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Abstract

As Katy Fry suggests in her paper "Polly Bemis, Pedagogy, and Multiculturalism in the Classroom," the history of the US-American West is too often taught in mythological terms. This is especially true in grade school classrooms, where children are told that the West was settled by courageous men and women who dared to come to and conquer a wild, untamed place. The notion of what it meant to be a pioneer remains simple and uncomplicated. As Fry points out, however, there were pioneers of a different sort, such as the Chinese immigrant Polly Bemis. Fry's article examines the various pedagogic narratives centering on Bemis's life and puzzles over its continuing importance. She argues that such narratives fail to place Polly Bemis in her historical context, obscuring the hardships and inequities endured by Asian immigrants to the US-American West in the late nineteenth century. Polly's story, as it is told to children in storybooks and classrooms, turns away from these themes, allowing a flat, multicultural celebration of Polly's life.

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