I used to perform the old folk song, “Waggoner’s Lad” and the first lines were “Hard luck is the fortune of all womenkind. They’re always controlled, they’re always confined. Controlled by their parents until they are wives, then slaves to their husbands the rest of their lives.”

Life on the frontier was especially hard on women. The men spent their days working in the fields or hunting and the women spent theirs trying to cooking, washing, taking care of the kids and trying to keep from getting pregnant every nine months or so.

They’d been uprooted, left their friends, family behind, and forced to bear children alone. Most, somehow endured. “Self-pity,” said one “is the lowest state to which a woman’s mind can fall.”

From the 1840 diary of Mary Walker, mother of eight children: “Got my housework done; baked six more loaves of bread; cooked a kettle of mush; put my clothes away; set my house in order—at 9 pm was delivered with another baby.”

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