Qualities of American pioneer women

Posted: September 6th, 2013





Qualities of American pioneer women

The pioneer concept can be understood in various ways. It can be interpreted as a person who ventures into unknown realms, areas of thought or development. In American history, pioneers were unique individuals who explored and colonized new regions. Such understanding of pioneers included colonists who invaded unclaimed land and settled there. Contemporary definitions of pioneers have included an aspect of innovation among people that has improved the lives of humankind. Women in America have had a limited opportunity to rise up as significant people within society mainly because of the gender inequality and stereotypes but some have managed to have the qualities to overcome these setbacks to make an impact on the world.

Ann Eliza Leavitt

Ann Leavitt was a resident of Utah and was married to Samuel Baker to whom she bore six daughters before moving to Canada. The trip to Canada had many incidents where Mrs. Leavitt was forced to perform first aid to the rest of her family members. Their living conditions were also very basic, uncomfortable and unsanitary. In 1891, Ann Leavitt gave birth to Samuel Leavitt Baker. Jr. The first years of settling in Canada were also difficult for Ann and her family. The cold winter conditions lowered the amount of grain available for harvest and Ann learnt the best ways to live frugally. Her quality of survival during hardships is one that was common among American pioneer women. Apart from being able to take care of her family, Ann Leavitt was a nurse as well as an experienced midwife (Joseph 34).

Ann Eliza Leavitt possessed the quality of selfless love and care towards her patients. She was always ready and willing to serve ill patients at their bedsides. At her home, she had eleven children whom she supported throughout their childhood. Even though she had all these children, she took time out to care for other people who needed help, displaying her hardworking qualities. During her period as a midwife, over six hundred babies were delivered without harm to neither child nor mother. Stories of how she rescued and resuscitated children who were drowning as well as rushing in the middle of the night to help a pregnant woman who had problems giving birth prove how caring and concerned Ann Leavitt was. Anne Leavitt was also the President of the Local Relief Society for over twenty-six years. She was able to take care of her family and the society on her own, something that many American pioneer women were able to do in their days.

A strong religious faith was also a common quality among pioneer women in America. Ann Leavitt was a staunch Christian who committed all of her activities before the Lord. During times of distress, Ann often prayed for strength and perseverance that helped in reassuring her and her family members. In one instance, during a scarlet fever outbreak during the winter, the local doctor was unable to visit the home and treat Anne. The whole family led by their father went into prayer for their family member’s quick recovery. On her part, Anne committed herself to doing well and caring for others if God healed her sickness. Within a short time, she had fully recovered. Her faith made her live for over forty more years after she was diagnosed with cancer. Pioneer women took their religions and faith very seriously, this made their families and dependants rely on them in times of suffering.

Nannie T Alderson

            Nannie Alderson and her husband Walt Alderson first settled in Miles City in 1883 from Virginia. Both her and her husband had made investment in cattle stock with the hopes that they would prosper from the business and live comfortably. Nannie helped and supported her husband in making the investment decisions and starting their new life together. Pioneer women were always helpful and supportive to their husbands regardless of circumstances. However, their plans did not materialize as planned. The housekeeping demands increased drastically and reached the peak when she was invaded by Indians on the day she gave birth to her first-born. The winter season also brought more hardships to the family every year (Gerson 56). After ten years and four children, Nannie and Walt had all but lost their dream of the perfect homestead. Later on, Walt died in a horse accident leaving Nannie alone to fend for her and the children.

Nannie Alderson displayed the quality of perseverance and skillful purchasing when she moved out in a period where the climate was favourable for agriculture and the banks were flexible in giving out loans. She took a loan from the bank and used the money for agriculture so that she could support her children. Nannie was known for her gardening skills and things went well for a while. Unexpectedly, the rainfall disappeared and the banks called in their loans leaving Nannie with very little to live on. She faced a long period of drought, cold winters and low commodity prices. However, she continued to endure theses tough situations, feeding her children as well as providing for other needs. Nannie Alderson displayed undying love for her children and those around her during their difficult times in Miles City. Some neighbors became more selfish and individualistic while Nannie took the opportunity to support the less privileged and poor. This demonstrated one of the many qualities of pioneer women in America, selflessness.

Pioneer women have the unique ability of being able to adapt to the surrounding environment. Ann Eliza Leavitt and Nannie Alderson were both from well-off backgrounds before they were exposed to harsh conditions. However, they were very quick to adapt to the growing difficulties with ease that enabled them to see the best of the lives they led. Familiarity with hardships and Knowledge of survival were quite common qualities among American pioneer women. Nannie Alderson had a prosperous and stable financial background before moving out after which she became poorer. However, she quickly realized the state in which they were and sought the most comfortable way to live. This optimism and immeasurable strength oozed to her neighborhood and affected other people around her as well (Alderson et al 234).

Katherine Anne Porter and the jilting of Granny Weatherall

            The book The jilting of Granny Weatherall explores the conflict within the human mind as it copes with failure and humanity. The writer, Katherine Porter discusses the dominant themes of death, religion, betrayal and memory as seen through the eyes of an eighty-year old woman. Through a fictional character like Granny, Porter was able to provide a medium through which the historical and social events of the earlier period could be explored in a more comprehensive way. In the book, Granny comes across as someone who was detached from the time and place where she lived. However, the same author of the book, Katherine Porter can also be considered a contemporary pioneer as she derived most of the experience in her book from real life occurrences (Gale 16).

Katherine Porter was born in Texas to a poor family that shifted often so she had very little elementary education. After eloping with John Koontz, she persevered over five years of physical abuse in her marriage. After divorcing her husband, she went to seek a job as an actor in Chicago. She ended up working in a newspaper firm writing columns that paid her very little wages to do gossip columns. During her stay in Chicago, she was attacked by influenza and tuberculosis that affected her health adversely. Later on, she moved to Mexico and began collaborating with revolutionists such as Diego Rivera who sought to overturn the government. She also miscarried several times during her yearlong marriage to one Ernest Stock. The above chronology of events is a clear evidence of how Katherine Porter went through many problems with a brave face (Dalen 176). Such women were known for their unremitting strength during hard times. Their bravery on how they managed to get themselves out of such situations with so much optimism for life is something that baffles many contemporary women.

Pioneer women have a quality of being dedicated to their passions and work. Pioneer women showed exceptional dedication to override all obstacles and hurdles that they faced. Katherine Porter had a passion for writing that started when she was doing gossip columns for the Fort Worth Critic in Colorado. After recovering from a bout of influenza in 1918, Porter resumed writing fictional stories in New York and took up journalism in Mexico. This dedication for literature stayed within her up to 1922 when she published her first book: Outline of popular Mexican Arts and Crafts. In the same year, she also published her first fictional book, Maria Concepcion. Apart from her own publications, she also wrote for various journals and newspapers such as the Nation. In 1930, she successfully published a collection of short stories, Flowering Judas and Other Stories that reflected the strife in Mexico. Just like the rest of the pioneer women in America, passion, skillful sewing, intrepid traveling and exquisite homemaking skills, are only some of the endless qualities that Katherine possessed. Contemporary women need to adapt some of these qualities because times are as hard today as they were in the yesteryears.


Alderson, Nannie T, and Helena H. Smith. A Bride Goes West. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1969. Print.

Dalen Jenny. Montana’s Homesteading heritage. Montana Living. 27 August 2008. Web. Accessed on 16 July 2012. Retrieved from http://www.montanaliving.com/People/Montana-s-Homesteading-Heritage-526?nfc19320=80

Gale, Thomson. The Jilting of Granny Weatherall Essay & Criticism. Book rags. 2012. Web. Accessed on July 16, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-grannyweatherall/crit.html

Gerson, Kathleen. The Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation Is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.

Joseph, Peniel E. Waiting ’til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America. New York: Henry Holt and Co, 2006. Print.





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