In the settlement of the American West, we can distinguish between the mining frontier, starting with the Gold Rush in California, and the agricultural frontier. This is a course about the agricultural frontier of the middle of America, and the pioneers who farmed it. Extending from Texas up to Canada, this area was labeled the Great American Desert on early 19th century maps, and in the 20th century was known as The Dust Bowl. Many people refer to it today as the Great Plains.
The material we will explore in this course is about the lives of the women pioneers who made the trip to help settle this vast area. These women came as brides-to-be from small European towns and cities, along with the wives of settlers who migrated up from the South or across from the eastern side of the country, after the Civil War and the passage of the Homestead Act.
We will discuss the memoir of a mail-order-bride from Europe in Rachel Calof’s Story, the novel of a pioneer woman who became a prolific writer with Willa Cather’s My Antonia, and end with a memoir of a contemporary writer and pioneer woman from South Dakota, Linda Hasselstroms’s Feels Like Far.
Rachel Calof’s Story, My Antonia, and Feels Like Far