The Female Frontier
A Comparative View of Women on the Prairie and the Plains
This book introduces the important concept of a female frontier—a frontier "every bit as real and coherent, as, for example, the mining frontier." It gives us a new understanding of western women's shared experiences and of the full implications of their participation in America's westward movement.
Riley has reconstructed women's roles and concerns from census data, legal proceedings, newspaper accounts, local histories, essays, sermons, novels, photographs, works of art, and in large part from their own words, as recorded in diaries, day books, journals, letters, memoirs, reminiscences, and interviews. These women include the barely literate and the educated, the young and the old, single and married, white and black, native-born and immigrant. What emerges is a new understanding of the shared experiences—at home, in paid employment, and in community activities—that constituted the female frontier.
“Riley argues for the existence of a women’s frontier, coexistent with, though quite different from, a men’s frontier. This is an important book, well researched and clearly written.”
“What a wealth of information Riley has included in her book! If you want to know about almost any subject concerning frontier women, this book will quickly summarize existing knowledge and, through extensive footnotes, tell you where to go for more.”
—Minnesota HistorySee all reviews...
“Riley’s thesis is that it is neither plains nor prairie as such that structured the frontierswoman’s life, but rather that the traditional female patterns of domesticity, motherhood, and social responsibilities followed her to her new western home, whether that be crude sod or town frame. . . . The reader learns in detail of everyday life for women of these areas. . . . This is a valuable contribution to the literature. . . . The notes alone would be worth the price of the book. . .”
“Anyone interested in women’s history and western history will want to read and study this book.”
—Pacific Historical Review
“A major comparative frontier study. . . . New information on women's lives in the West.”
—Sandra L. Myres, author of Westering Women and the Frontier Experience
"This beautifully researched study is part of an important new trend in western historiography. In intriguing and revealing detail, Riley demonstrates that while pioneer men’s lives were characterized by variety, women’s were marked by sameness and consistency."—See fewer reviews...