Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Strong Pioneer Women

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.”

Happy trails,

Pam Hillman

Friday, July 08, 2005

Pioneer women and the origin of calico cloth

I have always been fascinated with the westward expansion, especially the pioneer woman’s role in it. Traditionally, we think only men had the wanderlust to explore the west and “go where no man has gone before”. But I’d like to think that some of the women were as anxious to "go" as the men were!

I named this blog “Calico” to honor our pioneer women and “Trails” to capture the flavor of the era. Then I got to thinking about the origin of calico.

Many of you are probably familiar with the fact that pioneer women used calico cloth to make dresses, curtains, quilts and even shirts for their men. But where did it come from? Where did the name calico originate from? A little research was in order!

Calico is a coarse brightly printed cotton fabric generally printed with two-color patterns. The sturdiness and bright colors helped the cloth to hold up to long, hard wear, something that was sorely needed when money was hard to come by, not to mention the fact it might be hundreds of miles to the nearest bolt of fresh cloth.

History says that calico originated as a fine weave in Calicut, India. Europe saw the earliest imports of calicoes during the Renaissance, and later Europe and the United States textile mills began manufacturing their own versions of the hardy cloth.

In my research about calico, I ran across the Riverpoint Lace Works, Inc. in West Warwick, RI. The history page describes the early textile industry in the New England states. It doesn't specifically mention calico, but it's got some great pictures of the industry and very interesting reading!

Oh…one more link! It’s just SO cute. I wanted to show you some pictures of calico dresses and found this on ebay. Darling! I’m not sure how authentic the pattern is, but I’d love to have the dress myself!

That's enough for today. Soon, we'll dig into the past and learn about some of the women who were brave enough to go where no pioneer woman had gone before!

Happy trails!

Pam

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Talk about Jumping in with Both Feet!

I've been thinking about starting a blog, but wasn't sure I wanted to attempt such a feat. Then I started to make a comment on another blog, and it said I had to be "registered". So I followed the links and here I am. My very own blog! Within minutes!

Whadaya know!