Chautauqua traces the history of the traveling Chautauqua movement through the lives of several fictional performers. The main protagonist, Marcie Grover, is a Nebraska farm girl, who, at age fifteen, wants to leave the farm and travel with the Redpath Chautauqua. Her father finds no objection, since her farm labors are negligible, and so, she is hired as a childcare girl to keep the children of the Chautauqua audience busy so they can enjoy the performances.
The book covers the lives of its fictional characters, Marcie Grover, Sally Conn, Jos Cruz, and Helen Kinleft, among others, from the close of the 19th Century until the end of the 20th Century. We experience the struggles, successes, fears, excitement and pride of their lives.
When Jos Cruz and his horse, Sovereign, perform slight of hand magic on the Chautauqua stage we are there in the audience and when William Jennings Bryan makes a fiery speech, we hear it with Marcie.
As Helen Kinleft performs her bareback riding act learned at the Barnum and Bailey Circus, we are able to enjoy it also. And we triumph with Sally Conn in later years, as a successful New York fashion designer who meets the right man.
These are only some of the interesting characters whose lives we find woven through and about Chautauqua, the movement that changed America.
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