At the end of this week Women Writing the West will hold their annual conference in Redmond, Oregon. Perhaps for that reason, Susan G. Butruille’s 1993 work Women’s Voices from the Oregon Trail called from my bookshelf.
It begins: “Some thought they were brave. Some–like Horace Greeley (contrary to popular belief)–said they were nuts: those people who traveled more than 2,000 miles across prairie and sage, mountains and valleys and rivers and God only knew what else, in search of–what? Free land. Free-dom. Better health. Adventure. Themselves. Some went because they couldn’t say no. Those in that last category were women.”
The book draws extensively from diaries, letters and reminiscences of women who actually went west on the trail. The back matter includes a lengthy bibliography.
I was entertained by the following statement about women by a “new husband.”
I calculate ‘taint of much account to have a woman if she ain’t of no use…every man ought to have a woman to do his cookin’ and such like, [because] it’s easier for them than it is for us. They take to it kind o’ naturally…I reckon women are some like horses and oxen, the biggest can do the most work, and that’s what I want one for.”
I hope that new wife set him straight!