Stewart, Elinore Pruitt
STEWART, Elinore Pruitt
Born 1878; died 1933
Wrote under: Elinore P. Stewart, Elinore Rupert
Married n.d., widowed; Clyde Stewart, 1909; children: one daughter and three sons (one died young)
Almost nothing is known of Elinor Pruitt Stewart's early life. She was one of six children who were raised by their grandparents after their parents died "within a year of each other." She grew up in Indian Territory (Oklahoma), married, but lost her first husband in a railroad accident. As a widow with a two-year-old daughter, Jerrine, she went to work in Denver as "washlady." In 1909 intending to homestead a place for herself and her daughter, Stewart accepted a position as housekeeper for a Wyoming cattle rancher, Clyde Stewart. Stewart filed on the 160 acres adjoining Clyde Stewart's property but after six weeks as housekeeper she accepted Stewart's proposal of marriage. They had three sons, the first dying of erysipelas. Stewart never regretted her hasty marriage nor did she give up her determination to "prove-up" her own land without the help of her husband.
Stewart's literary contribution is in the form of letters to Juliet Coney, her former employer in Denver. The letters were first published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1913, and in book form in 1914 as Letters of a Woman Homesteader. A second volume, Letters on an Elk Hunt, was published in 1915 (both were reprinted in 1993). In the foreword of the 1961 edition, Jessamyn West writes that Stewart "was a born storyteller with a novelist's eye for those persons and events which have in them the seeds of development…which make good narrative possible." The "stories" paint a vivid picture of life on the Wyoming frontier. Stewart's enjoyment of life and her interest in everything around her are revealed in her writing. She was an energetic, adventurous woman who was not afraid of new experiences. She wrote to her friend that "homesteading is the solution of all poverty's problems," especially for women. She would like to urge all the "troops of tired, worried women, …scared to death of losing their places to work, who could have plenty to eat, who could have…comfortable homes of their own, if they but had the courage and determination to get them" homesteading.
Stewart's letters are not only interesting stories; they are the essence of social history.
The Adventures of the Woman Homesteader: The Life and Letters of Elinore Pruitt Stewart (1992).
Dykstra, N. A., "Eve in the New World Garden: The Autobiographies of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Elinore Pruitt Stewart" (thesis, 1992). George, S. K., "Elinore Pruitt Stewart" in By Grit & Grace: Eleven Women Who Shaped the American West (1997). Lindau, S. K., My Blue and Gold Wyoming: The Life and Letters of Elinore Pruitt Stewart (dissertation, 1990). West, J., foreword to Letters of a Woman Homesteader (1961).
Booklist (Spring 1914). Dial (1 July 1914). Nation (16 July 1914). NYT (7 June 1914). Outlook (1 Aug. 1914). Review of Reviews (Aug. 1914). Wisconsin Library Bulletin (July 1914).
—JACQUELINE B. BARNHART