I must have too much time on my brain: not on my hands, mind you, because I’m always busy with something it seems. But my mind does have time to wonder and ponder things.
I wonder what thoughts went through pioneer women’s heads when they realized they were about to embark on trip that would take them thousands of miles away from friends and family that they would likely never see again? Did they think of the trek as an adventure?
If so, I wonder if their views changed when they faced their first river crossing, when the wagon train had its first casualty, or when one of their children got sick and died?
I wonder how they kept their sanity living in a soddy in the middle of the prairie without seeing another woman for months on end?
Some toughed it out much the way women all over the world have done for centuries, and some couldn’t face the trauma and retreated into a place inside their heads where they didn’t have to acknowledge the pain anymore.
It all boils down to wondering what I would have done? Would I have been a survivor or not? Would I have been terrified of the unknown that lay before me? With my nice house and air conditioning in the summer and heat pump in the winter, I'm afraid I'm much to wimpy to have managed as they did. And I also don't like change very much. I like to know what's around the next bend. But I'd like to think that faced with some of the same trials, I'd buck up and pull through.
I do know that the women who stood by their men and marched across this land and settled it, planting gardens and growing children into the next generation, were brave and determined and sacrificial.
They were true heroines.
I’m listing two books you might find interesting. I just ordered both of these, and I’ll let you all know how much I enjoyed them after they arrive.
Pioneer Girl by Andrea Warren
Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey (Studies in the Life of Women) by Lillian Schlissel
I'm in the middle of reading the online diary of Narcissa Whitman. This is an interesting account from 1836 as Narcissa accompanies her missionary husband westward. Their original destination was Oregon, but they settled in Walla Walla, forming a mission for the Cayuse Indians.
“Among the first American settlers in the West, the Whitmans played an important role in opening the Oregon Trail and left a tragic legacy that would continue to haunt relations between whites and Indians for decades after their deaths.”