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Wooster Digital History Project

The Responsibility of Pioneer Mothers

The women of early nineteenth century Ohio were constantly on their feet, “washing, baking, scouring, cooking.” The work day was never far from their minds, even in those moments when they could relax and write letters to friends back home.  These letters give us our greatest insight to the difficult lives of pioneer women.  One Quaker woman wrote “I feel very tired now and look forward to tomorrow as a treat for I have a great pile of patching to do that I can sit down to.”2  Work was not limited to cooking and cleaning.  Pioneer Mothers would also sew, weave, and sell products at the market, creating a home economy essential to their survival.  On top of this, they educated their children--often as many as 10 to 15.3

For the first few years of Wooster’s existence, these women’s lives were full of uncertainty and they could not rely on their husbands coming home each night, meaning pioneer women had to become self-reliant and able to run the household on their own.  To survive, pioneer women had to be strong, smart, and adapt quickly and constantly to a world where danger and disaster were everyday concerns.  Women became protectors, learning how to use the rifle to defend themselves and their children.  They became farmers, tending to animals and crops.  And they became manufacturers, creating products to sell at market. Their sacrifices and hard work helped establish Wooster as a community.

To read a letter from a Quaker woman on the frontier, click here

1 Foster, Emily. The Ohio Frontier. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1996. 164.
2 Ibid.
3 Knepper, George W. Ohio and its People.Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1997. 124.