known firsthand account of a remarkable woman thrust into the center of taming the American South - surviving floods, tornadoes, and fires; facing bears, panthers, and snakes; managing a boardinghouse in Arkansas that was home to an eccentric group of settlers; and running a logging camp in Mississippi that blazed a trail for development in the Mississippi Delta. All this she tackled - and diligently wrote about in secrecy, in a diary that not even her family knew she kept - while caring for her children, several of whom didn't survive the perils of pioneer life. The extreme hard work and tragedy Hamilton faced are eclipsed only by her emotional and physical strength; her unwavering faith in her husband, Frank, a mysterious Englishman; and her tenacious sense of adventure.

An early draft of Trials of the Earth was submitted to a writers' competition sponsored by Little, Brown in 1933. It didn't win, and we almost lost the chance to bring this raw, vivid narrative to listeners. Eighty-three years later, in partnership with Mary Mann Hamilton's descendants, we're proud to share an irreplaceable piece of American history.

Conveyed in frank and expressive prose by a natural-born writer, and withheld for almost a lifetime, Trials of the Earth will resonate with listeners of history and fiction alike - an emotional testament to our ability to endure as well as the story of extraordinary love and the allure of pioneer life.

3 comments on “Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman”

  1. Grit and Struggle and Triumph Pioneer Lit has long been a favorite of mine (including recently reading A Lantern in Her Hand and Giants in the Earth). Trials of the Earth is a bit different because it is actually an autobiography even though it reads much like a novel. Mary Mann Hamilton was one of the first pioneers to settle in the Mississippi Delta and wrote down the events of her life after decades of surviving hardship and adversity. Her memoirs remained unpublished until the 1990s, but are now collected into this...

  2. Repeats itself a lot I had really wanted to like this book. An overwhelming percentage of reviews were 'raves', and I downloaded this book based on those reviews. Well, I became bored after reading only 15 or 20 % of it. I found it to be so repititious and filled with minutia about nearly every meal cooked, every conversation with a small child, every time a move was made ( and there were too many to count ). I am sure the woman and her family had hard times, but I don't know if her particular hard times were...

  3. Just finished it, and I will read it again. I heard about this book on NPR. This is one of the best books I've ever read. The strength of Mary Hamilton is unbelievable. I wish that this book contained pictures of the family and maps of the areas they traveled to and lived in. I would like to know if the family was ever able to find any information about their father. I loved this book so much, the writing style makes it seem as if Mary Hamilton is sitting there speaking her life's story to me. The book would make a wonderful movie.

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