The 21st Century Pioneer Woman

A few months ago I purchased “Pioneer Women: The Lives of Women on the Frontier,” a wonderful book by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith.  It described the tremendous hardships 19th century women encountered when relocating to the American West.

Of particular note was Pamelia Fergus of Little Falls, Minnesota, who “had been on her own for nearly four years by the time her husband finally sent word that he was ready for the family to join him in the West.  Faced with the task of readying herself and her four children for the trip to the Montana territory, Pamelia followed a three-page memorandum from James in gathering the items she was to take on her journey…”

I cannot even begin to fathom traveling alone in 1864 via covered wagon to an unknown territory with four young children in my care.   To think Pamelia did so gives me courage in my own journey.

My husband and I are relocating to the Mid-Atlantic region.  (Hence the scarce blog posts the last couple months!)  Actually, Ed is already there, having started a new job.  My son and I are still at home in California, having prepared our home for sale and are now about ready to load up the dogs into the SUV and make the 2600 mile drive east.

Some days are quite overwhelming, thinking of all that is involved in such a transition.  It is on those days I remind myself how “easy” I have it in comparison to Pamelia Fergus, or my own 4th great grandmother, Betsy Wasgatt Stanwood, who traveled from Maine to Minnesota between 1865 to 1870, and then back to Maine where she died in 1874.

How did Pamelia manage four years without James?  How did she make it all those miles to Montana with kids in tow?  These are questions I asked myself as I struggled with some of the day-to-day responsibilities my husband would usually handle.  (Emptying heavy trash cans into the trash dumpster, maintaining the chemical balance of our swimming pool, finding time in my schedule to take my car to the mechanic for an oil change, and finding reputable home repairmen were some of my challenges!)

Yes, there is a lot modern women take for granted.  However, when I’m lamenting life without my husband nearby, I have determined to think of Pamelia and Betsy and how “easy” I have it in comparison to their trials as 19th century pioneer women!


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