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West Jordan Journal

Local author writes book about female pioneer entrepreneur

Mar 04, 2024 12:38PM ● By Linda Steele

Melissa Tyler (Courtesy Jonathon Tyler)

Melissa Tyler, a local West Jordan author wrote a book about Patty Bartlett Sessions, midwife pioneer born 220 years ago. She crossed the wild frontier and delivered 4,000 babies. The picture on the front of Tyler’s book is a drawing of Sessions with a rattlesnake. She killed a rattlesnake on the wild frontier. Not only was Sessions a midwife, she was a general practitioner taking care of everybody who was sick.  “In the story people would come to her to heal their horses. People would say, ‘if you know how to heal people you know how to heal animals,’” Tyler said.  Patty Bartlett Sessions’ journals are published through the Utah State Press by Donna Toland Smart.  

Sessions’ story is full of incredible adventure and history. “Patty was an entrepreneur, and I want my girls and other girls as well to glean who she was, that hard working entrepreneurial woman.  The book is for adults as well,” Tyler said.  

Sessions is Tyler’s fourth Great Grandmother. Tyler was interested in becoming a midwife, however she didn’t end up doing that. Tyler wants to learn all she can about Sessions because it’s important to her that her daughters be inspired to reach their goals and not be afraid to have a career. “Patty was within the Mormon culture where the ideal is to be a stay-at-home Mom and you don’t have a career, but what Patty showed was, she did everything,” Tyler said. 

Sessions was a business woman. She was one of the first ZCMI stock holders. She had about $16,000 invested in ZCMI stock back then, which would be roughly $326,000 today. She was the largest contributor to the Logan temple. She had a lot of real estate, and contributed to the Salt Lake City temple. She lived where the Gateway Mall is now. Her son Perrigrine Sessions settled Bountiful in 1847. Sessions opened a school. People would go to her for loans. She had a nursery where people would get trees from her, and she operated a bed and breakfast for people coming in and out of Utah. She came from Maine. She had a loom and would weave customers wool so they could make material to make their clothes. “She was industrious and had an entrepreneurial spirit and she was a prominent member of society,” Tyler said.  Sessions would work with other midwives and doctors to share ideas of what was working and who was sick and how they could combat illnesses.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has original archives, and Sessions is noted in history on footnotes. People reference Sessions and use her journal because it is so significant. 

“A lot of Utahns go to church and have lessons from men’s personal history and stories. It is so refreshing to read a woman’s journey in Patty’s journal, her perspective and her story. I have this dream that I would highlight all the major women in Utah pioneer history. But, “Woman of the Wild Frontier” took six years to write. It was a long labor of love. It took two years of research such as reading her journal, reading sources, and trying to understand where she fit into history,” Tyler said. 

Tyler found an illustrator and started working with her and created a whole script. She wrote what she wanted the pictures to look like, what she wanted the footnotes to say, and communicating back and forth with graphic details took a lot of time. 

Her illustrator Luciana Maruca lives in Bueno Aires, Argentina. She has been drawing her whole life. She started drawing professionally 16 years ago. Maruca was able to take what Tyler said and put it together. Tyler feels very lucky that Luciana saw her vision and was able to tap right into it. 

Maruca’s first memory of when she started drawing was when she was 3 years old she drew an eclectic drawing on her mom’s sofa. Her mom wasn’t happy about it. She was a shy kid, and what she couldn’t say ended up on paper. She loved illustrated books and animated films, that is what she wanted to do when she grew up. Her dad and uncle were artists. Her uncle was a great artist and she loved spending time with him and drawing. Her first steady professional work was on comic books coloring on her husband’s pages. Maruca started illustrating books professionally 16 years ago. She met Tyler after she had just finished a graphic novel, and was looking for work. She found an online platform called Guru. Tyler had the script of her story all written down and needed somebody to illustrate it. Maruca saw Tyler’s book and they wrote to each other.  At first Maruca never thought she could get the details of how Tyler wanted the illustrations. Tyler replied to Maruca and thanked her for being so honest and was interested in what her process was. Maruca ended up drawing all the pictures in “Midwife of the Wild Frontier.”

Maruca has a passion for drawing. She always felt like she was good at it, and she enjoyed it. “Sometimes it’s hard and challenging, but when you are focused all of sudden things start appearing on the page, they weren’t there before and now they are. It’s kind of magical and you feel like everything else disappears, the world around you disappears. Time goes at a different speed. You look up, the sun is shining, then it’s night, and I didn’t notice the time going by. I just love it,” Maruca said. 

Tyler wanted to write this book because there are things in Utah pioneer history that many want to justify. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is a great historian that wrote “A Midwife’s Tale.” Ulrich’s book helped Tyler understand how Sessions fit into a lot of historical contexts.  “But when we read women’s journals we have to sit with the uncomfortableness of the truth and maybe recognize where we were wrong. In reading Patty’s journal it is heavy because you are feeling their feelings,” Tyler said.  Sessions writes what it was like to live in polygamy. When Tyler wrote the story she likes to write with humor, some frivolity and some sarcasm. “I don’t try to explain away the history or justify it, it’s just presented as is. Sometimes we just have to sit with that, and it’s okay. I want to give the book its true authenticity,” Tyler said. 

“Midwife of the Wild Frontier” is available on Amazon, Kindle, The King’s English book shop, Benchmark Books and Marissa’s Bookshop. 

Tyler’s email is [email protected]    λ