Tiffany Schofield grew up watching Westerns with her grandfather (but agonized over the frail, clumsy women portrayed), and enjoyed horseback riding with her neighborhood friend in a rural part of Maine. The Maine native didn’t realize a deep love for the Old West was quickly developing.
Schofield started at Thorndike Press in 1999. In 2002, she was shifted to Five Star Publishing’s first edition, standard print imprint division. She immersed herself in the Old West genre. The classics fueled her crusade to reinvigorate Five Star’s Western book list and seek exciting stories featuring strong female protagonists. Under Schofield’s leadership Five Star has earned the WWA Lariat Award (2013) and True West’s Best Western History Book Publisher (2015).
To understand the true spunk and tenacity of the women who helped settle the West, Schofield highly recommends these five classic Western novels for your library:
1. Little House On The Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder, Harper Collins): Okay, it’s not a traditional cowboy story, but I think it’s still one of the most enduring frontier tales in American literature. This series pulled me in as a young reader with the plight and tenacity of frontier settlers along with the importance of community bonds. This infallibly enjoyable series depicts the depth of hope and strong spirit pivotal to mankind’s survival in any generation.
2. True Grit (Charles Portis, Simon & Schuster): One of my all-time favorite stories that features the eccentric, cool and unflinching fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross. In a period typically dominated by men, she takes the bull by the horns and hires the meanest available U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn, to hunt down the coward that shot her father, Tom Chaney. Mattie encompasses the “true grit” we should all aspire to.
3. O Pioneers! (Willa Cather, Doubleday): This sweeping saga of family, love and loss illuminates the stark beauty of frontier Nebraska and the pioneering immigrants it shaped. When Alexandra’s father dies young, fatigued by his failing attempts at agriculture, she inherits the farm and her brothers to look after. Against all odds for a woman in her time, she embraces the challenge of saving and reviving their farm.
4. Mattie (Judy Alter, Doubleday): It’s no surprise this enjoyable novel was selected as a WWA Spur Award-winner in 1988. Inspired by, but not based on, the first female doctor in Nebraska, this fictionalized account offers an elderly Mattie recounting her travails and struggles to prove herself worthy as a doctor on the Nebraska frontier at the turn of the 20th century.
5. Ride the Wind (Lucia St. Clair Robson, Ballantine): The true test of courage for a woman in America’s early frontier was to embrace her situation, no matter how grim, and turn it into something better. This novel is an engrossing look into the life of Cynthia Ann Parker, a girl who was taken by Comanches at the age of nine and not only survived, but thrived.