While many women headed west on the Santa Fe Trail with their families, some hired on with the Army or freighters.
Regardless of why these women traveled west, their responsibilities remained the same. Cooking, laundry, and medical care were their primary responsibilities. If they had small children, they squeezed caring for their children in between other duties.
What stood out to these women along the journey? Diaries and journals showed most women were concerned about the number of grave markers along the trail. Some documented the varying plants, animals, and landscapes along the trail. Disease and death topped their list of things feared.
Despite the tough journey, many women traveled west. While their presence was often seen as objectionable on the wagon trains, their presence alone prompted better sanitation, better meals, and the men traveling with them tended to take fewer risks.
Dary, David. The Santa Fe Trail: Its History, Legends and Lore. New York: Penguin Group, 2000.
Georgi-Findlay, Brigitte. The Frontiers Of Women’s Writing : Women’s Narratives And The Rhetoric Of Westward Expansion. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996.