As the young women came to realize, life in the wilderness was something which was significantly more difficult than many of them had come to realize. The tribulations of conducting ones’ self in a way which is conducive for survival in such a harsh and sometimes forgiving wasteland proved to be dreadful given the circumstances, especially during the winter. (Niemann, 2011) Among the different experiences that they had and hardships that they found, many of the most difficult ones seemed to be in regards to the simple, tedious tasks and those for which they hadn’t exactly fully prepared themselves. (Roark, 2012)
These included many tedious tasks, such as preparing for winter. Among the more arduous tasks, weatherizing their houses and lifestyles proved to be a concept that, according to the texts, they found difficulties with– understanding the weather trends and finding ways to prepare for the harsh climate in North Dakota seemed to be difficult for anyone, especially those who were new to the area and new to owning land. (Smith, 1959) The difficulties they found also came from the adjustment from city life to rural life. Finding activities to occupy time and dealing with the occasional loneliness appear to be significant problems that they found as well.
In general, though, the women seemed to have enough youthful spirit and tenacity to work through the events and hardships which had unfolded before them. (Smith, 1959) Some of the ladies admit that they found that there were things which they didn’t account for, as well as different aspects of living in the wilderness for which they hadn’t accounted. There was a markedly different lifestyle that they hadn’t exactly prepared for, but they approached the situations that they found themselves in with a sort of tenacity that one gains from youthful spirit.
Furthermore, they had the capacity to find themselves in good spirits, regardless of the problems that they faced. This, coupled with their young age, gave them a resolve to stay upbeat about the present situations that they encountered, regardless how taxing. (Smith, 1959) The overall nature of the environment that they lived in did give them many scenarios where their resolve appeared to be tested, but there was a lot that they did and used to occupy the free time that came their way. (Smith, 1959) One of the most evident things that they did was writing, and it seems as though they found other hobbies to continue to fill the time and tedium that they may have during their time homesteading.
There was a sense of liberation that the young women found in their time homesteading, and this was evident in how they spoke of their experiences in their writing. (Smith, 1959) The overall peaceful nature of living the life they did among nature and away from the city seemed to speak to them, and they found themselves particularly empowered by living in a way which was built upon and from their own efforts. In general, they also found much solace in the sense of isolation that they found as well. (Smith, 1959) In the first document, one of the young women describes how she loves that she can see for miles around the homestead that she has.
The sense of isolation and the beautiful scenery also appeared to give them a sense of liberation and they found positivity in doing things which were fun and beneficial to themselves. (Borsodi, 1934) Being able to live and do things that supplied them with the means for staying alive and maintaining themselves also seemed to resonate with the women, as they found an appeal in being able to support and provide for themselves in ways that maybe city life had denied them. (Roark, 2012) Furthermore, being able to openly find the interests that they had without social pressures appeared to be greatly beneficial to them and their lifestyles.
This is further evident in the fact that they found such solace and enjoyment in simply spending simple time with one another, playing games and discussing books and ideas. They also apparently loved dancing, so having the freedom to go dancing and organizing little events where they could dance and behave as they saw fit seemed to be things in which they found solace. (Roark, 2012) Doing so in an environment that was harsh and unforgiving, as they had been told, proved to be gratifying as well. It appears as though simply existing in a way that defied the preconceived notions they had been told also gave them great solace in both themselves and in how they had chosen to live and exist in North Dakota. (Roark, 2012)
In general, they wished to convey that they had found the capacity to live on their own. Their lives were difficult at times, as evident by the writings they made, but in general, they were able to live in a way which allowed them the freedom they sought as well as the capacity to prove that they were capable of maintaining their lives under such conditions. (Borsodi, 1934) There was also a general sense that they were happy with the ability to live this life, which was also adequately conveyed. (Niemann, 2011) The liberation they had was something that was evident in every text, and there appeared to be an ease in their tones in much of the writing. This exemplified a sense of freedom that they had experienced while homesteading.
Regardless of whether or not they remained on the land, homesteading gave women the opportunity to see outside of their preconceived ideas of society and outside of society’s views of them. They were given a platform to experience growth on their own terms and to challenge the existence of their own limitations, without worrying about the ideas that the society around them would have if they did so. (Niemann, 2011) Their experiences were difficult, but they were able to see this themselves and grow accordingly as a result. In general, living on the homestead was something that appeared to teach them the value of their own liberty and existence– not just as women within the society, but as humans who were capable of exercising a level of pride and ownership that they previously hadn’t had before. (Niemann, 2011)
- Roark, James (2012). “The American Promise, Combined Volume: A History of the United States.” Macmillan. p. 558-559
- Niemann, Deborah (2011). Homegrown and Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living (First ed.). New Society Publishers.
- Borsodi, Ralph. (January 1934) “Subsistence Homesteads, President Roosevelt’s New Land and Population Policy”. Survey Graphic, Magazine of Social Interpretation.
- Smith, Henry Nash. (1959) Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth. New York: Vintage.