"Tryels and Trubbles": Women in Early
R ECENT SCHOLARSHIP IN REGIONAL HISTORY HAS ESTABLISHED WOM-
en's presence as integral in the fabric of historical experience of
Texas and the West. Similarly, recent scholarship in women's history has
revealed the richness and variety of women's experiences on the fron-
tier. Using these two approaches historians are rewriting and rein-
terpreting the history of the West.' In a large number of books and ar-
ticles historians have corrected the traditional male bias in western
history, which asserted either that women were "invisible, few in num-
ber, and not important in the process of taming a wilderness," or, on
the other hand, that they were the saintly sentimental heroines of male
imagination. Attacks on these two sets of misconceptions have effec-
tively discredited any view which would stereotype western women or
* Fane Downs is chairwoman of the Department of History at McMurry College, where she
has taught since 1970o. Her publications include "Texas Women at Work," in Donald W. Whisen-
hunt (ed.), Texas: A Sesquicentennial Celebration (Austin, 1984). Downs has presented papers at
annual meetings of the Association and at other historical symposia. She is president of the
West Texas Historical Association for 1985-1986.
1 The most useful historiographical essay in this regard is Joan Jensen and Darlis Miller, "The
Gentle Tamers Revisited: New Approaches to the History of Women in the American West,"
Pacific Historical Review, II (May, 198o), 173-213.
2Ibid., 173-175, 176 (quotation), 177-182; Beverly Stoltje, "A Helpmeet for Man Indeed:
The Image of Frontier Woman," Journal of American Folklore, LXXXVIII (Jan./Mar., 1975),
25-41; Ronald W. Hogeland, "'The Female Appendage': Feminine Life-Styles in America,
182o-1860," Civil War History, XVII (June, 1971), 10o1-114; Paula Treckel, "An Historio-
graphical Essay: Women on the American Frontier," The Old Northwest, I (Dec., 1975), 391-
403; Sandra Myres, Westering Women and the Frontier Experience, 80oo-1915 (Albuquerque,
1982), 1-11; Glenda Riley, "Images of the Frontierswoman: Iowa as a Case Study," Western
Historical Quarterly, VIII (Apr., 1977), 198-202.
Perhaps the definitive signal that women in the West cannot be ignored nor their experiences
devalued is the appearance of Sandra Myres's Westering Women, a volume in the authoritative
Histories of the American Frontier series, edited by the late Ray A. Billington. Other works
useful in filling in the women's record are Joanna Stratton, Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/. Accessed March 27, 2015.