by Susan G. ButruilleThe road led west across the Great American Desert, over mountains, through canyons and down the biggest river in the country. The "fever" for land ownership and the over crowded cities gave people the incentive to travel 2,000 miles with all the belongings they could carry on their horse, their back or in a wagon that usually didn't last the trip.
The road was difficult and arduous. Often the women were not even asked by their husbands if they wanted to go. Many were unwilling to leave home where family and friends would be nearby when a baby was to be born, a barn was to be raised or a hog was to be butchered. Susan Butruille's book reveals the woman's side of the journey. The women were as brave and often more hard working than the men. Their jobs were certainly more necessary for the basic living: fetching water, cooking meals (often gathering berries and other edibles along the way). Washing laundry sounds like a monstrous task as told by Butruille.
First in her Women's Voices series, Butruille, opens a discussion about what life was like for women in the past in a way which provides the reader with a glimpse into the hardships that women suffered along the trail. Having studied the Oregon Trail from the overall view, I found that her book gave me something I didn't get anywhere else, the viewpoint from an average woman's eye. No other book that I read during my self-taught mini-course made me take a look at what the journey might have been like for me, had I been born into that time. It was a startling thing to think that my husband could have said "Load up!" and I'd had no choice in the matter.
The recipes, or "receipts" as they were called, are fun to read but as often as not the quantity sizes would not suit most families' meals today and many things were taken for granted. For instance, in 1843, women were expected to know how much salt to add to a flour dough mix to make bread or how high the heat had to be to bake it.
Common knowledge has changed much in the last 150 years, and Butruille's book helps the reader, particularly women, know just how much has changed: In many ways for the better. I know that I'm counting my blessings.
~Bridget E. Smith, Historical Gazette
Non-fiction, women's issues, western history, multi-ethnic history
Northwest Corner Books HIS036040
5.5 x 8.5Women's History, Western History ISBN-10: 1941890261 (Trade Paperback)
Number of illustrations: 128
ISBN-13: 9781941890264 (Ebook)