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Gendering the American Past

I. Gendering the American past as feminine gives a distorted picture of reality. While the land has always been considered feminine because of its reproductive facility, and people have always referred to "Mother Nature" such feminine attributes are hardly befitting the American West as it was when the immigrants first arrived from Europe. It was a cruel, harsh, inhospitable land in many ways. Life for the early immigrants was not easy. They had to face hardships of travel, hostile Indians, and a land which was difficult to tame in many instances. They had to deal with harsh weather conditions, ranging from searing heat on the plains in summer to bone-chilling winters in the mountains and northern states. Life was not easy in early American history.

Immigrants came to America to escape persecution and harsh conditions in industrialized Europe, but found life here no easier. They had more political and religious freedom, to be sure, but wresting a life from the land for those who became farmers or ranchers was a constant struggle against the elements. "Mother" Earth was not kind to many, and while there were fertile areas of land, there were many areas where cultivation was difficult at the best of times. The attributes of a woman, symbolized as nurturing, gentle and kindly hardly fit with the realities these early immigrants faced.

Simply crossing the continent to find places to settle down and farm or ranch brought with them enormous risks and battles with the elements and with the very nature of the land itself. Mountains had to be crossed, and deserts too. Many travelers never made it to their intended destinations. Crossing the country by wagon train was only for the most hardy travelers, and even these were put to a mighty test to make it through. The journey was not through a kind and gentle land.

Life in the American West was rough and tough. It can much better be described in masculine terms than in ...

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Gendering the American Past. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:38, May 20, 2019, from