The Bonnet Book: Diary of an Orphan Train Hatmaker
Sent away on an orphan train at fourteen, smart and lovely Blanche Spencer lands in St. Louis, Missouri as a nursemaid, wearing rags and sleeping in a pantry. To rise above her servitude, she begins a self-education program. A trade booth at the 1904 World's Fair and a Cobden, Illinois apprenticeship launch her into a hat-making career, which she documents in a tiny diary, The Bonnet Book.
An early example of self-determination and girl power, Blanche-now Bonnie-travels alone to the Wild West, where she's presented with the chance of a lifetime and the possibility of love-both rife with challenges that test her drive, purpose in life, and sense of self.
The Bonnet Book diary and other historical items in the novel are real-life touchstones in this gripping, inspiring story based on the life of the author's grandmother.
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About the Author
"In one character The Bonnet Book truly portrays the realistic and accurate experiences of America's 350,000 orphan train riders. Author Nancy Menees Hardesty perfectly captures the independent spirit of a young American woman who, like all orphan train riders, began life with seemingly insurmountable disadvantages, but who turned those disadvantages into opportunities and prevails through hard work and unabashed persistence. A delightful read that speaks to the indomitable American spirit!"
John Shontz, Project Coordinator
National Making a Difference Project: The Orphan Train Saga
"A wonderful story about fourteen-year-old Blanche Spencer and her experience traveling to St. Louis, Illinois, and Oklahoma between 1902 and 1911. Blanche's pioneer spirit, determination, and perseverance helped her become an independent, self-taught young lady. The book brilliantly illustrates the rugged life in the Midwest and Blanche's drive to be successful. The first chapter captured me with life in rural Illinois in 1902, and I hated to see the book end. I wanted to learn more about Blanche's life. It is a good read for all ages!"
Norma Lee Hackney, PhD
Director, Shawnee Hills Arts Center
"The Bonnet Book is a time-travel trip that takes you on a compelling read back into American history. You will experience the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, Temperance camps, and orphan trains; meet Annie Oakley and the folks of early American small towns-all seen through the adolescent eyes of the author's grandmother, a strong Midwestern American woman. Meticulously researched and based on the original "Bonnet Book," the author's grandmother's actual diary, this book is rich with intriguing storytelling, as well as a personal journey into our fast-moving history."
Diane LeBow, PhD
President emerita Bay Area Travel Writers
"Nancy Menees Hardesty shares her family history and brings us a delectable read, The Bonnet Book, about the trials of a young woman in the early 20th century. An exciting and compelling story, The Bonnet Book is an adventure tale of the author's paternal grandmother. Hardesty's attention to detail is meticulous as the story unfolds about a bustling St. Louis, Missouri, rural southern Illinois, and finding love and marriage in Oklahoma."
Cheryl Ranchino Trench, Columnist