Letters from the Dust Bowl

Caroline Henderson
In May 1936 Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace wrote to Caroline Henderson to praise her contributions to American "understanding of some of our farm problems." His comments reflected the national attention aroused by Henderson’s articles, which had been published in Atlantic Monthly since 1931. Even today, Henderson’s articles are frequently cited for her vivid descriptions of the dust storms that ravaged the Plains.Caroline Henderson was a Mount Holyoke graduate who moved to Oklahoma’s panhandle to homestead and teach in 1907. This collection of Henderson’s letters and articles published from 1908 to1966 presents an intimate portrait of a woman’s life in the Great Plains. Her writing mirrors her love of the land and the literature that sustained her as she struggled for survival.Alvin O. Turner has collected and edited Henderson’s published materials together with her private correspondence. Accompanying biographical sketch, chapter introductions, and annotations provide details on Henderson’s life and context for her frequent literary allusions and comments on contemporary issues.


Reviewed: 2018-07-30

Caroline Henderson was a remarkable woman. She left her teaching job and moved to what was No - Man's land and began homesteading. She was well educated and very brave, but little of that comes across in this book. It seems to hit on a few major themes: pining for rain, loss of crops and animals, thinking about leaving next year. Her friend Rose saved most of the letters that were written during their friendship and I wished the letters were a bit more rounded. Even as everything was failing around her, through her articles that are published in the book, we see her falling into books, but that life doesn't always show up on the page. 

And this is a minor complaint, but when her friend Rose's mother passed away we hear nothing from Henderson about how she felt, or what she wrote to Rose. Toward the end of the book letters to Rose become fewer and I wondered about when Rose may have passed away. A couple of notes about when those two events happened would have been nice. 

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