Mary Ronan looks back with determination from the cover of a new book published by the Montana Historical Society Press about her life. The book tells the story of her amazing experiences on the frontiers of Montana and the American West.
Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan is a vivid memoir of her journey across the Great Plains, her childhood on the Colorado and Montana mining frontiers, her formative years on a California farm, her experiences as a student in a Los Angeles convent school, and finally her return to Montana as a bride to live on the Flathead Indian Reservation as the wife of Indian agent Peter Ronan.
The book is taken from a thesis that her daughter, Margaret, completed in 1930 for her master of arts degree at the University of Montana based on stories told to her by her mother.
Montana Historical Society Interpretive Historian Ellen Baumler edited and arranged the book using previous work done on the original manuscript by noted UM English Professor H. G. Merriam in 1973.
Baumler restored most of the material that Merriam had left out of his earlier editing work on Margaret's 1930 manuscript, which has been preserved in the university archives.
"This is a more complete version of Margaret Ronan's original manuscript," Baumler said. "The threads of the love story, especially, are fully included in this edition, as I think Mary surely would have wished. It is a story that every student of Montana history should read. "
Baumler said the Society hopes that middle schools, high schools and colleges will find this book suitable for curriculum that includes women's history, history of the west, and of course, Montana history.
The book includes an introduction by Baumler and is divided into three parts: "Into the Land of Gold," "Youth and Romance," and "Life Among the Flathead."
The memoir includes such diverse topics as life in rough-and-tumble Last Chance Gulch on the Montana mining frontier, Montanan's reactions to the Nez Perce War as Chief Joseph fought his way across the territory, and Ronan's gentle school days in Los Angeles.
Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan as told to Margaret Ronan and edited by Ellen Baumler is 264 pages and includes 15 illustrations and photos. Notes by Baumler and Merriam as well as an index also are included.
The book is at bookstores and sells for $17.95 in paperback, or it can be ordered directly from the Society plus shipping by calling toll-free 1-800-243-9900.