Women and Men of the Overland Trail, by John Mack Faragher. New Haven: Yale University Press. $6.50.

Life was hard and bitter for both the women and the men who trekked the overland trail in the mid-1800s, pushing westward the cutting edge of white man's civilization. While traditional romantic notions of the Western experience are virtually all masculine, Faragher focuses here on the all-but- ignored fact that the trip, for most, was a family experience. He disputes rosy versions of the times that say the tough trail experience made women more independent decisionmakers, contending that women shouldered more than their half of rigorous everyday chores and were too busy stirring corn mash to increase their decisionmaking power, even in their own lives.

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