Dear Medora
Child of Oysterville’s Forgotten Years
by Sydney Stevens

With Foreword by Willard R. Espy

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When Medora Espy moved to Oysterville, Washington, as a toddler in 1902, the remote little village was long past its heyday. The population had dwindled and times were hard. Chores such as stacking wood, gathering eggs, chasing stray cows, and weeding the garden taught children responsibility and self-esteem. Frolicking in the shallow, warm waters of Willapa Bay, tramping hay in the loft and organizing crab bakes at the beach served as childhood amusements. Occasionally, a major event such as a shipwreck, a fire, or an escapade by one of the town’s more colorful inhabitants brought a modicum of excitement.

Dependable, devoted, and tender-hearted, Medora was the oldest child of Helen Richardson Espy (“Mama”) and Washington State senator and dairy farmer Harry Albert Espy (“Papa”). Due to family circumstance and to Oysterville’s geographic isolation, the Espys were frequently separated from one another for lengthy periods of time in the years that Medora was growing up. During these periods of absence, it was the daily correspondence between Mama and Medora that kept the family informed and the household running smoothly. The letters have been kept for a century and more – treasured keepsakes from a bygone era that, today, lend insight into the customs and beliefs of one American farm family during the early twentieth century.

The author, daughter of Medora’s youngest sister, Dale, places the letters in the context of their time, gently taking readers into the Espy home and inviting them to participate in the life of this remarkable family. The richly illustrated book beautifully exemplifies the use of primary non-traditional women’s history sources to tell an important story.

Medora's LettersIllustrations, maps, bibliography, index.
9″ x 101/2″, 192 pages
ISBN 978-0-87422-292-0



The book can be ordered through Washington State University Press, through  your favorite independent bookstore, or by clicking the affiliate link to to the left on this page.  By clicking this link to make your purchase, Sydney Stevens will receive a commission.

What they are saying about Sydney and Dear Medora…

“Party lines, laundry lines, Papa’s rooftop rain barrels, Mama’s recipe for Butter-scotch candy are brushed on layer by layer to summon up the tiny town of Oysterville as Medora Espy experienced it in the first two decades of the twentieth century.”

Paula Becker for
— The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History
for complete review see

“Who would have guessed that a rural life of only seventeen years, told through loving letters and diary entries, would make such a compelling book as this?  Given just the right context through the elegant words of Sydney Stevens, Medora’s story takes us gently by the hand and heart through a long-gone time, and doesn’t let go.”

Robert Michael Pyle, Author of Sky Time in  Grays Harbor

“These collected papers provide detailed insights into life in the early 20th century –  the morals and manners, the daily chores, and the ways in which the big events of the day, whether politics, time-saving inventions, or other events trickled down to affect individual lives.”

Barbara McMichael for The Olympian

Dear Medora is profusely illustrated with historical photographs. This body of lively correspondence opens a ‘window’ into an American yesteryear through the life and observations of a sensitive young woman.  Dear Medora is fascinating, rewarding, highly recommended reading and a welcome addition to American Regional History & Biography reference collections and supplemental reading lists.”

Midwest Book Review

As a modern-day member of the book’s accomplished Espy family, author Sydney Stevens could easily claim bragging rights when she interjects her own voice from time to time. Instead, it’s as if she stands unobtrusively in a corner of the family home—at the ready if an explanatory word is needed, but otherwise invisible.
…Reading this book, initially you’ll be thankful for what seem like basic necessities today—automatic washing machines and instant auto ignitions, for private telephones and hot-water taps. But, slowly, you’ll envy the imagination, wit, resilience, and cheer it took to carve out a warm and loving family life on the isolated shores of a cold bay on the western edge of our continent not even a century ago.

Susan Haynes, Senior Editor, Coastal Living Magazine

“The sentiments in these letters are as fresh as the mornings on which they were written. It is no wonder that Sydney Stevens, the daughter of Medora’s youngest sister, was charmed by them when she first encountered them in the Oysterville family homestead.”

Barbara McMichael for The Kitsap Sun

“If you have not seen Sydney Stevens’ latest book, Dear Medora, I heartily recommend it. It is a work of art. Published by WSU Press, it is garnering fine reviews.”

Steve Rogers, President, Pacific County Historical Society,
PCHS Newsletter, August 2007