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The Female Frontier

A Comparative View of Women on the Prairie and the Plains

Glenda Riley

xii, 292 pages, 33 photographs, 6 x 9
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-0424-1, $16.95

Book Cover ImageThis book introduces the important concept of a female frontier--a frontier "every bit as real and coherent, as, for example, the mining frontier." It gives us a new understanding of western women's shared experiences and of the full implications of their participation in America's westward movement.

Riley has reconstructed women's roles and concerns from census data, legal proceedings, newspaper accounts, local histories, essays, sermons, novels, photographs, works of art, and in large part from their own words, as recorded in diaries, day books, journals, letters, memoirs, reminiscences, and interviews. These women include the barely literate and the educated, the young and the old, single and married, white and black, native-born and immigrant. What emerges is a new understanding of the shared experiences--at home, in paid employment, and in community activities--that constituted the female frontier.

"A major comparative frontier study. . . . Riley provides new information on women's lives in the West."--Sandra L. Myres, author of Westering Women and the Frontier Experience

"An important book, well researched and clearly written. Riley argues for the existence of a women's frontier, coexistent with, though quite different from, a men's frontier."--Nebraska History

"A valuable contribution. . . . Riley's thesis is that it is neither plains nor prairie as such that structured the frontierswoman's life, but rather that the traditional female patterns of domesticity, motherhood, and social responsibilities followed her to her new western home, whether that be crude sod or town frame. . . . The reader learns in detail of everyday life for women of these areas. . . . The notes alone would be worth the price of the book."--Colorado Libraries

"This beautifully researched study is part of an important new trend in western historiography. In intriguing and revealing detail, Riley demonstrates that while pioneer men's lives were characterized by variety, women's were marked by sameness and consistency."--Elliott West, author of The Saloon on the Rocky Mountain Mining Frontier

"A vivid portrait of women's domestic, occupational, and civic activities . . . and a valuable elaboration of important themes."--Gerald W. McFarland, author of A Scattered People: An American Family Moves West

"What a wealth of information! If you want to know about almost any subject concerning frontier women, this book will quickly summarize existing knowledge and . . . tell you where to go for more."--Minnesota History

"Anyone interested in women's history and western history will want to read and study this book."--Pacific Historical Review

GLENDA RILEY, professor of history at the University of Northern Iowa, is the author of Frontierswomen: The Iowa Experience, Women and Indians on the Frontier, 1825-1915, and Inventing the American Woman: A Perspective on Women's History, 1607 to the Present.

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