Gender and Generation on the Far Western Frontier
In Gender and Generation on the Far Western Frontier, Cynthia Culver Prescott expertly explores the shifting gender roles and ideologies that countless Anglo-American settlers struggled with in Oregon’s Willamette Valley between 1845 and 1900. Drawing on traditional social history sources as well as divorce records, married women’s property records, period photographs, and material culture, Prescott reveals that Oregon settlers pursued a moving target of middle-class identity in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Prescott traces long-term ideological changes, arguing that favorable farming conditions enabled Oregon families to progress from accepting flexible frontier roles to participating in a national consumer culture in only one generation. As settlers’ children came of age, participation in this new culture of consumption and refined leisure became the marker of the middle class. Middle-class culture shifted from the first generation’s emphasis on genteel behavior to a newer genteel consumption.
This absorbing volume reveals the shifting boundaries of traditional women’s spheres, the complicated relationships between fathers and sons, and the second generation’s struggle to balance their parents’ ideology with a changing national sense of class consciousness.
“This useful study fills a glaring gap in our knowledge of western women.”—New Mexico Historical Review
“Prescott’s work begins to fill gaps in both Western and Gender history and should provide a starting point for further research and scholarship on the impact of generational shifts to gender roles in the West.”—Southwestern Historical Quarterly