One Pioneer Woman's Story Of Life On The Mississippi Delta

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A woman’s life on the American Frontier: We’ll open an old memoir of homesteading on the Mississippi Delta.

A portion of the cover of the new release of Mary Hann Hamilton's classic frontier memoir, "Trials of the Earth."
A portion of the cover of the new release of Mary Mann Hamilton's posthumous frontier memoir, "Trials of the Earth." (Courtesy Little Brown)

We know that settling the American frontier was not all “Westward Ho!” hat-waving and cowboys singing Oklahoma. But just how hard it could be can elude us. The long-unpublished memoir of Mary Mann Hamilton should set us straight. Her frontier was the untamed Mississippi Delta. Her life was a story of Biblical suffering, labor, loss, fire, flood, isolation, despair – and somehow she lived to 90 and told that story with spirited beauty. This hour On Point, a woman homesteads the Mississippi Delta. — Tom Ashbrook


Kerry Hamilton, great grandson of Mary Mann Hamilton. Hamilton's posthumous memoir is "Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman."

Sheilah Hamilton Pantin, great granddaughter of Mary Mann Hamilton.

Christopher Morris, professor of history at the University of Texas, Arlington. Author of "Becoming Southern" and "The Big Muddy."

From Tom’s Reading List

Jackson Clarion-Ledger: Delta woman's firsthand account of homesteading in Miss. — "Decades after rejecting her, a major book publisher has decided to publish a female pioneer’s story of homesteading in the Mississippi Delta. In 1933, Mary Mann Hamilton submitted an early version of her memoir, 'Trials of the Earth,' to a writer’s competition sponsored by New York publishing house Little, Brown."

New York Times: Life At Hard Labor --  "This book differs from the many accounts and journals we've read of westward-wending pioneers in pursuit of an American Dream that demanded endlessly new horizons. Mary Hamilton's family wasn't trying to go anywhere; skilled and vigorous, eager to settle but dislodged from one home after another, they simply struggled to survive."

Washington Post: Let Us Now Praise Famous Women — "Trials of the Earth, Mary Hamilton's autobiography, is available to us precisely because one woman stood by another. Hamilton, a tough, Missouri-born pioneer, was by 1932 a tiny, 65-year-old hunchbacked woman living in a Mississippi
backwoods cabin - when a young writer named Helen Dick Davis stumbled upon her, and found her fascinating."


Read An Excerpt Of "Trials Of The Earth" By Mary Hann Hamilton

This program aired on July 14, 2016.


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