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The Female Frontier: A Comparative View of Women on the Prairie and the Plains / Edition 1

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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. . ."—Colorado Libraries

"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 History

"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."—Nebraska History

"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."—Elliott West, author of The Saloon on the Rocky Mountain Mining Frontier

"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

"A vivid portrait of women's domestic, occupational, and civic activities . . . and a valuaable elaboration of important themes."—Gerald W. McFarland, author of A Scattered People: An American Family Moves West

Nebraska History
An important book, well researched and clearly written.
Colorado Libraries
A valuable contribution. . . . The notes alone would be worth the price of the book.
Minnesota History
If you want to know about almost any subject concerning frontier women, this book will quickly summarize existing knowledge.
Pacific Historical Review
Anyone interested in women's history and western history will want to read and study this book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700604241
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 4/28/1988
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Table of Contents


1. The Female Frontier: Definitions, Interpretations, and Images

2. A Profile of Frontierswomen on the Prairie and the Plains

3. Home and Hearth on the Prairie

4. Home and Hearth on the Plains

5. Employment and Income Production on the Prairie

6. Employment and Income Production on the Plains

7. Community Participation on the Prairie

8. Community Participation on the Plains

9. The Female Frontier on the Prairie and on the Plains



Note on the Sources


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