Women's West Book Analysis

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All Western historians and Women Historians should consider picking up a copy of the twenty-one essays collected and organized in the The Women’s West by Susan Armitage, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Jameson. Originally collected from the Women’s West Conference in 1983, it represents a cohesive and diverse perspective on the roles of women living in the Trans Mississippian West. In their book, Armitage and Jameson endeavor to recount the role of women through arguments attempting to rectify the historical record by dissecting the myth of the passive Western woman and paving the way for new methodology in exploring the relevant events and dynamics.
It follows a simple outline which first explores the omissions and biases in prior research; it transitions
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In the first article, Jameson cautions the reader on the dangers of excluding women from the narrative and offers suggestions for overcoming bias. Expectations derived from the acceptance of the “Cult of True Womanhood” continue to be the focal point for the chapter as Katherine Harris researches the actual circumstances of people’s lives. Women in the west experienced a greater degree of influence compared to their eastern counterparts due to the necessity of labor and their control over the family sphere. It was the reality of life in the West that caused the women to re-evaluate the traditional roles attributed to them on the Frontier. Elliot West dives deeper into the urban areas and class differences to divulge variations between the elite and working mothers. As in isolated areas, women rationalized expectations with possibility as their reaction to Victorian expectations. In the next article, Mary Murphy identifies the group left out of the “Cult of True Womanhood:” the prostitute. She analyzes the records from Butte to form conclusions about their motives, their private lives, and their relationships with the society around them. Norma Milton continues the challenge to the “Cult of True Womanhood” bias through a descriptive analysis of the immigrant women. It can be argued that the chance of economic advancement in marriage – closed to worker women of other countries – persuaded the women to a greater degree. Mary Lee Spence pushes it farther to argue that women moving into a career in waitressing saw the job as a means of garnering independence without relinquishing the social definition of womanhood. In general, this chapter reviews the idea of the Victorian ideologies building up the roles of women

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