Woman in the Wilderness: Letters of Harriet Wood Wheeler

Paul Harvey

Here's a very nice primary source book for your collection or for your university library, that adds much to the literature on nineteenth-century missionaries, especially female missionaries, and white-Native interactions: Nancy Bunge, ed., Woman in the Wilderness: Letters of Harriet Wood Wheeler, Missionary Wife, 1832-1892.

In this volume, Bunge has collected the most significant letters and writings of a missionary and her family, who worked among the Ojibwe from the 1840s through the 1860s, including during the period of the removal of the Ojibwe from their lands in northern Wisconsin; the collection also includes a newspaper article from Julia Wheeler in 1862 which condemns government policy for leading to the 1862 Sioux uprising in Minnesota, which culminated in the hangings of 38 Sioux in December 1862. In this volume, Wheeler begins with fairly conventional Protestant attitudes from her home area near Lowell, Massachusetts, but during her years as a "missionary wife" becomes an advocate for her subjects.

The editor, Michigan State University professor Nancy Bunge, discusses the process of collecting the material for this compilation here. The result of her work is a letter collection that allows the reader to watch the evolution of the subject over a quarter century or more, and to understand in a more intimate way the lives and interactions of white and natives on the midwestern frontier.