The Year We Were Famous
Based on the true story of young Clara Estby’s walk across America
Carole Estby Dagg
Clarion Books, 2011
Based on the true story of 17-year-old Clara Estby, a ‘quiet’ person, who hiked across America in 1896 to raise funds to pay for their farm and, in the spirit of the suffrage movement, show that women were strong and capable.
Desperate to save their farm, her mother, Helga, located a publisher who agreed for her and her daughter to hike from (near) Spokane, Washington to New York, leaving May 1896 to arrive November 30; they arrived December
22. They were to receive $10,000 and write a manuscript of their accounts. They were to start out with $5 each, the clothes on their back, and a satchel with all their belongings. If they needed any additional funds, they were to earn it on the trip.
They met with every newspaper and obtained signatures of mayors, governors, and even President-elect William McKinley. They spoke at hotels, suffrage meetings, and bars to raise needed funds. They encountered thieves (who they shot at), Indians (who assisted them) and snow blizzards (which nearly froze them). They survived on people letting them into their homes for the night and giving them a meal. They walked more than eight million steps, each wearing out 4-5 pairs of shoes, but they made it.
Set in this historical context, this coming of age story shares mother-daughter clashes, dreams beyond being a farmer’s wife, and the struggles of a woman becoming independent in the early days of the suffrage movement. A compelling read, taking readers to a time when today’s modern conveniences and equality of women were yet to exist.