Women’s Roles In 1800’s America and the West

Jewell Tweedt
Jewell Tweedt

Petticoats and Pistols welcomes Jewell Tweedt, author of Cooking up Trouble at the Peabody Palace and just published from Prism Book Group, A Bride for the Sheriff.

Thanks to Mary Connealy, Sherri Shackelford and the other fillies for allowing me to visit today about women’s roles in the west and my western romances.

A bit about me-I teach American History and have loved western historicals since the day I discovered Little House on the Prairie at my local library at the age of eight.. Born and raised in Omaha I found it fun to base my Nebraska Brides series (A Bride for the Sheriff is book one) in my home state.

Women’s Roles In 1800’s America and the West

The old saying that children should be seen and not heard also applies to women of the 1800’s. Luckily for us, western women were more likely to buck the roles society placed upon them.

Acceptable professions for ‘pious genteel’ women included teaching (only if the woman was single), nursing, and being a household servant. It was assumed that these careers were only temporary until the woman lassoed herself a husband. As a married woman she then lost more freedoms. She could not own property, control her finances, or hold a job without her husband’s permission. As for voting, well no woman could vote in the United States until 1920’s passing of the Nineteenth Amendment.


Even though western women were staking claims, running ranches and birthing children without medical help they were still considered the inferior sex like their eastern sisters. This so-called inferiority was thought to be because of a woman’s ‘gentle nature’ and ‘delicate constitution.’ It was a belief that women had a different character than men and that they were solely on earth for the purpose of being subservient wives and homemakers.

Jewell Tweedt Cooking up TroubleIn A Bride for the Sheriff–Claire Secord has the non-traditional role of being a shop owner. When the shifty banker tries to swindle her out of her business and her home she has to outwit him. “According to my records and the bank receipts written here, by your own teller, I have not missed a single payment since my arrival in town. And upon careful study of the lending documents…as long as the holder of the note pays down a certain percentage …on time every month the bank cannot foreclose. With a flourish she placed the money in a neat stack under Dawson’s nose. He stared at the stack and reached for it. She placed her left hand firmly on top of his and with her right placed a pistol on the desk. As you can see, I am neither poor nor a defenseless girl, Mr. Dawson.”

Protectors of the weaker sex

Men of the 1800’s viewed themselves as the protector of women and sometimes that protection was disguised as manipulation. The man defended the family and the ‘little lady’ but in reality she was handling firearms, planting, sewing, cooking, child-raising and providing moral and spiritual guidance as the stabilizing member of the marriage in crude sod homes and log cabins miles from civilization.

In my novella Cooking up Trouble at the Peabody Palace chef AJ Johnson is set to marry restaurateur Howard when he storms into the kitchen complaining the bouillabaisse is too salty and she’s a sweaty mess. She notices lipstick on his cheek and the scent of a woman’s perfume. Not hers, she always smells of fried food and vanilla. When she confronts him he tells her it’s none of her concern. She retorts that it is because they are engaged. He tells her he’ll continue to do as he pleases, married or not and that includes seeing other women. She won’t have any say because she’ll belong to him. Nor will she have a salary as head chef. She’ll be working for free, since the restaurant is his. She responds by tossing a boning knife at the wall inches from his head. Of course the engagement is off, she is out of a job and must leave town so he won’t press charges. She lands a job as cook in a tough gold rush mining camp and keeps her knife handy. The adventures begin.

jewell ABridefortheSheriffThe good old days

In reality being a woman in the 1880’s took courage, grit and determination. Life was certainly better if a woman found a good man. That’s why we love historical romances, we all hope for that happiness amidst the challenges. I hope you’ll join me in the search for that romance and adventure.

I will be sending an autographed copy of Cooking up Trouble at the Peabody Palace to one lucky reader chosen by a Petticoats and Pistols filly.

Watch for my books on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Thank you,

Jewell Tweedt

More about Jewell: Jewell Tweedt was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, the setting for her books.

Jewell has written for several magazines and is now at work on the fourth book in the series.

Jewell holds a Masters Degree in Education and teaches American History in Iowa where she lives with her husband in a house full of books and DVDs-westerns mostly.

Find Jewell online HERE

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Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

22 thoughts on “Women’s Roles In 1800’s America and the West”

  1. This reminds me of an old saying from the 70’s :

    I admire pioneer women and all that they had to deal with to survive and hopefully find happiness.

    There wouldn’t be any men without woman to give birth to them.

  2. sometimes I feel I was born in the wrong era,,I would have loved living back then and being a trail blazer for women ,,they were a tough breed

  3. Thanks Laurie,
    Hope it didn’t sound like to much of a lecture.Sometimes it’s hard to get out of schoolteacher mode.

  4. Vickie-
    I know exactly how you feel. Life was more difficult back then but at the same time simpler.I’ve always felt I was born one hundred years too soon. Maybe it’s because I’ve always wanted a duster and a six-shooter of my own. Watch out bad guys!
    Thanks for commenting today.

  5. Hi Melanie,
    Thank you. I am lucky to know a few of the fillies and was thrilled to be invited to visit today. I hope you’ll check out my blog.


  6. Good morning, Jewell. All those laws marginalizing women seem so awful now, but it was such a widespread practice that no matter how competent the woman she was considered to need care and protection. Usually she went from her father’s care to her husband’s. Even if she was working and supporting herself, like a school marm on the prairie far from home, she had to live with a family, none of this ‘getting her own place’ stuff. 🙂
    We’ve come a long way, baby.

  7. Hey Mary,
    You are right.I remember reading the about the scary families Laura Ingalls Wilder had to live with when she was a school marm at age 16. She was teaching school to raise money to send her sister off to a college for the blind. I later learned that college is right here in Iowa. It still exists. Anyway, that’s how her romance with Almanzo started. He’d pick her up week-ends and take her home.

    Ah- true love in a buggy. That marriage lasted over 50 years.

  8. Love your books and your beautiful, smiling face, Jewell! It still amazes me that women didn’t get the vote until 1920 – They’d been fighting since the mid 1800’s, and the fight wasn’t pretty.

    You write some wonderfully courageous characters – reminding of us how the west was truly won!

  9. Hi Sherri,
    Thanks. I know it’s hard to imagine women have been voting for less than 100 years. My female students can’t believe it.
    It’s a honor to be here- thank you.
    I enjoy your books too!

  10. Be sure to leave a comment and one of the fillies will chose a winner of my Gold Rush comedy diary Cooking up Trouble at the Peabody Palace.

  11. I love reading books set in Nebraska. It makes it so easy for me to imagine the scenes. Plus I love reading authors that I have not read before. This book is going onto my to be read list.

  12. Hi Connie J.

    Are you familiar with Nebraska? I reside in Iowa but my home is Nebraska. No where is the sky so blue as autumn in the Midwest.

    If you know Omaha at all you’ll recognize the streets (Dodge, Douglas, Saddle Creek) and the surrounding communities like Florence and Council Bluffs).

    Plus I named characters after Omaha friends and family ( with their permission)of course.So that’s fun.

    Thanks for putting me on your list. My books are on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


  13. Very interesting post. Your books sounds great! In your comments you said, “No where is the sky so blue as autumn in the Midwest.” I just said that to my daughter yesterday! I grew up in Iowa.

  14. Anyone who thinks women are the “weaker sex,” then or now, wasn’t paying attention. I think men perpetuated that fallacy because they knew we were stronger in so many ways and were afraid we would have too much influence. The only way to get respect or much of anything else was to take it rather than wait for it to be given.
    If a husband died, the wife would continue on raising the kids, working the farm, and doing what needed to be done, her work as well as her late husbands. Sometimes it was more than they could handle because physical strength was lacking. If a man lost a wife, generally he would look for a woman to take over as many of the chores as possible that his wife did.

    Thank you for sharing short excerpts and information on your books. They sound like good reads. Best wishes for a successful writing career.

  15. So nice to meet you Jewell. I love reading about these women in the 1800. Just by reading all they do and handle, it’s given how strong and independent they were. And some as stubborn. I couldn’t do all they do. We are spoiled now. I had too just got a newsletter from your pub about your release and was looking up all your books so it’s fab to see and read more about your books. Great to meet you.

  16. Hi Patricia and Cathy,

    Thanks for your comments.I never could understand women being called the “weaker sex.”

    As a teacher of middle school boys and girls I can tell you it’s great to see girls actively taking on challenges that only boys would do when I was a child. I’m talking about sport teams, advanced science,STEM instead of home economics. Yahoo!!

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