When I was younger, one of my favorite daydreams was that I was a woman back in the frontier days. I spent hours day dreaming about the adventures I’d have traveling across the country in a covered wagon. I’d see all sorts of exciting people and places. I’d get to cook over an open fire and sleep outside under the stars. Of course, that all sounds like an amazing adventure until you take into consideration the heat, storms, bugs, sickness, and danger that was all too common during that time period. That time period has always continued to be one of my favorites and when my husband and I considered setting up our own homestead in rural Vermont, it gave me a thrill to know that in a small way, I was experiencing a few things that these women did.
Women of the Frontier: 16 Tales of Trailblazing Homesteaders, Entrepreneurs, and Rabble-Rousers by Brandon Marie Miller contains stories of women who set off from their homes to cross the country to what they hoped would be a better life. These stories are compiled by Miller based on her collection of journal entries, letters home, and song lyrics written by women who made this journey. The book contains abridged biographies, striking period photos, and a variety of resources that can be used for further study of this time period.
When I think of women of the frontier, I think of the women who traveled along with their husbands. However, there were a number who were single who traveled alone either in search of a new life or in hopes of adventure. The stories included in this book include those of women in different circumstances who were traveling for different reasons. You learn to see the trip through their eyes, which is often quite different than the trip through the eyes of a man. Women faced many challenges while on this trek, including caring for children, preparing meals, taking care of laundry, and other types of women’s work. They were responsible for caring for the young and sick even when they were sick themselves. Many women traveled across country while pregnant and gave birth on the trip. I cannot imagine how difficult it was to not only give birth and care for a newborn while traveling but to also be responsible for six or seven other children and all of the chores at the same time.
The author shows you the impact that pioneers had on the people who already lived in the area including the Native Americans and people of Spanish descent. This includes competition for resources, culture clash, and illness. You will also learn about the work of Susette LaFlesche and Sarah Winnemucca, who fought the government’s treatment of the American Indians. The stories of these women take place mostly during the 1840s and 1880s and include well known women like Carry Nation, Margaret Reed (Donner Party), and Susette LaFlesche, who is well known for her work championing the cause of the Native Americans.
Women of the Frontier is a fascinating read for anyone who has an interest in that time period. I love seeing the trip through the eyes of a woman and this book definitely gave me a clearer understanding of the challenges and hardships that a woman had to face during that time. There are a great number of black and white photographs throughout the book that really helped me visualize their lives. This is a definite must read.Powered by Sidelines