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History of Colorado’s Women by Vivian S. Epstein

Review by Martha Quillen

History – February 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

History of Colorado’s Women – For Young People
Written and illustrated by Vivian Sheldon Epstein
Published in 1998 by VSE
ISBN 1-891424-00-9

THIS HISTORY for children offers a very mixed bag. There’s a lot of information crammed on its pages, and the book includes short biographies of a lot of women who are generally neglected. But the prose style is awkward and disappointing, and Epstein heaps together facts without consideration for paragraphing or clarity.

Her entry for Chipeta, for example, reads:

CHIPETA (1843-1924 Colorado, Utah)

Chipeta, loved and respected wife of the Ute Chief Ouray, helped Colorado pioneers through her brave peace efforts.

People of the Ute tribe found a young Kiowa Apache girl and raised her, naming her Chipeta, which means White Singing Bird. At age sixteen, Chipeta married Ouray, who became Chief of the Utes. In addition to the traditional work performed by women in the tribe, Chipeta also was one of the few women allowed to hunt. Both Chipeta and Chief Ouray worked for peace between the Utes and the white people. Chipeta always joined Chief Ouray when he was invited to Washington, D.C. to sign peace treaties. Chipeta’s bravery was often seen. When knowing that her white neighbors were going to be killed, she swam through the dangerous currents of the Gunnison River, arriving in time to warn the settlers…

Epstein’s account winds on in the same single paragraph.

And to make matters worse, the typography and design are downright ugly. In addition, the only illustrations in this book are the author’s artwork, and even though some of Epstein’s pictures are quite nice, they often aren’t detailed enough to act as illustrations (as is the case in the Chipeta entry which is accompanied by a child-like picture of three stylized Indians, and a somewhat generic girl on a horse).

Since historical photographs of many of the women in this book are readily available — using a few of them may have helped immensely. But as it is, this encyclopedic volume isn’t too inspiring.

But on the other hand, Epstein’s book does include profiles of such modern women as Patricia Schroeder, Ruth Mosko Handler, Linda Alvarado, Cleo Robinson, Joyce Meskis, and Amy Van Dyken (women who probably won’t be found in many other Colorado histories).

Thus this book might not be a bad choice for the interested student. But for most children, it seems unlikely that this History of Colorado’s Women for Young People will spur much interest in Colorado history.

–Martha Quillen