There can be no doubt about the courage and bravery of women during times when they were not seen as the equals of men. Thankfully, there are now numerous books on the market that document the brave actions of these women. However, it is even more fascinating to read about the obstacles and adversity faced by women in their own words. These five free non-fiction ebooks were written by women who had to step up and face challenges that really tested their resolve.
by Kate Sanborn
Adopting An Abandoned Farm was written by Kate Sanborn and first published in 1891. In this brief, but very fascinating book, the author pens her thoughts on the challenges of leaving behind New York City and moving to the countryside to attempt poultry farming. What makes the challenges faced by Sanborn so unique was the fact that she an educated and upper-middle class woman who already made a name for herself as a public intellectual. Living in the countryside and managing a farm on your own was no joke back then and Sanborn had no idea what was ins tore for her when she rented an “abandoned” farm for three years as a single woman.
by Nellie Bly
Nellie Bly is the pseudonym for journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane. In 1887 she published Ten Days in a Mad-House, which chronicles her undercover assignment for a newspaper that saw her feigning insanity and getting admitted to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. Cochrane’s acting was so convincing that a several doctors declared her to be insane after examining her. Once inside the asylum Cochrane was able to discover the shocking conditions and inhumane treatments experienced by the patients. Her newspaper got Cochrane released after ten days and her subsequent report on what is really going on at the asylum ensured more funding and better treatment for patients. It also left a lot of doctors red-faced at being deceived and resulted in more thorough examinations to ensure only people who were seriously ill got committed.
by Nellie Bly
Not content with the danger she put herself in while committed to an insane asylum, Nellie Bly was ready for another adventure a few years later. She published Around the World in Seventy-Two Days in 1890, documenting her successful attempt to imitate (and better) the world traveling feat of Phileas Fogg, a character in the classic Jules Verne novel, Around the World in Eighty Days. Cochrane completed the near 25,000 mile journey in seventy two days and six hours, despite numerous setbacks and delays along her route. The book offers a fascinating glimpse of her adventures, which included meeting Jules Verne in France, purchasing a monkey in Singapore as well as visiting a Chinese leper colony. Although her world record only stood for a few months before being bettered, it is still an entertaining read that is made even more gripping by the fact that Cochrane was in a race against another American Journalist, Elizabeth Bisland Wetmore.
by Elinore Pruitt Stewart
Letters of a Woman Homesteader was first published in 1913 and consists of a series of letters that were written by Elinore Pruit Stewart. The letters were for a former employer of hers and in them Elinore describes the hardships and adventures she faced. Elinore lost her husband in a railroad accident, which left her as the sole provider for herself and her two-year old daughter. Seeking employment in Denver, she first started working as a house-cleaner and laundress before becoming the housekeeper for a Scottish cattle-man in Wyoming. Despite the hand that life dealt her, Elinore remained positive and her outlook on life is perfectly captured in this book. These letters were also adapted to the 1979 movie, Heartland.
by May Kelogg Sullivan
These days, a trip to Alaska might not sound very intimidating, but things were a little bit different back in 1902 when this book by May Kelogg Sullivan was published. Sullivan wrote about her experiences and adventures during her two trips to Alaska, which she made practically alone. This is certainly something that wasn’t very common for the time period and her journeys of more than twelve thousand miles took place over the better part of eighteen months. Alaska was experiencing a gold rush during the time that this book was written and seeing it through the eyes of an English woman offers a refreshing change of pace compared to typical accounts. Sullivan was not merely a traveler, but took on a number of jobs and made do with some pretty uncomfortable conditions during her journey, which says a lot about her courage and determination.