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Unit 3: Set 5: Fred Gerard & The Fur Trade - Documents

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Documents Intro | Letter 1 | Letter 2 | Letter 3 | Letter 4

Fred Gerard’s four letters to his daughters are presented as transcriptions of the originals. The spelling and punctuation has not been changed from the original hand-written letters.

The first three letters were written to all three daughters who lived and studied in a Catholic boarding school after 1874. Though Gerard stayed in touch with their mother, he did not continue to live with her after about 1871.

The fourth letter was written only to Virginia at the time she took her vows as a nun. Virginia was 19 at the time and the youngest of his three daughters by Helena. Virginia became known as Sister Anasta when she took her vows. Josephine also became a Benedictine.

Historians have often viewed these letters as important for their insight into the way men prepared for the expedition that led to the Battle of the Little Big Horn and their experience there. However, these letters are also rich records of the social and cultural transition the daughters of the fur trade had to negotiate. Gerard reveals his hopes and expectations for his young daughters as well as his efforts to prepare them to live in a world very different from that of their mother and other Arikara relatives.

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