My Favorite Women of the West

iama-ehq-siteI love the story I wrote for my current release.  It’s called “Home Again” and it’s a novella in the Love Inspired Historical Mother’s Day anthology. Overall title is In a Mother’s Arms.  The heroine has a 12-year-old son who’s determined to get into trouble.  He starts by throwing a rock through the church window. That act of rebellion puts him in the path of the town sheriff, the man my heroine jilted fourteen years earlier.

What I loved about the story is how hard the heroine is trying to raise her son to be a good man. Here she is . . . A woman in 1890 Colorado, running a store, raising a child and divorced. She needs help and the hero is glad to give it, but the bottom line is that she’s responsible for raising her son. Like the real life women who settled this country, my heroine, by shaping a single child, contributes to the creation of the time and place we call the Old West.

When I started this column, I was going to list my five favorite Wild West women. Several names came to mind, most of which you’d recognize.   Annie Oakley… Calamity Jane . . . Caroline Ingalls of “Little House” fame. Don’t get me wrong. I’m fascinated by these women and their larger-than-life ways, but I wouldn’t call them favorites. They are complex individuals with good traits and not-so-good traits.

I thought of Sacagawea, the Indian guide for Lewis and Clark.  In elementary school I read her biography a dozen times. She’d be on the list, but I’m sure my impression has been overly romanticized. She’s a favorite, but I don’t feel strongly connected.sacagawea

I broadened my search and thought of Willa Cather. A woman and an esteemed author, she was born in Virginia in 1873 and grew up in Nebraska. In college I read O Pioneers! and My Antonia. I enjoyed the stories, but I didn’t love them the way I love a western romance.

Somewhere in my search, I realized something simple. The women of the west I most admire don’t have individual pages in history books. They could most likely shoot a gun, but they weren’t in the league of Annie Oakley. They had grand adventures like Sacagawea, but their journeys had another purpose. They wrote like Willa Cather, maybe not books but letters by the dozens, even hundreds.

willa-catherThe women of the west I most admire were the wives and mothers who lived everyday lives. They cooked breakfast for their eight kids, did laundry in tubs with homemade soap, and tended sick children. They stared down danger, kept the faith and somehow brought civility to the wide open spaces of America. I have the deepest respect for these women and always will. They had tough lives and they persevered. What’s more, they passed that grit on to their sons and daughters.

 Mother’s Day is a few weeks away, but I’m celebrating early this year.  Home Again is dedicated to my mom.  She’s strong, smart, wise and just plain fun. Who are the women, both in history and in real life, that you most admire?  I’d love to hear about them.  Everyone who comments will be automatically entered into a drawing for a copy of In a Mother’s Arms.

To learn more about Victoria, visit her website at www.victoriabylin.com

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36 thoughts on “My Favorite Women of the West”

  1. The women I respect the most are my critique group partners. They are my closest friends and great women, wives, and mothers.

    I also admire the women who lived on the early frontier. Life for them was so much harder than for us, and yet they had the same responsibilities.

  2. I have a couple people who I admire they are the ones who even if they are having a hard time they still have time to listen and help you with all the problems you go through. One was my grandmother I admired her because she would listen and help me without really helping. That told me something I hope some day I am able to help someone without really saying anything. That is the way I want to be.
    Your book sounds great and what a great way to honor your mom. Great for Mother’s Day!!!!!!!!

  3. Hi Vickie,
    I hear you on your critique partners. Women who read and write romance are among the most generous I’ve ever met. I can’t think of another profession where people are so quick to share what they’ve learned.

    Women who lived on the earlier frontier have my undying respect. I just put six eggs on the stove to boil. One flick of the wrist, the burner clicks and that’s that. In 15 minutes or so, I’ll have hard boiled eggs. I take the convenience for granted.

    P.S. I hope the shells don’t stick!

  4. Hi Brenda, I love this phrase in your post: “…she would listen and help me without really helping.” There are times when we want to be understood, not given advice. It sounds like your grandmother had that gift.

    Both my parents were great listeners. My dad had a knack for putting things in perspective. My mom’s gift is digging into the heart of a matter. We can go on for hour!

  5. The woman I admire is my grandmother. My grandfather and grandmother raised 16 children. I think I would admire anyone who could have that many children and take care of all of them. I also admired Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane. I always admired when Annie began hunting at age nine to support her siblings and her widowed mother. I thought that was a unique way to support her family.

  6. The women I admire, I don’t know their names. They are the ones who worked silently in the background. Following their husbands west, supporting their dreams, dreaming their own, raising children that conquered the wilderness, handing down a legacy of strength and faith. These women didn’t get their names written down in the history books, but they did admirable deeds. After all, we are here.

  7. Hi Becky, Did you say SIXTEEN CHILDREN! Oh. My. Goodness. I can’t imagine being pregnant for, what is that? 144 months? Disallowing for twins, that’s 12 years! Your grandparents must have been strong, loving people. Of course the world’s changed, too. Back in the day, families had bigger houses, land, farms, etc..

    I read a bit about Annie Oakley when I was researching this blog. I like her, too.

  8. Hi Jen T, I agree with you completely. May the legacy of Women in the West live in! That thought came to me as I was writing “Home Again.” Cassie, the heroine, is doing so much more than raising a single child. She’s contributing to the future for generations to come.

  9. I think the woman who did not grow up in the modern day are the real heroines for me. My grandmother who raised 4 children without a washing machine, a bathroom without running hot water, a husband who did not always work and mother who was sick most of the time. But my grandmothers house always sparkled. She would work from sun up to sun down. Her kids where always clean and good mannered. She was and always will be my hero.

  10. Hi Victoria,
    That is so sweet to dedicate your story to your mom. The women of the frontier must have been incredibly tough to raise a family back then. I have to say that I admire every woman who’s gone without or pushed aside her own concerns to make sure her children were taken care of.

  11. Hi Vicki,

    Love your blog today! I too think the everyday women of the West are my real heroes. If not for them the men wouldn’t have been able to do the things they did. Women played such an important part in settling the West. I love to see them get the recognition. Not that they asked for it. They just did what they had to do and didn’t want a fuss made of it. My mother had the spirit of a true pioneer woman. She worked so hard all her life yet at the end she commented that she should’ve done a lot more. I sure miss her, but I hope that I have some of her spirit in me.

    Congratulations on the new anthology. It sure looks like one I’ll have to put on TBR list. Wishing you lots of success with it.

  12. Hi Kathleen, In between blogging and working on the current ms, I’m doing laundry. My big complaint? I have to walk to the basement to throw a load in the washer and turn the knob! Your grandmother sounds like an amazing woman. Sometimes I wonder if modern conveniences have made us forget our manners. Maybe, but I sure like A/C and hot water!

  13. Hi Maureen, Isn’t that the essence of being a mom? We put our families first. It just comes naturally, though not without some sadness. My reader letter in the anthology tells the story of my husband and I moving back East. We took the two (and only) grandkids with us. Instead of resenting it, my mom encouraged us to do what we needed for our family.

    That stays with me everytime one of my sons gets on a plane for somewhere far and away. They do that a lot!

  14. Hello Linda, You said it! Without women shoring up families, working hard and doing all the things they did, we wouldn’t have the legends of the West. I keep thinking of that Bette Middler song, “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

    Thank you, too, for the well wishes for the anthology. The story turned into a personal favorite : )

  15. Oh how well put, Vicki!

    Your take on women of the west is right on. With all of our modern conveniences I wonder how any of us would cope with everyday life in the west.

    I guess, since I’m a writer, I admire those women who work full time, have children at home and manage to write their books and make their deadlines. Truly, I’m in awe of them. Like Pam Crooks and Stacey Kayne and Cheryl St. John, among a few of my favorites!! But there are so many others out there who manage to do it all and do it well!

    Thanks for a great blog today!!

  16. I guess the women I most admired was my mother. I just didn’t realize how smart this women was until later in life. I know when I was younger she would tell me things and I thought she was full of it but as I got older I discovered she was right most of the time. I wish I still had my mother to talk to today but she has been gone for many years. I would love to tell her she was right.

  17. Hello Vickie,

    The women I admire the most are my mother and my grandmother. My mother for being a single mom and my grandmother for helping to raise me. They are two of the strongest women I know. In history, I admire the women who have paved the way with their blood, sweat and tears for helping the future generations be CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, the writers, the doctors, the lawyers. Have a great day.

  18. Hello Charlene, Ditto to admiration for women who work, write and take care of their families. I didn’t get serious about writing fiction until my kids were in middle school and high school. There just weren’t enough hours in the day. Women have different pressures today than they did 150 years ago, but we’ve still got time conflicts!

    BTW, it’s a gorgeous day in Virginia, *almost* as nice as Southern California : )

  19. Hi Quilt Lady, One of my heroine’s regrets in “Home Again” is that her mother has passed on. Now that she has a child of her own, she has so much to say! I’ve given her an older woman for a friend, a surrogate mom if you will. I loved writing those scenes.

    Hi Roberta, Moms and grandmothers are the stars of the day. They certainly paved the way for future generations. My next book (Kansas Courtship, March 2010) is about a lady doctor in 1860. Women back then did NOT have an easy time of it!

  20. What a wonderful post. Your book sounds amazing! As for the woman I admired most… was my grandmother. She may have been tiny, but had the biggest heart I had ever seen. She made me feel special and loved beyond anything I have ever known.

  21. Beautiful blog, Vicki! Love your new story. My own mother was a true western heroine in her own generation. She put herself through college, taught school and cared for two little girls and her single mother while Dad was serving in World War II. Years later she nursed her husband through a near fatal stroke and gave him a wonderful life in their last years together. Finally, her valiant losing battle with cancer, at 84, taught us all the value of a life courageously lived. Thanks for turning my thoughts to her today.

  22. Hi Colleen, One of my grandmothers gave me a love of reading, and the other gave me a love of writing. My next book is dedicated to them. I know what you mean about grandmas making us feel special. My sons are blessed with two grandmothers who think that they’re perfect!

    Hello Elizabeth, No wonder you write such wonderful books! You grew up with a real life heroine. WWII was such a hard time for women and children. I hear you, too, on the late-in-life health issues. Your mom sounds like a brave, determined woman.

  23. Without the women who braved the harsh life of the west would the west have become civilized? Would it have continued wild and untamed? Would the country have ended at the Missouri River? MMMM food for thought.

    There are so many wonderful mothers out there whom I admire that I would fear leaving one out. One that is most on my mind would be my mother-in-law. She lived through rough life of the 30’s, lived her early marrige in a house where the floor covering flapped when the wind blew, survived a husbad with dementia, has had four hip surgeries and a leg amputation, only to smile and worry about bothering others when needing their help at the home where she is currently living. She has the sweetest disposition, never complaining about anything. I love her.

  24. What a lovely way to celebrate Mother’s Day!
    In college, I took a course on Women in the West. It’s really a fascinating subject and I’d recommend your readers find some of the books that focus on the diaries of the women who came west on the Oregon Trail. They really give an eye-opening portrait of what the west was really like.

  25. Hi Connie, Your post made me smile. With two sons (now grown), I can only imagine how they’d have lived on the frontier without some “civilizing.” Drinking out of the milk carton would just be the beginning. Your mother-in-law has fought the good fight all the way around, hasn’t she? She’s a woman to be admired.

    Hi Luann, I’d have loved that class on Women in the West! I took a few womens studies classes at UCLA and UC Berkeley, but nothing about the American West. Sounds fascinating!

  26. What a wonderful list, Victoria! Thanks for sharing 🙂 My grandmothers are at the top of my list–like most frontier women, both were very hardworking women who endured and overcame so much hardship.

  27. Thanks for an interesting post. Yes, when it comes down to it the everyday woman who gets her family through are the ones to admire and respect! I admire my sister who was brave enough to raise 6 kids! I was happy with two, a boy and a girl..Thank you Lord! Your story sounds good. Thanks for sharing!

  28. As you said, the women who lived, worked and struggled through each day were the ones who really made a difference. Even today, women in many countries are struggling to keep their families together and to survive. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful mother who unfortunately died at 47 from ovarian cancer. There has been so much I would like to have shared with her the last 38 years. I lucked out again with my mother-in-law. She was a strong, loving, independent woman and was a great grandmother to our children. It broke my heart to see her fade away to Alzheimer’s Disease.
    The one nationally known woman I truly admired was Mother Teresa. Her life style was not something many people could follow, but she loved her fellow man and dedicated her life to helping those who had nothing. She offered what comfort and solace she could expecting nothing in return.
    I look forward to reading your new book. It sounds lovely.

  29. Hi Stacey, Hooray for grandmothers! I want to add, I love the western purse you donated to Brenda Novak’s diabetes auction. It’s gorgeous!

    Hello MarthaE! I can’t imagine having six kids. Your sister must be one busy woman! With six kids, you need a van or a big SUV just to go grocery shopping. And cooking for so many! That would be quite a task even with everyone helping.

    Hi Patricia, It’s interesting you’d mention women in other countries. My oldest son is going to school in Egypt, and he’s done a lot of traveling. He’s got pictures and stories that show a whole different way of life. I’ve never been out North America. His experience has opened my eyes.

  30. Most people think the West was won by men. Not so,
    it was really all the women who stood behind those men who really did all the work and the winning!

    Pat Cochran

  31. I’m in complete agreement with you on the women you admire, Vicki!

    I’m excited about your story because:
    1) I love all your stories and can’t wait to read it
    2) I’m writing the Mother’s Day anthology for next year right now!

    smooches!

  32. Hi Pat, I agree completely! Without women in the picture, I can only imagine what the West would have been like.

    Hi Cheryl, Whoo Hooo on the Mother’s Day novella! I can’t wait to read it. I’m glad LIH is continuing the tradition. It’s a fun type of story to tell. And thanks for the kudos on the cover. I like it too!

  33. I so admire anyone who went through those times when settling the West took place. The hardships and inconveniences we see were perhaps not seen by them as they did not know any better ways or tools to accomplish everyday living.

  34. Hi RobynL, I definitely take my modern conveniences for granted. Today it’s close to 90 degrees and my husband fired up the A/C. It’s a necessity, but back in the day, most folks left this area during the summer. Or they had houses that took advantage of shade and breezes.

    Thank you to everyone for commenting! The winner of “In A Mother’s Arms” will be posted soon!

  35. Hi, Victoria! Popping in late to say that I’m glad you’re celebrating mothers–I think that for many of us, we’re blessed to have mothers and grandmothers who care for us and give us a foundation we can build on and examples of women to be 🙂 Looking forward to reading your latest stories, especially since they’re about mothers!

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