Women's Voices: Author explores life in Dakota TerritoryBrenda K. Marshall will discuss the journeys of two women living in Dakota Territory when she appears as a guest author for the Dickinson State University Women’s Voices program
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
Brenda K. Marshall will discuss the journeys of two women living in Dakota Territory when she appears as a guest author for the Dickinson State University Women’s Voices program.
“In my novel, I weave the story of a couple of pretty remarkable women who are taking a journey of sorts,” Marshall said. “It has a good deal about the settlement of Dakota Territory with homesteading, Bonanza farming and the politics throughout.”
In the story, Frances marries Percy Bingham, the son of a Bonanza farmer in the Red River Valley. Her motivation is to remain near her husband’s sister, Anna.
“In the middle 19th century, women’s friendships could be as emotionally as close as a husband and wife,” Marshall said.
It is on the farm that Frances discovers her independence. As a woman, Frances is more competent than the men around her, but she cannot easily strike out on her own.
“She sees Dakota Territory as an empty blank screen she can fill in with her own story,” Marshall said.
Then there is Kirsten Knudson, the daughter of Norwegian immigrants who homesteads her own land.
“The men are still making the rules, but on the other hand, women can homestead and have land of their own,” she said.
As the story evolves, the people of privilege encounter homesteaders in an unexpected way — that a homesteading woman actually has more freedom, said Marshall.
She paints a portrait of the people and landscape of Dakota Territory — how the schemes of frontier politicians, Northern Pacific Railroad executives, Bonanza farmers and homesteaders converge.
“I didn’t put pen to paper until I’d researched documents from the 19th century for two years,” she said. “Some of the characters in the book are real historical figures.”
Marshall, who lives near Ann Arbor, Mich., will present book readings, discussions, a luncheon with presentation and a book signing. All of the appearances are free, except for the luncheon fee.
Women’s Voices started in 2003 at Dickinson State University as part of Women’s History Month. Speakers meet with the community to discuss women’s issues having a theme, said committee member Joanne Fields.
This year’s theme is “Women’s Journeys — journeys that could mean moving to North Dakota, travel with a Fulbright scholarship or making a difference. The Women’s Voices committee consists of faculty and staff at DSU and community who have a love for the arts and a desire to create a sense of community between the university and public, Fields said.
A native of North Dakota, Marshall was born in the Red River Valley where she grew up climbing trees and riding her pony. She left North Dakota after college, and has lived in eight states.
“No matter where I am living or what I am doing, I think of myself as a North Dakotan,” she said.
Marshall has a Ph.D. in English and teaches part time at the University of Michigan. In addition to publishing “Dakota” in 2010, she published “Mavis” in 1996. She lives in the country with her two horses, two dogs and a cat.
Marshall is working on a trilogy with “Dakota” as the first. The characters and time period will be different in the other books, she said.
Copies of “Dakota” are available at the University Store. The book also is available through Amazon.com.
Women’s Voices schedule
March 19: Book reading and discussion of “Dakota: Or What’s a Heaven For” by Dr. Brenda K. Marshall, 1:30 p.m., Hawks Point. Free.
March 19: “Reading from Dakota — a Literary Journey” by Marshall, DSU Beck Auditorium, 7 p.m. Free.
March 20: Luncheon with presentation, “When a Woman’s Reach Exceeds Her Grasp” by Marshall, DSU Student Center ballroom, 11:30 a.m. Open to public; $12.50 ($15 after Wednesday). Register at www.dickinson
March 20: Book reading and signing, “Dakota: Or What’s a Heaven For” by Marshall, 2:30 p.m., Dickinson Area Public Library. Free.
March 26: Panel, “Cross-cultural leadership journeys” with Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership Program students, 7 p.m., DSU Beck Auditorium. Free.
Until March 29: Art Gallery exhibit, “Journeys:” by various artists, DSU Klinefelter Hall art gallery, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Free.