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The Bonnet Book by Nancy Menees Hardesty is the story of Blanche Spencer, sent away on an orphan train at fourteen, making her way to the Wild West.

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Sent away on an orphan train at fourteen, smart and lovely Blanche lands in St. Louis, Missouri as a nursemaid, wearing rags and sleeping in a pantry. To rise above her servitude, she begins a self-education program. A trade booth at the 1904 World’s Fair and a Cobden, Illinois apprenticeship launch her into a hat-making career, which she documents in a tiny diary, The Bonnet Book.

An early example of self-determination and girl power, Blanche—now Bonnie—travels alone to the Wild West. Here she’s presented with the chance of a lifetime and the possibility of love—both rife with challenges that test her drive, purpose in life, and sense of self.

The Bonnet Book diary and other historical items in the novel are real-life touchstones in this gripping, inspiring story based on the life of the author’s grandmother.


“A delightful read that speaks to the indomitable American spirit!”
–John Shontz, Project Coordinator, National Making a Difference Project –The Orphan Train Saga; The Upper Musselshell Historic Society, Harlowton, Montana

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