True Women and Westward Expansion by Adrienne Caughfield

By Adrienne Caughfield

Expansion used to be the fever of the early 19th century, and ladies burned with it as definitely as males, even though differently. Subscribing to the “cult of real womanhood,” which valued domesticity, piety, and related “feminine” virtues, ladies championed growth for the reason for civilization, even whereas principally keeping off the masculine international of politics.

Adrienne Caughfield mines the diaries and letters of a few 90 Texas girls to discover the guidelines and enthusiasms they dropped at the Western frontier. even if there have been a number of extraordinary exceptions, such a lot of them drew on their family abilities and values to set up not just “civilization,” yet their very own protection. Caughfield sheds gentle on women’s activism (the turn aspect of domesticity), attitudes towards race and “civilization,” the tie among a imaginative and prescient of a unified continent and a cultivated desolate tract, and republican values. She bargains a brand new knowing of not just gender roles within the West but additionally the impulse for expansionism itself.

In Texas, Caughfield demonstrates, “women by no means stopped arriving with extra gasoline for the flames [of expansionism] as their households attempted to discover a spot to quiet down, a few position with a bit extra space, the place nationwide future and private goals merged right into a wonderful whole.” In doing so, Texas ladies elevated not just American borders, yet their very own as well.

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Even worse for emigrants, some tribes allowed female involvement in raids, such as one six-day visit to San Antonio in which Comanche men, women, and children raided the town at will. 28 Such beliefs affected white-Indian relations in various ways. The view of Indians as “savage” was nothing new, going as far back as the seventeenth century. It did not help matters that Texas’ Hispanic residents had struggled with Indian problems since first venturing into the region.    Although the quality of relations depended on the tribe, the presence of Apaches, Comanches, and others restricted growth and progress in Mexican Texas.

Chapman quailed at the territory around the Rio Grande where they were stationed. ” she wondered. ” First impressions meant little, she realized; it would take time to grow accustomed to more exotic surroundings. In fact, it did not take long before she wrote her son, who remained behind in Massachusetts, of the variety of fruits Texas offered lacking back home. “Our kind Heavenly Father loves all his children and divides his rich gifts equally among all,” she noted. 25 Chapman’s letter hints at a different perspective of the barren wilderness.

As bearers of civilization, whites had the responsibility to lead Indians to a more advanced state, leaving behind cultural detritus that limited them. Only by assimilating could natives survive. Later scholars have noted the irony of this philosophy; Native Americans might have persevered physically, but, culturally, assimilation would have exterminated them. Of course, nineteenth-century Americans would not have considered this worth discussion. In their eyes, the problem lay in the barrier “barbarism” presented to civilization.

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