Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement: Life on the Home Frontier

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9780806126197: Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement: Life on the Home Frontier

During the last half of the nineteenth century, thousands of men went west in search of gold, land, or adventure-leaving their wives to handle family, farm, and business affairs on their own. The experiences of these westering men have long been a part of the lore of the American frontier, but the stories of their wives have rarely been told. Ten years of research into public and private documents-including letters of couples separated during the westward movement-has enabled Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith to tell the forgotten stories of "women in waiting."

Though these wives were left more or less in limbo by the departure of their adventuring husbands, they were hardly women in waiting in any other sense. Children had to be fed, clothed, housed, and educated; farms and businesses had to be managed; creditors had to be paid or pacified and, in some cases, hard-earned butter-and-egg money had to be sent west in response to letters from broke and disillusioned husbands.

This raises some unsettling questions: How does the idea of an "allowance" from home square with our long-standing image of the frontiersman as rugged individualist? To what extent was the westward movement supported by the paid and unpaid labor of women back east? And how do we measure the heroics of husbands out west against the heroics of wives back home?

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About the Author:

Ursula Smith pursued graduate work at San Francisco State University under a Ford Foundation Fellowship and taught in the San Francisco school system. She began collaborative work in women's history and biography with coauthor Linda Peavy in Bozeman, Montana. Since then Peavy and Smith have coauthored ten books, including Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement, Pioneer Women, Frontier Children, and Frontier House. Currently residing in Vermont, Smith has given presentations and workshops with Peavy across the nation, including at the Library of Congress and the White House. With Peavy she has been awarded a Redd Center for Western Studies Independent Research Award, a Smithsonian Short-Term Visitors grant, two nonfiction writing residencies at Centrum, Port Townsend, Washington, and two Paladin Awards for excellence in writing western history.

From Publishers Weekly:

``I don't think we can live this way much longer and I hope you will not ask me to.'' When Emma Stratton Christie wrote these words in June of 1884, she and her five sons, aged seven months to nine years, were living in a tiny granary on her brother's Minnesota farm while her husband David was searching for the perfect homestead in the Montana Territory. He had already been absent for more than two years, with an occasional visit home, and it would be another year before the family was reunited in Montana--in a one-room cabin with a lean-to kitchen. Emma Christie was far from alone in her plight. Beginning with the California Gold Rush of 1849, tens of thousands of men left their families in search of gold, land or adventure, leaving their wives, sometimes for years at a time, to manage families and businesses on their own. Some women rose to the occasion, discovering a flair for business, while others waited in poverty, holding off debtors while trying to feed large families. Without detracting from the very real hardships and dangers endured by westering men, independent scholars Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith ( The Gold Rush Widows of Little Falls ) relate the experiences of more than 50 women, focusing on the stories of six, whose correspondence and diaries have survived in archives. The loneliness and fears of these all-but-abandoned women speak eloquently over the years.

Copyright 1994 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Smith, Ursula
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Book Description University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1994. Softcover. Book Condition: New. 400 pages. Softcover. New book. AMERICAN WEST. During the last half of the nineteenth century, thousands of men went west in search of gold, land, or adventure - leaving their wives to handle family, farm, and business affairs on their own. Ten years of research into public and private documents - including letters of couples separated during the westward movement - has enabled Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith to tell the forgotten stories of "women in waiting." (Key Words: Women's Studies, Linda Peavy, Ursula Smith, American West, Letters). book. Bookseller Inventory # 62891X1

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