The June 2021 issue of Western Writers of America’s Roundup Magazine contains a book review I wrote about Iron Women: The Ladies Who Helped Build the Railroad by Chris Enss. Ms. Enss is the current president of Western Writers of America. She has been writing about women in the Old West for more than 28 years. She has made the New York Times bestseller list three times. She is the recipient of numerous writing awards including WWA’s Spur Award and the Will Rogers Medallion Award.
For those of you who not subscribe to Roundup Magazine I reprint my book review here:
“Iron Women provides a valuable addition to the history of the building of America’s railroads. Thoroughly researched and wonderfully illustrated, this book describes many unrecognized contributions by women to successes achieved across the iron horse empires. Not surprisingly, women who worked for the railroads had to overcome the traditional prejudices that plagued their struggles to prove their worth in most professions outside the home. From innovations made in telegraphy and engineering, to accomplishments in hospitality and entertainment, the efforts put forth by the featured females is that of frustration overcome by perseverance. This volume also contains interesting biographical vignettes of women who served as railroad presidents, travel journalists, artists, architects, and more. Chris Enss couples her smooth writing style with historical quotations to make an enjoyable read. I learned fascinating new things about the railroads and the women who worked on them.”
There is a minor error in the first line of the book’s Introduction which is repeated on the back cover blurb. The rails laid at Promontory Summit (not Point, as written) were iron (not steel, as written). Several years after the driving of the golden spike, the Union Pacific replaced the original iron rails with steel rails to provide necessary support for heavier locomotives. The Promontory Summit loop around the north end of the Great Salt Lake was abandoned after the turn of the twentieth century when the UP built a causeway straight across the lake. During World War I, the steel rails on the discontinued 44-mile loop were salvaged as part of a nation-wide scrap metal drive to support the war effort. Since this minor error does not detract from Chris’s excellent book, I did not mention it in the review. It is something only a railroad aficionado would notice.
Iron Women is published by TwoDot Books in paperback for $19.95 and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.
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