I am currently reading Montana Women Homesteaders: A Field of One’s Own. I picked up it up, because I am always tracking down my own or someone else’s family history. One of my favorite things to check is the General Land Office records for information on homesteading. I love to find out that at one time someone went from what was then the civilized world to the edge of the wilderness out west. There they would set out to carve a better life.
I had read others books before on this subject and each of them helped me to better understand the hardships and the process. Though I have just started this book, it is different that the ones I have read before. It talks about that lack of person that women were at that time. Women were non-entities if they were married. Yet in spite of women not being able to vote, own property, and so many of the things we take for granted today, they could homestead.
There is some speculation in the book the absence of gender in the homestead act, was a deliberate omission. The proposed reason for this omission is that without women the west would never be civilized. Women frowned on drinking, gambling, caused churches to be built, married and had children. All of this was needed in the west and giving them free land would get them there. Women were important, withouth them civilation would cease to exist.