"I will keep close to my gun and dog"
okay, not that this fine lady would have, presumably being a new york actress or model, but still the photo transports me to another time and age and set of societal norms and values.
I love reading about the pioneer ladies' concern for clothing and fashion: "The woman who started out in a traveling dress with clean collar and cuffs soon found she had to abandon it for clothes she had originally refused to wear."
I imagine a lady starting out like this perhaps:
and evenutally replacing her silks and linens with the more practical calico and linsey-woolsey, becoming this (which i sort of like better)
One woman wrote in her diary about fashion on the westward journey:
"As the days lengthened into weeks, our self-respect suffered in the matter of clothes," describing her skirt as "a wide piece of fringe hanging from belt to hem." Another woman wrote, "we were so worn out that we were not particular about how we were dressed but presented a mixture of fashions." And I love the way Luzena Wilson (that name!) described this encounter with a man in a clean white shirt who "revived in me the languishing spark of womanly vanity," as she realized that her tattered skirts were "worn off in rags above my ankles," her face sunburnt, her hands "brown and hard;" she shrank away from his sight modestly.
The Languishing Spark of Womanly Vanity!
I love it!
This next wonderful book i've had forever but am only now fully perusing as a visual accompaniment to the reading. (i'm lucky enough to have a mom that works at the library and often brings me home books that have been discarded or donated.)
But I guess camping out left 19th-century white women feeling too vulnerable and frightened and exhausted to make friends:
These women went from having massive female support systems and being completely entrenched in the patriarchal system of domesticity in which a woman's "voice is gentle; her pronunciation is delicate; her passions are never suffered to be boistrous...she never foams with anger; she is seldom seen in any masculine amusement" to having moved out into vast territories of isolation and then almost single-handedly setting up homes and creating culture and society anew as their husbands hunted and farmed the new land.
I'll let these amazing photographs tell the stories:
I find an enduring patience and kindness and love emanates from the eyes of these women.
And playfulness! The woman shooting milk into her cat's mouth = most adorable thing ever.
I love the cats in the last photo too, lazing around on their lady's lap. It makes me wonder how and when the cats came west?! I surely don't think they made the overland journey by wagon train...
Even though one lady wrote in her diary, "This gypsy life is anything but agreeable. It is impossible to keep anything clean and it is with difficulty that you do what you have to do," I still get to daydreaming and even admittedly romanticizing that long-ago most life-changing journey. Although not a fan of what was so-called Manifest Destiny, and skeptical at best about the way that settlers encountered native inhabitants of the land, I still find it valuable and inspiring to learn about this compelling time in American history, especially from a woman's perspective.
Oh and by the way my outfit the other rainy blustery day was partially inspired by old west women and partially by the book about gypsies that I've also been devouring:
Geez, all this talk about the wild west makes me realize how damn easy we've got it when we can wear and even photograph any outfit we dream up! Welcome to the new millenium.