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  • Writer's pictureNotes From The Frontier

Women Homesteaders

Updated: May 8, 2023

Did You Know? One-Fifth of Homesteaders in the West Were Women!




































Never saw this in a Hollywood western! Under the Homestead Act of 1862, single women, widows, and divorced or deserted women had the right to claim 160 acres in their own name. (Married women, however, did not.) Today historians estimate that about 20% of homesteaders in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, Utah, and Idaho were single women. And the rate of gaining title, or “proving” the claim, was much higher among women than men. Married women, too, worked alongside their husbands doing heavy farm work. The work was endless and back breaking and pioneers had to use all available labor. Try wrangling a steer in a dress and corset!

PHOTOS: (Left) Mrs. George “Coyote” Smith after killing a mountain lion near Glenrock, Wyoming, around 1910. Wyoming State Archives. (Right) Women branding cattle in Colorado, 1884. Colorado Historical Society.

       

"Women Homesteaders" were first posted May 19, 2019 on Facebook and NotesfromtheFrontier.com

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Deborah Hufford

Author, Notes from the Frontier

Deborah Hufford is an award-winning author and magazine editor with a passion for history. Her popular NotesfromtheFrontier.com blog with 100,000+ readers has led to an upcoming novel! Growing up as an Iowa farmgirl, rodeo queen and voracious reader, her love of land, lore and literature fired her writing muse. With a Bachelor's in English and Master's in Journalism from the University of Iowa, she taught students of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, then at Northwestern University, Marquette and Mount Mary. Her extensive publishing career began at Better Homes & Gardens, includes credits in New York Times Magazine, New York Times, Connoisseur, many other titles, and serving as publisher of The Writer's Handbook

 

Deeply devoted to social justice, especially for veterans, women, and Native Americans, she has served on boards and donated her fundraising skills to Chief Joseph Foundation, Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), Homeless Veterans Initiative, Humane Society, and other nonprofits.  

 

Deborah's soon-to-be released historical novel, BLOOD TO RUBIES weaves indigenous and pioneer history, strong women and clashing worlds into a sweeping saga praised by NYT bestselling authors as "crushing," "rhapsodic," "gritty," and "sensuous." Purchase BLOOD TO RUBIES online beginning June 9. Connect with Deborah on DeborahHufford.com, Facebook, and Instagram.

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