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The 1860s Woman Part 2: Perception & Pursuits

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

In the 1860s, while eastern states saw women as equals, that was rarely the case in the west. The patriarch still ruled in the west, partly out of necessity. Often women moved west with their husbands, brothers, or parents. Many women worked long hours in the home on a farm or ranch, seeing to their families’ need for food, clean laundry, mended clothes, etc.

While many women were educated at least through the eighth grade level, the prevailing mindset of the period, especially in the west, was that women were not capable of understanding complex subjects like politics and statistics. Socially acceptable interests for women included domestic subjects, geography, botany, history, zoology, and ethnology.

One source calls the mindset towards women as “feminine understatement”*. Women’s intellect and reasoning ability were often downplayed, even by women themselves, in both their writing and speech.

Thankfully, we have come a long way from those days. I, for one, am glad to be a woman in the 2000s.

Check out my Prescott Pioneers Series for a historically accurate and entertaining series about the birth of the Arizona Territory.


Georgi-Findlay, Brigitte. The Frontiers Of Women's Writing : Women's Narratives And The Rhetoric Of Westward Expansion. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996.

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



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