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What were the life experiences of the women during the "Westward Expansion?"

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lehcir | Student | Valedictorian

Posted September 18, 2013 at 4:31 AM via iOS

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What were the life experiences of the women during the "Westward Expansion?"

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 18, 2013 at 4:48 AM (Answer #1)

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Different women had very different life experiences during the period of Westward Expansion. 

For the most part, women were very rare in the West during much of this period.  It is estimated that about 75% of the people who moved west were men.  This had some important impacts on the women who moved west.  To some women, it meant opportunity.  A single woman in the West would be much more in demand than in the East.  This meant that she could dictate the terms of her marriage much more than she could in the East.  However, the paucity of women also meant that many women were brought to the West as prostitutes.

Women who came to the West as wives tended to have relatively hard lives.  This was simply because life in the West was hard.  People were having to make do without much in the way of civilization.  Women had to do hard physical labor.  They had to endure being far from family and friends and much in the way of society.  They had to survive in areas with little law, few medical services, and very little technology to help them.  This could all be very difficult.

However, the fact that women shared in the hardships of pioneering made Westerners somewhat more respectful of women.  Because women were seen to be tough and independent in the West, men in the West gave women the vote long before they got it elsewhere.  In this way, the West can be seen as a good place for women.

In short, different women had very different life experiences and life chances during Westward Expansion. 

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