Here’s to the women who tamed the frontier

Traditions. This time of year is all about traditions. And who are the keepers of traditions? Women. It’s women who create and kindle the memories. It’s women who tamed the frontier.

Historically, it was the women who tamed the frontier. They built the church congregations. They were the school teachers, the midwives and the mothers who tended the children.

Here’s to Ida Mary and Edith Ammons who homesteaded near the Lower Brule Indian Reservation in South Dakota in the early 1900s. They made their marks: Edith was a newspaper woman and Ida Mary taught school. As homesteaders, they encountered prairie fires, rattlesnakes and blizzards. They opened a post office and a general store — in addition to proving their claim.

And here’s to the breakers of tradition — the women who persevered in spite of expectations. The 1890 Census Report on Occupations found that 14 percent of women in the West worked in professional occupations (such as lawyers, teachers or journalists) compared to only 8 percent of women nationally. There’s speculation that the West was more egalitarian. Personally, I believe that when women came West it was freeing. They realized that if they could own land, plow a field or drive a wagon, they could chart their own course professionally, too. They could choose a profession that was previously open only to men.

Here’s to the strong women who went before us. We’re standing on their shoulders.