Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tears and Tenacity: The Diverse Roles of Women Homesteaders

“There were many tearful occasions for the tearful type. There were days and months without human fellowship, there were frightful blizzards, drought destroying seasons … and many pitiful deprivations, but there were also compensations for the brave, joyous, determined pioneer.” –
Lulu Fuhr (Stratton, 1981).

by Amy Yetter
Southeast Community College

Many women married, single, and widowed played important roles in shaping the Plains, or “Great American Desert” that we call home. During my research I discovered that the roles of women homesteaders covered a vast range, from mothers and teachers to madams and physicians. While overcoming the obstacles of adversity, homestead women held many diverse roles in their newly created societies. I will inform you of the environmental conditions these women had to learn to live with. I’ll also tell you about the common and uncommon roles that homestead women played.

Isolation, extremes in climate, and the constant threat of illness or injury were standard (Luebke, 2005). With most women homesteaders coming from developed cities in the East you can imagine their shock to come to this desolate land where their nearest neighbor or doctor was hundreds of miles away and there were no hospitals.

Loneliness and the unforgiving wilderness affected many homestead women. In Joanna Stratton’s 1981 book, Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier, Allena A. Clark’s daughter, Esther, recounts one of her mother’s ways of coping with loneliness: “…the unbroken prairies stretched for miles outside, and the wistful-faced sheep were always near at hand. Often mother used to go out and lie down among them, for company, when she was alone for the day.” Author Frederick C. Luebke writes in his 2005 book, Nebraska: An Illustrated History, “The threat of sickness, malnutrition, serious disease, and debilitating injuries was unrelenting.”

Through hard work and perseverance many homestead women triumphed against their struggles. This was true for Esther Carter-Griswold-Warner, who James Olson & Ronald Naugle wrote the following about in their 1997 book, History of Nebraska, “… after losing two husbands, came to Nebraska with three young children and filed a homestead claim in 1864 near Roca in Lancaster County. Not only did she survive the hardships of pioneer life, but she succeeded as a farmer.” In Linda Peavy & Ursula Smith’s (1996) book, Pioneer Women: The Lives of Women on the Frontier, the authors write about widow and mother of thirteen children, Mary Wells Yates, who “…crossed the plains between Missouri and Montana thirteen times in all – usually driving her own wagon and often serving as guide and organizer for emigrant parties.”

Now that I’ve told you about some of the environmental and emotional impacts that homestead women endured and overcame I’ll inform you of some of the roles women played in the forming of new societies.

The work of the homestead woman included not only the work she’d traditionally done in the East but also whatever additional work was required in order to ensure the success of her enterprises in the West (Peavy & Smith 1996). The majority of homestead women worked in roles that would be considered common and appropriate for the period.

By the middle of the nineteenth century the majority of women who were employed outside the home were hired as domestic servants (Peavy & Smith, 1996). In her 1988 book, The Female Frontier, Glenda Riley wrote about domestic servants, “This job had widespread appeal because it required no special training beyond that received at home or from the employer and was considered to be a suitable economic pursuit for most women.” In Linda Peavy & Ursula Smith’s book, Pioneer Women, they write of Emily French and her daughter, Ollie, who is 1890 moved in with a family to, “perform whatever domestic labors they were asked to do to help the family settle in to their new home – cleaning windows, putting up ‘little white curtains’, making pies and ‘some biscuits’, sewing aprons and frocks, and cleaning and sweeping.”

The most popular professional career for western women was teaching (Peavy & Smith 1996). Most teachers lacked formal preparation; many were recent graduates of the schools they taught (Luebke, 2005). In 1847, Catherine Beecher helped form the National Popular Education Board, whose objective was to inspire the surplus of single eastern teachers to move out west. Between 1847 and 1858 the board sent out nearly 600 women (Peavy & Smith 1996).

I’ve mentioned some of the more common roles that homestead women worked in, now I will tell you about two women whose roles were far less common. Another group of employed females who followed a profession of sorts were the numerous prostitutes who worked in the towns scattered across the Plains (Anonymous, 1983, as cited in Riley, 1988). Since it was so often given by women to their families, medical care, was easier to visualize as a profession for women (Riley, 1988).

While there was undoubtedly a diverse selection of uncommon jobs held by women I chose to highlight a few that I thought were most interesting. “Not a few young women ended up in the ‘oldest profession’ by default, starting out as domestic servants and ending up in a brothel after being ill-used by their employers” (Peavy & Smith 1996). Women of all races and creeds offered love for money to the men of the frontier (Peavy & Smith 1996). At the age of nineteen, Mattie Silks opened her first brothel in Springfield, Illinois. She later opened other brothels in Wichita and eventually ended up in Denver, where she employed twelve alluring “boarders” and served fine food and liquor (Peavy & Smith 1996).

“The skill of laywomen notwithstanding, there was a real need for well-trained physicians on the frontier.” (Peavy & Smith 1996). In their book, Pioneer Women, Linda Peavy & Ursula Smith write about Susan La Flesche, the youngest child of an Omaha chief, who received her medical degree in 1889 at age 24. Following an internship, she returned to Nebraska and served as a physician at an Omaha school before serving four years as physician for her entire tribe.

Abbie Ann Jarvis, wife and mother of four, acquired her medical training at the Women’s College in Chicago in 1898. She was thought to be both the first licensed woman doctor and the first licensed woman pharmacist in South Dakota (Van Dalsem & Jarvis, no year given, as cited by Riley, 1988).

As we’ve seen, homestead women played an integral role in creating and advancing the frontiers of the Plains. While overcoming the obstacles of adversity, homestead women held many diverse roles in their newly created societies. Homestead women faced many obstacles and encompassed a wide range of roles in the new frontiers. Despite the unforgiving weather, the sometimes debilitating isolation, and the extreme deprivation that homestead women were met with, those who persevered are the women that helped to create the homes, towns, and societies we call home today.


Stratton, J. (1981). Pioneer women: Voices from the Kansas frontier. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Luebke, F. (2005). Nebraska: An illustrated history. Lincoln, NE and London: University of Nebraska Press.

Olson, J.C., & Naugle, R.C. (1997). History of Nebraska. Lincoln, NE and London: University of Nebraska Press.

Peavy, L., & Smith, U. (1996). Pioneer women: The lives of women on the frontier. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Riley, G. (1988). The Female frontier: A comparative view of women on the prairie and the plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

Women on Postcards

Minto, N. Dak
Feb 13, 1913

Dear friend Mrs. Bell
Thanks for letter was so glad to hear that you were all well and that little Minnierva is so well suppose she walks now. I would love to see her. Baby is just fine I send this snapshot of us taken when she was 2 months old on my 30th birthday Jan 9th her name is IngaWilhelmina after her mamma and papa. Your friend

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lady Liberty

…Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

by Karol Tharnish
Southeast Community College

These are the words from the poem The New Colossus written by Emma Lazarus in the winter of 1883 and placed on a tablet within the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty stands. The Statue of Liberty is a national monument and a national symbol for our country. I think it stands for the virtues this country was founded upon, and what we hope to stand for today. Today I will inform you of how the Statue of Liberty came to be. I will relate to you the circumstances that led up to the conception of the statue, why it was made, who built it, and funded it. I will also share with you what it meant to the people of France to give America this gift.

In a book written by Hertha Pauli and E. B. Ashton published in 1948 and titled I Lift My Lamp, they write of the history of the French people and their government in the 1800s. France admired America’s fight for freedom during The War For Independence from Britain. Many French citizens came to America to fight during The War For Independence. In the Civil War years the French liberals had helped the Union cause, and after Napoleon’s fall they wanted similar backing from the United States (Pauli & Ashton, 1948, p.2).

One of the most notable was the Marquis de Lafayette, who served as a lieutenant under George Washington. Edouard de Laboulaye, professor at the College de France, spoke and wrote often of his admiration of the United States. He believed that France and America were sisters (Pauli & Ashton, 1948, p. 23).

In the book Bearer Of A Million Dreams, Frank Spiering (1986) wrote of the admiration for the United States way of governing that was growing in France during the 1800s. One way Laboulaye wanted to acknowledge this admiration was to erect a monument. According to the book Gateway To Liberty, (Shapiro, 1986) Leboulaye had brought up the idea of a monument to be given as a gift to America at a dinner party held at his house in 1865. In notes taken by Auguste Bartholdi, a famous French sculptor at that time, and cited in the book published in 1948 by Hertha Pauli and E.B. Ashton, Bartholdi wrote down the idea in his personal journal for future reference.

After discussing the idea again years late, the two men had doubts as to the reaction of the people of the United States to the idea of the statue. It was decided between the two men that Bartholdi would travel to America and gather a feel for the country and its people, and what they thought of having a statue erected in America by the French (Spiering, 1986, p. 23).

Auguste Bartholdi sailed from France in June 1871. In his personal journal (as cited in Bearer Of A Million Dreams) he said that “At the view of the harbor of New York, the definite plan was first clear to my eyes.” He had an immediate idea for the statue and sketched it (p. 29).

Bartholdi traveled from the east coast to the west coast of the United States to spark interest in the monument project. He wrote in his personal journal, “I am very glad to have come here, for the place is most extraordinary. It is really a very good thing to see the world in its various aspects …”. In New York he talked with many influential and wealthy people to see if any would financially back their idea. Interest was sparked, but not many donations were made to the project (Spiering, 1986, p. 29 & p. 63).

Leboulaye returned to France in 1871 and began a committee called the “Union Franco Americaine” in a one-room office in Paris. He hoped that money could be raised so that work on the statue could begin (Shapiro, 1986, p. 14).

Many people in France and America were lukewarm to the idea. Bartholdi had sent a sketch of what the statue would look like to Harpers Weekly, a magazine based in New York. He hoped if people saw what she would look like they would be more interested (Spiering, 1986, p. 63).

He had circulars printed asking the French people for support. He gave a banquet fundraiser in Paris inviting two hundred of the richest, most famous people in the city. The banquet was a success. By the end of the evening the first funds to start work on the statue had been raised. Leboulaye made a trip throughout France asking for donations. One hundred and fifty municipalities contributed. Enough money was raised to make the torch and Lady Liberty’s hand (Spiering, 1986, p. 64-68).

In August 1876 the torch and hand of the statue arrived in Philadelphia to be shown at the Exhibition there. An 1876 newspaper article from the New York Times (as cited in Pauli & Ashton, 1948) declared that if New York did not provide the money for the pedestal for the statue to be placed on, Philadelphia would.

The New York Times printed an editorial stating that it felt that if this statue was to be a gift, no American should have to pay for it. Bartholdi informed them that the United States was only asked to provide the pedestal for the statue (Hertha & Ashton, 1948, p. 169). The work on the statue continued in France and Bartholdi continued working in the United States taking care of the details.

The United States Congress had officially accepted the gift of the Statue of Liberty from France, now it would need to be decided were to put the statue. The famous Civil War figure, General William Tecumseh Sherman had been appointed to decide whether Bedloe’s Island or Governor’s Island in New York would be the site for the statue. Bartholdi thought that on Governor’s Island, the statue would blur with New York and compete with the Brooklyn Bridge. He wanted the statue to stand in profile watching those passing by her, guiding them as they moved through the harbor. During the last week of February 1877, Auguste learned that General Sherman agreed with him, Lady Liberty would be placed on Bedloe’s Island (Shapiro, 1986, p. 87).

Now Auguste could return to France and continue work on the rest of the Statue. Auguste began working on the Statue, not knowing if the Americans would have the funds to complete the pedestal for it. The people of France did not want to give up the statue. Bartholdi made a replica of the Statue of Liberty to appease the people in his country at loosing the Statue of Liberty. It was placed near the Eiffel Tower. He put the statue’s inner structure into the hands of the most brilliant engineer of that time, Gustave Eiffel. This was a difficult engineering feat due to the size of the statue (Spiering, 1986, p. 96).

The statue was completed in July, 1884. Lady Liberty was disassembled, packed, and shipped to the United States on May 21, 1885. In an article from The World newspaper published in 1885 Joseph Pulitzer wrote an editorial about the disgrace of the United States in not having a place for this wonderful gift to land. He pleaded with the citizens of the United States to donate to the pedestal fund. The money was raised and the pedestal was completed (Shapiro, 1986).

It had taken fifteen years of Bartholdi’s life, and much of his fortune, but the Statue of Liberty was unveiled on October 28, 1886. There were many contributing factors to the completion of this national monument. The idea sprung from the admiration of two men, Edouard de Laboulaye and Auguste Bartholdi; it was their tenacity that spread the word of the monuments importance to the peoples of France and America (Hertha & Ashton, 1948). The ideas for the framework construction of this unusually large structure came from Gustave Eiffel. The funds raised for the pedestal were largely due to a Joseph Pulitzer. The newspaper articles he wrote and his powers of persuasion prompted donations from all parts of the United States. The poem that brings the ideals of a nation home to us all was written by Emma Lazarus (Hertha & Ashton, 1948).

Small statues of all four of these people stand on the same ground as the Statue of Liberty (Spiering, 1986). Laboulaye die before the completion of the Statue of Liberty, but Bartholdi was there for the unveiling in 1886 (Hertha & Ashton, 1948).

Today I have informed you how the Statue of Liberty came to be. I have related to you the circumstances that led up to the conception of the Statue of Liberty, why it was made, who built it, and who funded it. I have also shared with you what it meant to the people of France to give America this gift.

“…I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” These were the words written by Emma Lazarus on the tablets in the base of the Statue of Liberty. In a book about immigrants entering this country titled, Ellis Island Interviews written by Peter Martin Coan in 1997, I found a moving quote from one immigrant coming from Poland in 1920 at the age of ten. Larry Edelman remembers:

We were all lined on deck. The thrill of seeing that statue there. And the tears in everybody’s eyes, which, as a child, got me the same feeling. It was more, not freedom from oppression, I think, but more freedom from want…

This monument means so many different things to so many different people. I think that is what a monument should do, mean something.


Coan, P.M. (1997). Ellis Island interviews. NY: Facts On File, Inc.

Pauli, H., & Ashton, E. (1948). I lift my lamp. NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Shapiro, M.J. (1986). Gateway to Liberty: The story of the Statue Of Liberty And Ellis Island. NY: Vintage Books.

Spiering, F. (1986). Bearer of a million dreams. Ottawa: Jameson Books.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Homesteaders first glimpse of America: The History and Importance of the Statue of Liberty National Monument

Many American’s could look back on their heritage and probably discover a relative that experienced seeing the statue of liberty, hoping for a better life in America. Or perhaps that relative was an excited child: “In America life is golden, in America the flowers are more beautiful, in America the world is much better, and that’s what I’m longing for” said Renee Berkoff, a young immigrant to America in 1922 (Arriving, 2008).

By Jenna Specht
Southeast Community College

The Statue of Liberty National Monument holds an important place in our nation’s young history. She holds historical importance as a symbol of friendship between nations and freedom for immigrants.

In this essay, we will explore the history and importance of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which together compose the Statue of Liberty National Monument; we will also look at how the immigration history of these monuments is connected to present day Americans. Let’s start with the history and construction of the Statue of Liberty.

A proposal was made by French historian Edouard Laboulaye to put into motion the funding and designing of the Statue of Liberty (Ellis, 2009). Formerly known as “Liberty Enlightening the World,” The Statue of Liberty has stood, since 1886, as a symbol of freedom. The proposed statue was to be a gift from the French to the United States in honor of the nations’ friendship (Statue, 2006).

The construction and completion of the statue was a combined effort between the French and American people. The French were in charge of constructing the main portion of the statue.

French sculptor Fredrick Bartholdi was commissioned to design the French gift. To ensure the Statue was structurally sound, Bartholdi required the assistance of Alexandre Eiffel (the mastermind behind the Eiffel tower). Together the two men designed a statue supported internally by an iron skeletal system and is covered externally by copper sheeting (Statue, 2006).

The Americans were in charge of completing the pedestal on which the statue was to stand. Funding for the construction proved to be difficult so theatrical productions, art exhibitions, and auctions were held to raise money for the project. The American effort was aided by Joseph Pulitzer, who used his writing skills to gain support for the effort (Statue, 2006).

In the movie National Treasure II the Liberty Statue -an almost exact copy of the United State’s statue- located in Paris France was the location of a clue to a treasure. The movie suggests that Laboulaye left behind clues in his work. In my research I did not find any clues to a treasure, but symbols were incorporated in the construction of the Statue, however not by Laboulaye as the movie suggest but Bartholdi (Miller, 1992).

The 25 windows in the Statue’s crown represent the 25 gems on earth; the seven points on her crown signify liberty radiation to the seven continents and the seven seas (Statue, 2006).

At the bottom of the Statue is located a chain. The French used this chain to indicate how young America broke free from the chains of Britain (Miller, 1992). Finally the tablet represents the Declaration of Independence (Statue, 2006).

For the trip across the Atlantic Ocean the Statue was separated into 350 individual pieces and then loaded into 214 crates (Statue, 2006). According to the National Park Service (2006) it arrived in “New York Harbor in June of 1885 on board the French, Isere.” Interestingly the statue arrived from the French months before the base was completed (Miller, 1992). The Statue of Liberty was officially dedicated, by President Grover Cleveland on October 28th 1886 (Liberty, 2009).

The Statue has undergone restoration in recent decades. One major change made to the statue dealt with the torch. The torch use to be made of glass windows though which light emanated, however the glass windows leaked causing internal structural damage to the statue. So, it was replaced with the torch we see today (Miller, 1992). Other repairs were done to offset the effects of salty air.

The Statue of Liberty is not the only important structure that makes up National Monument. Ellis Island was the former principal immigration center for America

The federal government saw the need to regulate immigration into the United States, rather than just allowing the states to handle immigration alone. According to History Channel article Ellis Island – Timeline (2008) “Ellis Island Immigration Station officially opened on January 1, 1892. On that day 700 immigrants passed through Ellis Island.”

After arriving at Ellis Island immigrants had to complete several steps before they were permitted into the country (Ellis Island – Gateway, 2008).

  • Baggage – The immigrants checked their heaviest baggage before they proceeded into the Great Hall. Often the immigrants were allowed only one large item (for example a violin).
  • Stairs of Separation - After checking most of their baggage, the immigrants would proceed up a flight of stairs while, according to the History Channel article Ellis Island - Gateway (2008) “A United States Public Health physician observe them in what came to be known as the ‘six-second exam’ – looking for tell tale signs of disease or insanity.” If an ailment was detected the immigrant was held in the dormitories; if no ailment was detected the immigrant was nodded to continue on into the Great Hall. The Great Hall was known as the registry room where immigrants would wait for admission into the United States.
  • Cafeteria - Immigrants were served their first American meal, with food many had not been exposed to including ice cream!

  • Kissing Post – After immigrants were permitted into the United States, they proceeded down another staircase; where they would often come in contact with waiting family members. According to the History Channel (2008) “this place became known as the ‘kissing post’ because of the many happy reunions that took place there.”
In this essay, we have looked at the two important parts to the Statue of Liberty National Monument, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The discussion included the designing and construction of the Statue of Liberty, and historical significance. We, also, discussed the role of Ellis Island in managing immigration to America. The history of this monument has historical ties to our nation as a whole as well as us as individual Americans.

Many of us could probably discover a relative that experienced seeing the statue of liberty. And many of us probably had immigrating relatives that agreed with Renee Berkoff when she said:

“In America life is golden, in America the flowers are more beautiful, in America the world is much better, and that’s what I’m longing for.”


Arriving at Ellis Island. (2008). History Channel. Retrieved January 25th, 2009, from

Ellis Island, & Liberty, Statue of. (2009). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved January 25 2009, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

Ellis Island - Gateway. (2008). History Channel. Retrieved January 25th, 2009,

Ellis Island - Timeline. (2008). History Channel. Retrieved January 25th, 2009,

Miller, N. (1992). The Statue of Liberty. Chicago: Children's Press.

Statue of Liberty National Monument. (2008). History Channel. Retrieved January 25th, 2009,

Statue of Liberty National Monument - History and Culture. (2006, October 5). U.S National Park Service. Retrieved January 25th, 2009,

Friday, March 13, 2009

Life in a Tipi

Tipi, Tepie, Tepee. No matter how the word is spelled, it has the same meaning. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (1989), "a tipi is a tent or wigwam of the American Indians, formed of bark, mats, skins, or canvas stretched over a frame of poles converging to and fastened together at the top." Tipis have been the home to families of the Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Crow, Dakota, Sioux and other Great Plains Indians for many centuries (Yue & Yue, 1984, p.3).

By Travis Nielsen
Southeast Community College

When I was younger, like most little boys, I used to play cowboys and Indians, I always wanted to be the Indians so I could live in a tent as I referred to it. Today I plan to give you information about the home to so many Indians, the tipi, and what it was like to live in one. I will explain a little history of the tipi, who built and owned the tipi, the materials used and what the living conditions were like.

Tipi models constructed by Travis Nielsen.

The history of the tipi is uncertain. No one knows for sure when or how the tipi was created. Some believe that the first tipis were evident in the 1500’s. In 1541, Coronado, a Spanish explorer reported seeing what was thought to be tipis as he traveled the Great Plains (Yue & Yue, 1984, p.3). There are others that believe tipis may have been in use before 1541. Some anthropologists believe that ancestors of the Great Plains Indians were the first to use tipis (p. 3-4). Originally, tipis were not used for daily living. Anthropologists thought that the ancestors of the Great Plains Indians lived in wood or bark shelters and were used as temporary shelters when the Great Plains Indians were hunting (p. 4).

As time went on, the tipi became the main dwelling for more Indian tribes. In order to understand the tipi a little better, let’s take a closer look at this Indian home.

The tipi is more than a little tent. There is a lot of skill put into building this sophisticated dwelling which is necessary to withstand life on the open plains. “They were built as skillfully as any house in Italy.” This is what explorer Juan de Onates` said when he first saw the tipi (McKittrick, 2006).

The Indian women play an important role in the construction and ownership of the tipi. Tipis were made and owned by women in the tribes. They decided on everything that had to do with their tipis. The women picked the camp site, put up the tipis and even took them down. The only time that women did not take down the tipi was during certain ceremonies. The women also made all the furnishings and were responsible for how things were arranged inside the tipi. Women felt a sense of pride when they created a well made and properly erected tipi (Yue & Yue, 1984, p.23).

The materials used to make the tipis were carefully selected. Only the best would do.

There are four basic items used to make the tipi. These items include the poles (15-17), the canvas covers which are usually several buffalo skins, ropes and dowels that hold the tipi together (Hunt, 2003). The number of buffalo skins that it took to make the canvas cover was between 15 and 20. These skins were cut and sewn together by the women (McKittrick, 2006). In the 1984 book The Tipi Charlotte and David Yue write, “Although the structure of the tipi seems simple it was carefully engineered to create a practical, livable home: well lighted, well ventilated, cozy in winter, sturdy in high winds, and dry in heavy rains.”

Because the tipi was considered to be the home of several Native American Indian Tribes, it is time to go inside and see what it would have been like to live in a tipi. The tipi offers complete living for the Native American Indian families. By looking at the outside of the tipi, it is hard to believe that there is room to do anything on the inside. It is amazing how just one room can offer so much. Life inside of the tipi was simple, but the family members had everything that they needed. Inside the tipi, there was one room which was the living space. This area was the kitchen, bedroom and also the storage area. In addition to these things, there was a fire pit in the center of the room (Hunt, 2003). Charlotte and David Yue wrote in The Tipi, “Furs were placed on the floors as ground cloths. Beds were pallets made of buffalo hides.”

Living in a tipi teaches life skills. Harry Janicki of Bend, Oregon, lived in a tipi for five years. “Living in a tipi was the best experience of my life,” he says. “It taught me patience and what was really important to survive: shelter.” When you live in a tipi there aren’t 6-inch-thick walls separating you from the elements-just a thin skin of canvas. “You’re more in tune with your environment, living through all the seasons in a tipi,” Janicki says (Hunt, 2003).

Kate Robbins a counselor from Spokane, Washington says, “Living in a tipi is an exercise in simplicity. The simple, graceful lines lend a peaceful aura to the tall, spacious interior. A small fire or kerosene lantern provides adequate light for cooking, reading or guitar playing” (Hunt, 2003).

After reading about what it would be like to live in a tipi, and the testimonials, I have a new knowledge and appreciation for tipi living. Hopefully I have provided enough information to help you have a better understanding of tipis, the home to so many Indians, and what it was like to live in one. I gave you a little history of the tipi. From there the information pertained to what it took to build a tipi, who was responsible for this and what was used for construction. Finally I described what it was like inside of a tipi and what Life in a tipi would be like. Perhaps some of you found tipi life interesting and maybe would be willing to give it a try. I personally do not think I am suited for this way of living. Giving up all of my technology devices is not something I am willing to do!


Hunt, H. (2003, December/January). Tipis and yurts. Mother Earth News. Retrieved January 22, 2009 from Wilson Web.

McKittrick, R. (2006, May). Miniature tipis. Antique and Collecting Magazine. Retrieved January 31, 2009 from Wilson Web.

Tipi. (1989). In Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Retrieved January 22, 2009 from Oxford English Dictionary Online database.

Yue, D. & Yue, C. (1984). The tipi. NY: Alford A. Knopf. Inc.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Daughter of Homesteaders: Laura Ingalls Wilder

The way we live and our schools are much different now; so many changes have made living and learning easier. But the real things haven't changed. “It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.” This statement was made by Laura Ingalls Wilder in a letter to her sister Mary who was living at home after graduating from college.

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Author of Little House on the Prairie Series,
Daughter of Homesteaders
De Smet, South Dakota

By Amanda Neville
Southeast Community College

However, without this woman’s contributions, what we know as the little house on the prairie through our National Parks might not exist today. In my studies to find someone I came across a woman that some probably wouldn’t give a second thought to. I would like to take the opportunity today to acknowledge Laura Ingalls Wilder as a woman worthy of our commendation. Because of her skill, her intelligence, and her dedication to her work she has proven to be deserving of our appreciation and respect.

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was a pioneer and the second oldest of four children. She was born to Charles and Caroline's Ingalls on February 7, 1867, in Pepin, Wisconsin. As a young girl, Wilder moved with her family from place to place across America's heartland. In 1874, the Ingalls family left Wisconsin for Walnut Grove, Minnesota, where they lived at first in a dugout house (Majeske 2002).

Wilder attended regular school whenever possible. However, because of her family's frequent moves, she was largely self-taught. In 1882, at the age of 15, she received her teaching certificate. For three years, Wilder taught at a small country school a dozen miles from her home in De Smet, SD and boarded with a family who lived nearby (Wilder, 2002). Now as all adolescents we at some time have to move away from home and start our own lives and careers, as Laura Ingalls Wilder did, but can you imagine only being a few dozen miles from your family and not being able to see them when you want?

Almanzo Wilder frequently headed out into the country on his sleigh to pick up Laura Ingalls and drop her off at her parents' home for weekend visits (Wilder, 2002). I am sure you can all relate, at some point in time you needed transport from your school or your job.

Almanzo and Laura courted or as we know it now dated for two years. According to the 2004 Encyclopedia of World Biography Almanzo, also called Manly, and Laura were married on August 25, 1885. Wilder then quit teaching to help her husband farm their homestead. The couple's only child, Rose, was born on December 5, 1886 (Thomson, 2004).

Although all homesteaders had to endure the hardships and uncertainty of farm life, the Wilders experienced more than their share of tragedy and misfortune. In August 1889, Wilder gave birth to a baby boy who died shortly after; her husband then came down with diphtheria, which left him partially paralyzed. Finally, their house, built by Wilder himself, burned to the ground (Thomson 2004).

Imagine if Laura Ingalls Wilder had not made it through all the hard ships and pain that Laura and her husband have endured. For this alone she deserves admiration. But that’s not where her story ends.

After a little more research on Laura Ingalls Wilder, I think it is safe to say she one of Americans favorite storytellers. Wilder’s is known for her classic writings Little House book series. You know, one of those storytellers you can’t get enough of? In 1911, she published her first article.

Laura’s first article was a piece in the Missouri Ruralist entitled Favors the Small Farm. She subsequently worked as the home editor of the Missouri Ruralist and the poultry editor of the St. Louis Star and contributed articles to periodicals such as McCall's and Country Gentleman (Wilder, 2002).

According to 2002 edition of The New Encyclopedia Britannica Laura Ingalls Wilder was prompted by her daughter, to write down her childhood experiences. Her stories centered on the male unrest and female patience of pioneers in the mid-1800s and celebrated their peculiarly American spirit and independence.

In my opinion, her greatest work is the book collection that tells about her life throughout the pioneer days. Wilder completed her first autobiographical work in the late 1920s. Entitled Pioneer Girl, it was a first-person account of her childhood on the frontier from the time she was 3 until she reached the age of 18 (Guinn 2000).

Wilder was 76 years old when she finished the final book in her Little House series. By that time, she and her husband had sold off the majority of their land and virtually all of their livestock, but they still lived on the remaining 70 acres of Rocky Ridge (Guinn 2000).

I am sure we can all agree that living during the pioneer era would be difficult, but as Mrs. Wilder said, it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all. Being a pioneer was hard work yet they lived for the simplicity of life.

So in the time I’ve spent with you today I’ve taken the opportunity to acknowledge that Laura Ingalls Wilder as a woman worthy of commendation. In doing so, I’ve proven that because of his intelligence and skill and heartfelt dedication to her work Laura Ingalls Wilder is indeed deserving of our appreciation and respect. Obviously, we can now say that we gave Laura Ingalls Wilder the full credit that she is due.


Wilder, Laura Ingalls. (2009). In Encyclopedia Britannica.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. (2004). Encyclopedia of World Biography.

Majeske D. (2002). Laura's life. Springfield News-Leader (MO). Retrieved February 15, 2009 from NewsBank.

Guinn, J. (2000). A Little dream When Laura Ingalls Wilder published 'Little House on the Prairie' 65 years ago, she never could have imagined its powerful legacy - or its angry critics. Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX). Retrieved February 15, 2009 from NewsBank.