162 reviews

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd
by Jim Fergus

Published: 1999-02-15
Paperback : 304 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 88 of 96 members
One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial 'Brides for Indians' program, launched by...
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One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial 'Brides for Indians' program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.



In September of 1874, the great Cheyenne "Sweet Medicine Chief" Little Wolf made the long overland journey to Washington, D.C., with a delegation of his tribesmen for the express purpose of making a lasting peace with the whites. Having spent the weeks prior to his trip smoking and softly discussing various peace initiatives with his tribal council of forty-four chiefs, Little Wolf came to the nation's capital with a somewhat novel, though from the Cheyenne worldview, perfectly rational plan that would ensure a safe and prosperous future for his greatly besieged people. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions from Reading Group Gold, courtesy of St. Martin's Press:

1. The Cheyenne are often referred to as “savages,” even by the women who voluntarily travel to live among them. During this time period, what is it that makes the Cheyenne savage, and the white “civilized”? Are there ways in which you would judge the Cheyenne in the novel more civilized than the whites? Are there ways in which you consider them less civilized?

2. Were you surprised that Little Wolf, the Cheyenne chief, was so aware and seemingly resigned to the fact that his culture was doomed? How does this differ from our attitudes and assumptions as U.S. citizens?

3. Did you admire May Dodd’s rebelliousness? Did you find it shocking that she would leave her children behind? Do you consider her a sympathetic character?

4. Did you find it believable that the U.S. government might undertake a covert project such as the “Brides for Indians” program? Do you think the author had more modern history in mind when he developed this idea?

5. Were you surprised by elements of the Cheyenne culture as depicted here?

6. Do you think that the Cheyenne culture was respectful of women? Consider what might seem contradictory elements—–for example, it is a matrilineal society, and yet warriors could have multiple wives.

7. Compare what the Cheyenne culture valued in women compared with what white culture at the time valued in women. Contrast Captain Bourke’s fiancé, Miss Lydia Bradley, with May Dodd. In what ways, do May and Lydia represent different types of women? In what ways have cultural expectations of women changed since this time period, and in what ways have they remained the same?

8. Did you find it believable that the white women embraced the Cheyenne culture, and willingly married with them?

9. Compare your concept of romantic love, and married love, with the relationship that develops between May and Little Wolf.

10. Were you surprised by the violence among tribes as depicted here? Did it contrast with your understanding of Native American cultures? What similarities were there between the violence among tribes, and the violence between whites and Native Americans?

11. While depicting the slaughter of Native American culture, Jim Fergus also portrays the imminent decimation of the natural landscape. Consider both tragedies. Were they equally inevitable? Are they equally irreversible?

Suggested by Members

Could you have made such a journey?
Do you ever wonder if you could have survived during this period in history.
How do you feel about the way women were treated in the 19th century as compared to today?
by Domenena (see profile) 06/11/15

Discuss the different spiritual beliefs
The way women were thought of as second class citizens, worker bees in the tribes
by GrandmaNaNa (see profile) 09/14/14

Could you tell that this was written by a man?
Did May and her friends seem real to you?
Did these women feel as if they were from the 19th century?
by dmc1230 (see profile) 02/15/10

Is the scenario presented in this book realistic?
by dcokingtin (see profile) 01/22/10

is it hope, fear or disbelief that keeps oppressed groups from fighting back?
what is the effect of westernization on the world today? how do we view those who fight it?
by holland (see profile) 12/05/09

How were women expected to behave and what could they expect to happen to them if they didn't "toe the line" and has that changed really?
by susanbeamon (see profile) 09/16/09

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Interesting and insightful.
by Domenena (see profile) 06/11/15
The journey of a woman during the settling of this country beyond the cities of the East and into the land of the unknown.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "One Thousand White Woman: The Journals of May Dodd"by Domenena (see profile) 06/11/15

When my book group chose this book, I was not thrilled about the choice. However, after reading it, I found that I loved it. It was interesting, inspiring, thought-provoking, and showed a ... (read more)

  "as above"by Obisan (see profile) 06/08/15

Read this book two years ago for another Book Club. Felt it was an interesting book to portray the plight of women during this particular time in American history. Historical fiction also depicting a glimpse... (read more)

by readme1 (see profile) 02/15/15

  "One Thousand White Women"by jolson (see profile) 02/05/15

Nice insight into what was a very good intention by the Cheyenne Native Americans, but turned into a nightmare.

by Shann (see profile) 01/18/15

  "Fun book"by lovemykindle (see profile) 09/20/14

Our group thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. So much fun, lots of topics to discuss.

  "Well Told Account of Indian History"by GrandmaNaNa (see profile) 09/14/14

This novel captured my sense of adventure and kept me reading into the night by the rich characters so well developed I could picture them and hear their voices in the different dialects. Every detail... (read more)

by Danamichael44 (see profile) 08/17/14

  "One Thousand White Women"by klsands (see profile) 05/20/14

A well written novel that describes life in the plains with both white settlers and the native Americans. Very insightful!

  "An Ok book."by Walstrom (see profile) 04/23/14

It was a little far fetched. It was a quick read, and not bad, I just found the main character really hard to believe.

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