Bold Spirit is the true story of a woman and her 18 year old daughter who walked from Spokane to New York in 1896. The woman, Helga Estby, was aiming for a $10,000 prize offered by an anonymous donor, with the intention of promoting a new style of woman’s dress.
Sadly, practically no documentation of the trip remains. Most of Estby’s journal was lost, and the hundreds of pages about the trip that she wrote after her return were burned after her death. The author, Linda Hunt, did find long summary articles in the Minneapolis Tribune and Minneapolis Times, written when Estby and her daughter were returning home. And there were many short articles in newspapers across the country, as Estby made her way eastward.
The story is uplifting, informative, and tragic. Tragic for a variety of reasons, but chiefly because her family refused to celebrate her great achievement, and instead blamed her for a number of family tragedies that occurred in her absence.
Reading this, you get a real sense of the extent to which societal prejudices and restrictions can stifle individual growth and accomplishment. Not only did Estby have to endure the hardships of a 3500 mile trek across America, earning her way as she went, but she had to do so while enduring the prejudice and hostility of people who believed that women should just stay at home, and that women are not capable of great physical or mental accomplishments. It must have been almost unbearable.
Then, as now, the wealthy elite, with enthusiastic help from the religious establishment and the state, sought to create divisions within the working classes; divisions based on race, ethnicity, and gender. Such divisions served only to divide the working class and delay the understanding that workers have more in common with each other, regardless of race or gender, than they have with the power elites. It’s been a successful tactic since the dawn of culture.