Westward Expansion Analysis

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Theodore Roosevelt called the westward expansion of the early 19th century “the great leap Westward,” which was accurate in more ways than one. When Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the US practically doubled in size overnight and almost immediately, men and their families travelled with the hopes of beginning anew. The opportunities in the West were immense, with all the new land to farm, and the idea of Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny was the thought that Americans were superior and had the responsibility of spreading the idea of liberty to the edges of the country. With all this motivation to move, men would force their families to pick up their belongings and take a wagon to the West. Though it wasn’t the women’s choice…show more content…
Though it was not their choice, these same women ended up being the true power behind the survival of the frontiersman in the West. This essay analyzes how much women’s lives, responsibilities, and culture changed in the West, and how they were the reason for such successful colonization in the Western territories. When women and their families moved from New England, the South, or the Midwest to the new Western territory, the women knew they needed to adjust to a new lifestyle. However, the altered culture in these undeveloped towns came as a much bigger surprise to frontierswomen. Women continued to fulfill domestic jobs from their old homes such as cooking, cleaning, and raising their children, which became the norm in this new frontier as well. However, women now helped out on the small farms when needed, and ultimately became a source of unpaid labor, exemplified by Elizabeth F. Ellet. It was very rare that a farm was a “going concern” without female work. Without these women who took on new responsibilities, farms in the frontier would have failed. Elizabeth Ellet was one of these women who took on this type of new responsibility. She explained building their next…show more content…
As Ellet demonstrated, “we lived this way until our husbands got a log house raise and the roof on, then we sold out and bought again ten miles west.” The subtext of how these women follow in their husband’s footsteps, was the norm for the 18th and 19th centuries, but this still created a very patriarchal atmosphere for women. This idea of a patriarchal society, or women bound to domesticity was not necessarily a bad idea to encourage, but it resulted in the ideology of the “cult of domesticity.” This mirrored the idea of “separate spheres.” This domestic ideology made sure being a mother was made every women of the 19th centuries main concern, and this “cult” strongly emphasized women’s main responsibility to be their families and communities. Domestic ideas developed from the ways of Eastern life, and helped to establish towns in the frontier. But dissatisfaction and confusion grew through the women of this time of new settlement. While some women were unhappy with this cult of domesticity and how restricted they felt, others didn’t see it that way. For some, domesticity provided them with a sense of worth. Though there were women who travelled West for different reasons, including adventure, or following their husbands, almost all women at this time believed that domesticity was all that women were meant to do with their

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