Montana author Frank Bird Linderman’s life-long fascination with the West comes alive in his books about the frontier, trappers, and Native American lives and legends. A new exhibit on the main floor of the Mansfield Library provides insight into the creation of his 1932 work,
Red Mother, the life story of Pretty-shield, a Crow medicine woman.
Red Mother, later republished as Pretty-shield, complemented and expanded on the descriptions of Native American life in Linderman’s 1930 book, American, the story of Plenty-Coups, a Crow chief. Pretty-shield told her story to Linderman through an interpreter and using sign language. The activities, responsibilities, and aspirations of Crow women are vividly brought to life as she speaks of the games and dolls of an Indian childhood, and the work of the girls and women—setting up the lodges, dressing the skins, picking berries, digging roots, and cooking. Through her we come to understand courtship, marriage, childbirth and the care of babies, medicine-dreams, the care of the sick, and other facets of Crow womanhood.
The exhibit features materials from the Frank Bird Linderman Memorial Collection in the Mansfield Library’s Archives & Special Collections and reveals some of the stories behind Pretty-shield, including the challenges of book publishing in the 1930s, the concerns of Linderman’s publisher about the original book title, and the controversy sparked by Pretty-Shield’s memories of Custer’s last battle.