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Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement: Life on the Home Frontier

“Th[is] study demonstrates both the assumption that wives were essential partners in sustaining the family and that they could survive without the presence of their husbands...without the [women on] the homefront, the adventurer not only would have failed, but he would have lacked the inspiration for the enterprise.” 

--Western Historical Quarterly

“Without detracting from the very real hardships and dangers endured by westering men, independent scholars Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith relate the experiences of more than 50 women...The loneliness and fears of these all-but-abandoned women speak eloquently over the years.”

--Publishers Weekly

“Wives left behind by westward-traveling husbands in search of gold, land, or merely adventure were often left in socially and economically precarious positions. Peavy and Smith have pored over family documents to 'analyze the immediate and long-term effects...of the separated family in the westward movement...Because of the nature of the sources, the stories are very personal ones that draw the reader into an intimate awareness of life on the homeward side of the frontier movement.” 


“Peavy and Smith, two independent scholars, have followed the fortunes of more than 50...women [in waiting], sometimes focusing on the excruciatingly slow correspondence between the wives and their husbands. Their research reaises questions about the heroic image of these westering men and admits the women and children, themselves living on the 'home frontier,' into the pantheon.”

--USA Today



Descriptive blurb:

During the last half of the nineteenth century, thousands of men went west in search of gold, land, or adventure, leaving their wives to handle family, farm, and business affairs on their own. The experiences of these westering men have long been a part of the lore of the American frontier, but the stories of the wives they left behind have rarely been told. Ten years of research into public and private documents has enabled Peavy and Smith to tell their forgotten stories. Based on the experiences of more than fifty women, Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement offers a rare glimpse into life on the home frontier.