Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Never Would Have Made It To Oregon

I recently finished a very interesting book called Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey, by Lillian Schlissel. It's a somewhat scholarly book based on--you may have guessed this--the many diaries kept by women who were on their way west in wagons.

It's a really good book, especially if, like me, you've always been fascinated by pioneers, but what really struck me was how many of the women on these awful journeys were pregnant and/or had very young children. And what's even more amazing in the case of the pregnant women is that they didn't even mention it in their diaries--their personal diaries!--until they delivered the babies. In one case, the woman had something like seven children and delivered her eighth three days after arriving at their stopping place. After a particularly grueling end of the journey that required her to walk up a slippery, wet mountain trail while carrying her toddler.

Also amazing is that the diaries aren't continuous bitch-fests. You know mine would have been. Not whiners, those women.

So I shall restrain myself from whining too much about all the frantic Halloween activity yesterday morning with Cubby and Charlie and story hours and trick-or-treating and preschool parties and OH MY GOD so much sugar. I just won't. Because I'm pretty sure the covered-wagon women wouldn't have much sympathy.


Drew @ How To Cook Like Your Grandmother said...

I'm just enough of a cynic to say there was more to it than plain old fortitude. These were women who had given up their entire lives for the chance at something better. They had to believe that they had made the right decision.

The other factor is that the ones who admitted even a little self doubt turned around, and their diaries didn't make it into the book.

Still, I have no doubt any (non-rich) woman in the 1800s worked harder every day than I do in an average week.

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Drew: There's something to that, although I had to smile at the idea of any woman getting to mke the decision herself to turn around. I bet you a lot of money most of those women would never have gone in the first place had it been up to them, and many of those that did would have turned around. Had it been up to them. But it wasn't. They followed their husbands, because they had to.

Daisy said...

I love that book! I was amazed at the moms who gave birth on the trip - with little or no support or privacy. These were very strong women!

FinnyKnits said...

I am always amazed by the apparent badassery of people - men and women - of earlier generations. Whether they're pioneers heading west or exploring the polar ice caps or whatever. They're fucking scary awesome.

If you've read The Endurance, about Shackleton's first exploration of Antartica, you know what I mean. Those guys sailed frozen seas, hiked across unmapped tundra and explored as yet unexplored areas of the earth AND THEN, after somehow not all dying and/or eating each other, they came home and went to war AND THEN MORE EXPLORING DANGEROUS SHIT.

And no whining. None. It blows my mind.

Makes me think everyone needs to sack the hell up and quit complaining, but then I forget to charge my cell phone and decide that life isn't worth living.

I would have died a quick pathetic death in olden times.