Helga’s Story Was Destroyed

Helga Eastby lived in 1896.  A Norwegian immigrant and mother of 8 children, Helga and her family faced foreclosure of their farm after a downturn in the economy.  At that time, women were strongly encouraged to be sedate, not get too happy, too sad, or too tired to prevent hysteria.  At that time the society viewed women as silly, fragile, and incapable of much.
 
In a shocking turn of events, Helga and her teenaged daughter Clara accepted a dare to walk across America from Eastern Washington to New York.  If the pair completed that journey, they were to be paid 10,000 dollars, just enough to save the farm.  There were very strict conditions including what they had to wear, how they had to verify their journey by collecting signatures from the governors of each state and mayors of each city they visited, and what they could carry.  Each woman was allowed the clothes on her back, five dollars of cash and a small bag.
 
Helga documented every step of this amazing journey. Her intention was to write a book and prove that women could be strong, independent, and brave.
 
Helga and Clara completed their journey, becoming the first women to walk across America.  During their travels they met hobos, miners, farmers, the newly elected President and people from all walks of life.  They endured terrible dangers and moments of joy.
 
However, Helga’s book was never published.  Circumstances prevented her from finishing it.  Her manuscript and letters were burned on the day of her funeral. Her story was completely forgotten until one of her great-great grandsons wrote about it for a history contest.  A researcher was able to pull together parts of this amazing story based on newspaper clippings but all of Helga’s thoughts, experiences, emotions, and wisdom from this remarkable journey was lost because she was never able to finish her book.
 
Helga’s story inspired me to take my own writing more seriously, increasing my commitment to my books.
 
I hope it inspires you as well.  Your story is important.  Please keep writing it!

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