Whether she was addressed as Madame or Ma’am, Señorita or Squaw, a woman needed guts to live out West. The ‘weaker sex’ encountered savage, brutal and obnoxious obstacles (and these were just the men!), not to mention mean ol’ Mother Nature and a plague or two. Or three.
In spite of these barriers, or maybe because of them, the American frontier attracted legions of nonconforming women–mavericks, loners, eccentrics and adventurers. And through it all they kept their sense of humor: ‘I’ve got 350 head of cattle and one son,’ said a widowed ranchwoman. ‘Don’t know which was harder to raise.’
In the case of the ‘boat people’ (immigrants from Europe) who ventured out West, the women were typically cut off from family, friends, their native culture and the ‘protective strictures’ of Eastern society. Some were crushed by the experience, others survived and more than a few thrived.
Of course, many of the so-called wild women were already in the Wild West and lived on the plazas and in the wigwams, hogans and teepees up and down the canyons and across the Great Plains. Among both the natives and newcomers were plenty of feisty women who weren’t afraid to mix it up with anyone, man or beast. As a modern leader put it, ‘No country, no culture, no people will ever rise above the standards of its women’....
Like their male counterparts on the frontier, the early female arrivals were rugged individualists who angled west to gain the cherished privilege of being left alone to do what they pleased. And often as not, ‘doing what they pleased’ was a nice way of saying they were women of easy virtue. A Forty-Niner’s poem sums up the early arrivals to California:
The miners came in ‘49,
The whores in ‘51,
And when they got together
They produced the native son.
Many women who came West were trying to escape their past. Others saw too many restrictions in Eastern society and wanted to create a future in this new land of opportunity. All were hoping against hope, and many had nothing to lose.
Source - HistoryNet.com
Women's History Magazine