- Paperback: 310 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (10 April 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300089244
- ISBN-13: 978-0300089240
- Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.2 x 19.6 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,417,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Women and Men on the Overland Trail (Yale Nota Bene) Paperback – 10 Apr 2001
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"A helpful study which not only illuminates the daily life of rural Americans but which also begins to compensate for the male orientation of so much of western history." -- Journal of Social History
"An enlightening study." -- American West
"Faragher has made excellent use of the Overland Trail materials, using them to illuminate the society the emigrants left as well as the one they constructed en route. His study should be important to a wide range of readers, especially those interested in family history, migration and western history, and women's history." -- Kathryn Kish Sklar
From the Back Cover
A lively and penetrating analysis of what the overland journey was really like for midwestern farm families in the mid-1800s. Through the subtle use of contemporary diaries, memoirs, and even folk songs, Faragher dispels the common stereotypes of male and female roles and reveals in a new and absorbing fashion the dynamics of pioneer family relationships.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Faragher's story is generally about the migration of families, and more specifically about the role of women in this migration and their relationships to men within marriages during the 1840s and 1850s. He bases his analyses on 169 diaries and other narratives from women. He then extrapolates to women in general who he believes were coerced into moving west by the socially-constructed dominance of their husbands. Whether it is fair or right to assign the emotions of 169 women to the thousands of women who left no journals, is debatable. He uses a large cohort but not necessarily a representative one. The tables that Faragher compiled in Appendix 1, however, do corroborate his contention that the migrants were young, married, from the Midwest, and took with them only the necessities to start up a new life.
It shouldn't be a surprise that women of were less free than men; women had few rights prior to the 20th Century. Their roles were limited to such activities as cooking, cleaning, sewing, bearing children, nurturing the family, and teaching. As such, their work was never done and they could never rest. During migration, women no longer had their own sphere of influence (a home); instead, they were forced to work within the boundaries of male structure (the trail). Women wanted to bring their culture with them, such as the music, clothing, and literature from back East; yet even here, men controlled which parts of their culture to transport to a new land. What little they included was often discarded along the trail. Women were isolated on the trail, having supportive camaraderie from other women only at the sufferance of men. Men, however, "were never short on company; there were always other men on the road." (p 143) In their diaries, women expressed their sorrow at leaving their lives behind, their fears for the families and the future, and their sense of aloneness on the trail. However, they kept their opinions to themselves when men were present since they remained dependent upon those men.
Men made all the critical decisions and ultimately shouldered the responsibility for the success or failure of the migration. However, women, according to Faragher, shouldered more than their fair share of duties. In addition to socially-defined women's work, women also performed male duties such as driving wagons and handling livestock. Women excelled at women's work as well as men's work. Left unsaid by Faragher is that the blurring of the division of labor led to strong, independent women with the self-esteem to perform any task. It led to women obtaining socio-political rights such as the vote first in the West. This fact could and should have been linked to the strengths that women learned and obtained while migrating and creating a new homestead.
Dr. Faragher's effort is a righteous work of how families coexisted both before and during these times. It was a working relationship. Meaningful romance and a companionate marriage took a back seat.
The overload of this fine book is the redundant "woman good, man bad" theme. We are well aware of the hardships women endured during the nineteenth century by performing nearly every task at hand. She was a super human. No social life, just plain hard work all the time.
We are also aware that man was responsible for the "other" duties both on the farm and while traveling the trail. This was life back then, and though times have changed for the better, there is still room for improvement between the sexes.
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