On April 30, 1849, Sarah Bayliss Royce, along with her husband, Josiah, and their daughter, Mary, left her home in Tipton, Iowa, and headed for California in a covered wagon. Along the way, she kept a
diary which, nearly thirty years later, served as the basis for a memoir she titled Across the Plains. That book has been freshly transcribed by Jennifer Dawes Adkison from Royce's original
handwritten document, and this new edition is faithful to the original, restoring several passages that were omitted from the previous edition.
This volume is intriguing to contemplate and a vital piece of the story as we continually seek to understand the impact of the western frontier in the development of the American character.
—The Chronicles of Oklahoma
Royce reveals fear, discomfort, anxiety, and excitement regarding the environment and her place within it.
—Sandra Schackel, author of Western Women's Lives: Continuity and Change in the Twentieth Century
In a new introduction Adkison reveals Across
the Plains to be far more than a simple narrative of one pioneer woman's journey west. She explains that Royce wrote the book at the request of her son, Josiah Royce, a well-known professor of
philosophy at Harvard University with motives of his own. She crafted the narrative that her son wanted: an argument for spiritual faith and fortitude as foundational to California's history. Yet the
narrative itself, in addition to offering a window into a world that has long lacked close documentation, gives us the opportunity to study the ways in which nineteenth-century western women asserted
this primacy of faith and crafted their experience into stories with larger cultural and social resonance.
Scholars have long used Across the Plains to mold and support an iconic
image of the resolute pioneer woman. However, until now no one has considered Royce's own self-conscious creation of this persona. Readers will discover that in many ways, Sarah Royce's careful
construction of this cultural portrait deepens our respect for her and our delight in her travels, travails, and triumphs.