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The 1860s Woman Part 1: Occupations

In many of my novels, I love to put women in untraditional roles like:

While some of these occupations may seem unusual for the 1860s - 1890s, many were commonplace in the Arizona Territory.

Western women in the 1860s worked in a variety of occupations. Traditional occupations included: school teacher, domestics, boardinghouse worker, and laundry and sewing services.

During the territorial days of Arizona, women worked in many non-traditional roles as well. One source sites women working as type setters for newspapers, clerks for the territorial legislature, and even mining. As the territory grew, some women worked as photographers, attorneys, mail carriers, hotel clerks, and missionaries.

On the western frontier, many women worked in the medical profession, often providing the only care when military or male doctors were not present. Many women learned various remedies for common aliments. They were also called upon in emergencies, sometimes working on severe injuries. Very few had any sort of formal training. But life in the wilderness called many people to rise above the circumstance and their knowledge—improvising as needed.

In 1865, the legislature passed a law that allowed married women to act as an independent businessperson from their husband as long as they took in ad in the newspaper announcing their intent to operate as a “sole trader”. Women who sold eggs from their ranches, operating as a sole trader, had legal rights to keep that money as her own.


Banks, Leo W. Stalwart Women. Phoenix, Ariz.: Arizona Highways Books, 1999.

Savage, Pat. One last frontier : a story of Indians, early settlers and old ranches of Northern Arizona. New York: Exposition Press, 1964.

Sharlott Hall Days Past Archives. 4 4 2010 <>.



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