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Fearless Mary: The True Adventures of Mary Fields, American Stagecoach Driver

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A little-known but fascinating and larger-than-life character, Mary Fields is one of the unsung, trailblazing African American women who helped settle the American West. A former slave, Fields became the first African American woman stagecoach driver in 1895, when, in her 60s, she beat out all the cowboys applying for the job by being the fastest to hitch a team of six hor A little-known but fascinating and larger-than-life character, Mary Fields is one of the unsung, trailblazing African American women who helped settle the American West. A former slave, Fields became the first African American woman stagecoach driver in 1895, when, in her 60s, she beat out all the cowboys applying for the job by being the fastest to hitch a team of six horses. She won the dangerous and challenging job, and for many years traveled the badlands with her pet eagle, protecting the mail from outlaws and wild animals, never losing a single horse or package. Fields helped pave the way for other women and people of color to become stagecoach drivers and postal workers.


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A little-known but fascinating and larger-than-life character, Mary Fields is one of the unsung, trailblazing African American women who helped settle the American West. A former slave, Fields became the first African American woman stagecoach driver in 1895, when, in her 60s, she beat out all the cowboys applying for the job by being the fastest to hitch a team of six hor A little-known but fascinating and larger-than-life character, Mary Fields is one of the unsung, trailblazing African American women who helped settle the American West. A former slave, Fields became the first African American woman stagecoach driver in 1895, when, in her 60s, she beat out all the cowboys applying for the job by being the fastest to hitch a team of six horses. She won the dangerous and challenging job, and for many years traveled the badlands with her pet eagle, protecting the mail from outlaws and wild animals, never losing a single horse or package. Fields helped pave the way for other women and people of color to become stagecoach drivers and postal workers.

30 review for Fearless Mary: The True Adventures of Mary Fields, American Stagecoach Driver

  1. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Considered part non-fiction and part historical fiction in order to create a story, Mary was a real person, a former slave who went west to make a new life. She tried out for the job of stagecoach driver when everyone thought it was only a man's job and certainly not a job for a former slave. She succeeded, and she began in her sixties! There is an author's note explaining the research and the story's creation. The illustrator shows the passage of years, the ups and downs with interesting and be Considered part non-fiction and part historical fiction in order to create a story, Mary was a real person, a former slave who went west to make a new life. She tried out for the job of stagecoach driver when everyone thought it was only a man's job and certainly not a job for a former slave. She succeeded, and she began in her sixties! There is an author's note explaining the research and the story's creation. The illustrator shows the passage of years, the ups and downs with interesting and beautiful choices of setting that include the characters' supporters, naysayers and experiences.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    4 stars for topic.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I love books about kickass ladies.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Castle Spooktacular

    A great depiction of a brave babe making things happen during the wild west! well written with delightful illustrations.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Air

    This was an amazing introductory story to Fearless Mary. Some of the events aren't told in order, but the author explains the reasoning for that in the Author's Note. I think that all-in-all this is an amazing introduction to an amazing woman and was a lot of fun to read!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Akoss

    Thank you so much, Tami Charles for giving a voice to Mary Fields.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christina Carter

    It is inspiring to learn about a woman who challenged the norm and pursued something she was really good at in spite of the obstacles she faced; defying the prevailing mores of the time, and becoming the first African American woman stagecoach driver (in 1895)! She was hired at the age of 60 in the town of Cascades, Montana, to do a job that was previously thought to have been one that only a man could do. She proved herself to be faster than most, tough when the stagecoach needed protecting, an It is inspiring to learn about a woman who challenged the norm and pursued something she was really good at in spite of the obstacles she faced; defying the prevailing mores of the time, and becoming the first African American woman stagecoach driver (in 1895)! She was hired at the age of 60 in the town of Cascades, Montana, to do a job that was previously thought to have been one that only a man could do. She proved herself to be faster than most, tough when the stagecoach needed protecting, and smart. She was as a trailblazer who paved the way for other women who would become stagecoach drivers and deliver mail across the United States. In the author's note at the end of the book, Tami Charles says, "Mary Fields didn't allow prejudices to hold her back from accomplishing her goals. She is an unsung hero-one whose name should be recognized for all she did and everything she stood for." She is indeed an inspiration to me and I am grateful to Tami Charles for highlighting her legacy and sharing her story with us. I look forward to adding this book to our library's collection for our students to read and enjoy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jillian Heise

    I want to like this book for what it is, but based on the complete erasure of Native Americans from it, I find it problematic. The mission that Mary drives the stagecoach to deliver to was a boarding school, and that is never mentioned. To have a story told in the "Wild West" without any reference, especially when it's a major component of the bigger story, is difficult to understand.

  9. 4 out of 5

    wildct2003

    Focuses on a small portion of Mary’s life. Good story. Left me wanting more.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kirsti

    Fascinating and inspiring account of Mary Fields, who was a slave until age 33, traveled solo to the West, and became a stagecoach driver because she was brave and the money was good. She protected herself with a rifle and A PET EAGLE OH MY GOODNESS. A great read for children and adults. I never knew how much a stagecoach driver was responsible for as part of his or her job. Author's note at the end describes the information available and some liberties the author took--one event placed out of se Fascinating and inspiring account of Mary Fields, who was a slave until age 33, traveled solo to the West, and became a stagecoach driver because she was brave and the money was good. She protected herself with a rifle and A PET EAGLE OH MY GOODNESS. A great read for children and adults. I never knew how much a stagecoach driver was responsible for as part of his or her job. Author's note at the end describes the information available and some liberties the author took--one event placed out of sequence, plus an invented conversation because the actual dialogue is unknown. I would classify this as nonfiction, but others say it is a combination of nonfiction and historical fiction.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    The author explains in an afterword that not much is really known about Mary Fields besides a bare outline, some photos, and a lot of rumors, so the author had to use her imagination to fill in the gaps. What we do know is that a six-foot tall woman named Mary Fields who was a slave prior to the Civil War was hired in 1895 as a mail carrier in Cascade, Montana. It was an important and dangerous occupation, and Mary was faster than any other applicant [all of whom were male cowboys] at hitching a The author explains in an afterword that not much is really known about Mary Fields besides a bare outline, some photos, and a lot of rumors, so the author had to use her imagination to fill in the gaps. What we do know is that a six-foot tall woman named Mary Fields who was a slave prior to the Civil War was hired in 1895 as a mail carrier in Cascade, Montana. It was an important and dangerous occupation, and Mary was faster than any other applicant [all of whom were male cowboys] at hitching a team of six horses, a test given for the job. Mail carriers not only had to fight the terrain, weather, and wild animals, but they had to defend themselves and their cargo against the dangerous outlaws attracted to the supplies, food, and money carried by the stagecoaches. The author writes: “To do the job, you need to be smart, tough, unshakable. As a former slave who traveled to the West alone to seek opportunity, Mary Fields is all of those things.” The author points out that Fields was the first African American woman, and only the second woman, to work in the United States Postal Service. According to the Smithsonian, she never missed a day of work, even showing up during heavy snow by wearing snowshoes and carrying the mail packs on her back. Mary rode the trails - a fifteen-mile route - for eight years, from 1895 to 1903. She was around seventy years old when she finally “retired” in town and ran a laundry out of her home. The author observes that nowadays, while delivery men and women still endure long days on the road and harsh weather at times, they face nothing like the dangers Mary encountere in the Wild West. She concludes: “Today, Mary’s bravery is remembered in Cascade and throughout the country.” Well, not exactly true, but it should be. Illustrations by Claire Almon reflect her background in cartoon animation. Discussion: The author could have added an important part of Mary’s story, at least in part, as shared by the National Postal Museum: “Mary was also popular for her community commitment. When she wasn’t drinking, fighting, delivering the mail, or performing manual labor, Mary gave food to the poor and bought treats for the town children.” In fact, all that we do know about Mary is pretty interesting, although not necessarily for kids. The online site for Montana Women’s History has an analysis of Mary’s life worth quoting at length: "In many ways, Fields transcended the traditional gender boundaries for women of the era. She neither married nor depended on the support of the church. Handy with a gun, she smoked, drank, and swore and took a ‘man’s job’ delivering mail. Because she was a large woman, she wore men’s shirts and jackets. She also socialized with men at the baseball field and in the saloon. In a 1959 issue of Ebony, Montana-born film star Gary Cooper [who knew her when he was a child] reminisced that Fields could ‘could whip any two men in the territory’ and ‘had a fondness for hard liquor that was matched only by her capacity to put it away.’ The Mary Fields of legend is a masculine figure; her traditionally feminine attributes are typically underplayed. Yet Fields generally wore skirts, loved to grow flowers, and babysat many of Cascade’s children. A subtle racism may explain this discrepancy. The people of Cascade accepted Fields while she was alive and celebrated her after death, but historian Dee Garceau-Hagen points to nicknames like ‘Black Mary,’ ‘Colored Mary,’ and ‘Nigger Mary’ and argues that Cascade residents ‘affirmed a caste system based on race, even as they celebrated Fields’ notoriety.’ As the sole African American in Cascade, Fields did not have the benefit of a close-knit black community, such as developed in towns like Helena, Great Falls, Butte, and Fort Benton. And because she was also ‘outside the boundaries of respectable womanhood,’ Fields was in some ways on her own. It is hard to imagine that Fields did not feel the sting of prejudice, or at least the ‘friendly contempt’ described by African American musician W. C. Handy on a visit to Helena in 1897. Nevertheless, she certainly lived an inspirational life—and one forged on her own terms. A writer for Negro Digest in 1950 cast her as a role model: ‘She was, in the best sense, a pioneer woman. She was rough and she was tough.’ And as Gary Cooper opined, she was born a slave, but ‘lived to become one of the freest souls ever to draw a breath or a .38.’” Rating: 3.5/5

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    The illustrations here are really colorful, bold, and show a lot of motion. I wish the illustrations and main text had conveyed more explicitly (beyond one place in the text) that Mary was an older woman. I really liked the scenes at the end moving forward to women delivering in the mail through time in the US. I didn't love some of the license taking here with reordering events/not mentioning in the main text that Mary Fields had already been doing deliveries for St. Peter's Mission. Was also a li The illustrations here are really colorful, bold, and show a lot of motion. I wish the illustrations and main text had conveyed more explicitly (beyond one place in the text) that Mary was an older woman. I really liked the scenes at the end moving forward to women delivering in the mail through time in the US. I didn't love some of the license taking here with reordering events/not mentioning in the main text that Mary Fields had already been doing deliveries for St. Peter's Mission. Was also a little ?? about the book talking about all the "Whites Only" signs and then immediately jumping to Mary wanting "to prove that everyone should be equal, including women." Her being a woman is important, but the jump from race to gender there was jarring to me. CW: racism, sexism, slavery.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mk Campbell

    Here's the Hook: Fearless Mary "put the 'Wild' in Wild West," breaking boundaries and throwing prejudices aside. A former slave, 60-year-old Mary Fields sets out to get a job as a stagecoach driver, a famously dangerous and male-dominated field. She makes it clear to everyone that she is the best, most capable candidate for the job, beating out 40 cowboys. As she works, she continues to show others that you can do anything you put your mind to, and paves the way for other women to do the same. T Here's the Hook: Fearless Mary "put the 'Wild' in Wild West," breaking boundaries and throwing prejudices aside. A former slave, 60-year-old Mary Fields sets out to get a job as a stagecoach driver, a famously dangerous and male-dominated field. She makes it clear to everyone that she is the best, most capable candidate for the job, beating out 40 cowboys. As she works, she continues to show others that you can do anything you put your mind to, and paves the way for other women to do the same. Three words or phrases that best describe this book are: -Empowering -Badass -Beautiful, descriptive artwork

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Mary Fields, first female stagecoach driver. So cool! She had a pet eagle to protect her from bandits! Reminds me of what I know of calamity Jane! So glad I came across this book, especially during women’s history month!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aliza Werner

    Mary is a former slave, woman, Black, in her 60s...and she doesn’t let anything hold her back from applying for one of the most dangerous jobs in the West! Engaging introduction to America’s first Black woman stagecoach driver.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kaydee

    Wonderful book!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Great (unknown) story about a brave woman.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Wow. Mary Fields stood up against racism, sexism and ageism.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jillian

    More stories about badass freedwomen with trained pet eagles who smashed the patriarchy, please!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    Not the best illustrations in the world, but what a powerful and empowering story of a little-known woman who became the first black, first female stage-coach driver in the United State.

  21. 4 out of 5

    MaryLibrarianOH

    A biography about an African American woman that became the first female stagecoach driver out west. The artwork appears to be created digitally.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    Good for young readers or a story time. Interesting history about a little known person

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    The pictures make her look a lot younger, but I love the fact that she started driving the stage coach when she was in her 60's! She was amazing.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Sammis

    This book is big on show, not tell, with Almon's energetic illustrations showing Mary hitching the horses to the stagecoach and then driving them through the course up and down the steep hill. What the text doesn't say directly (though it does hint at it) is that she was the fastest applicant to get the horses hitched. http://pussreboots.com/blog/2019/comm... Marginalized Rural Offroad 663366

  25. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm G. 8B

  26. 5 out of 5

    Malissa

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katy

  28. 4 out of 5

    Angela

  29. 5 out of 5

    Desiree Sotomayor

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eme87

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