The astonishing first-person account of Mississippi pioneer woman struggling to survive, protect her family, and make a home in the early American South.
Near the end of her life, Mary Mann Hamilton (1866 - c.1936) began recording her experiences in the backwoods of the Mississippi Delta. The result is this astonishing first-person account of a pioneer woman who braved grueling work, profound tragedy, and a pitiless wilderness (she and her family faced floods, tornadoes, fires, bears, panthers, and snakes) to protect her home in the early American South.
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 readers. Eighty-three years later, in partnership with Mary Mann Hamilton's descendants, we're proud to share this irreplaceable piece of American history. Written in spare, rich prose, Trials of the Earth is a precious record of one woman's extraordinary endurance and courage that will resonate with readers of history and fiction alike.
This compelling, no-frills posthumous memoir from Hamilton (1866 1936) reveals the hidden nature of late 19th-century American life through the joys and heartbreak of homesteading in the Mississippi Delta. The manuscript was originally submitted to Little, Brown in 1933; the publisher passed on it before purchasing the rights from Hamilton's descendants for a new version in 2015. Hamilton wasn't famous, nor did she wield political or social power; her experiences attest to the considerable contributions average women made to the settlement of the U.S. Around 1883, Mary's father moved the family to Sedgwick, Ark., which boasted a sawmill and a railroad. After he died, Mary's brothers found work at the mill while she and her sisters helped their mother turn their home into a boardinghouse. She married Frank Hamilton, a handsome, mysterious English immigrant who worked for the railroad and the sawmill, but the marriage did little to improve her circumstances: Frank drank and was accident-prone, several of their children died young, and money was tight. So Mary continued working after the Hamiltons carved out their own homestead in the Delta. Mary's unsentimental story crackles with personality, putting a face on the unsung, nameless tillers of the soil.