Oregon Public Broadcasting


Transcript - Women's Work is Never Done

Music: (19TH CENTURY SONG) MENDING, MAKING, THUS REPAIRING, WOMEN'S WORK IS NEVER DONE.

John Mack Faragher: ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WOMEN CONCENTRATE ON IN, IN THEIR REMINISCENCES AND THEIR DIARIES OF THE EXPERIENCE IS THE WAY THAT THEIR WORK IS NEVER DONE. WELL OF COURSE THIS IS THE STANDARD COMPLAINT ABOUT WOMEN THAT WOMEN'S WORK IS NEVER DONE. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT THE HISTORIAN DISCOVERS IS THAT IT'S TRUE.

Voice Over: ALTHOUGH THERE IS NOT MUCH TO COOK, THE DIFFICULTY AND INCONVENIENCE IN DOING IT AMOUNTS TO A GREAT DEAL. THEN THERE IS WASHING TO BE DONE AND LIGHT BREAD TO MAKE AND ALL KINDS OF ODD JOBS. SOME WOMEN HAVE VERY LITTLE HELP AROUND THE CAMP. BEING OBLIGED TO GET THE WOOD AND WATER, MAKE CAMPFIRES, UNPACK AT NIGHT AND PACK UP IN THE MORNING. (GRAPHIC: HELEN CARPENTER 1857.)

John Mack Faragher: WOMEN WOULD RISE FIRST, START THE FIRE, GET THE PORRIDGE GOING... JOYCE BADGLEY HUNSAKER5: SHE WOULD LINE OUT WHO WAS TO WALK WITH WHOM, THE OLDER CHILDREN LOOKED AFTER THE YOUNGER CHILDREN IF THERE WAS A LARGE FAMILY.

John Mack Faragher: OF COURSE MEN ARE DRIVING THE STOCK BUT WOMEN PERHAPS ARE GATHERING FUEL, TENDING THE CHILDREN AND PROBABLY GATHERING STRAYS AS WELL.

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker: IT WAS TYPICAL AH EARLY ON IN THE JOURNEY THAT WOMEN WOULD TAKE TABLECLOTHS, WHITE STARCHED TABLECLOTHS AND FOR NOONING OR LAYING BY AS THEY CALLED IT, SHE WOULD SPREAD THIS LOVELY TABLECLOTH ON WHATEVER WAS HANDY, IF THEY HAD A TABLE SHE WOULD US THAT. IF NOT, OVER A STUMP OR ON THE GRASS. SHE WOULD USE CHINA AND SHE WOULD ATTEMPT TO WASH THE DISHES EVERY TIME THAT THEY HAD BEEN USED.

Lillian Schlissel: YOU WERE WALKING TEN MILES A DAY, YOU MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT BE PREGNANT, YOU WERE TAKING CARE OF THREE, FOUR, FIVE CHILDREN, YOU WERE COOKING FOR THE ENTIRE WAGON COMPANY, AND YOU WERE WASHING AT EVERY RIVER WHERE YOU COULD WASH. SLATE: DRAWINGS OF WOMEN WASHING

Voice Over: CAMILLE AND I BOTH BURNT OUR ARMS VERY BADLY WHILE WASHING. THEY WERE RED AND SWOLLEN AND PAINFUL. OUR HANDS ARE BLACKER THAN ANY FARMERS. AND I DO NOT SEE THAT THERE IS ANY WAY OF PREVENTING IT. FOR EVERYTHING HAS TO BE DONE IN WIND AND SUN. (GRAPHIC: REBECCA KETCHUM 1853.)

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker: SHE HAD TO DO EVERYTHING HERSELF, DO IT QUICKLY, DO IT IN LINE WITH MANY OTHER WOMEN WHO WERE DOING THE SAME THING. OFTEN IN THE DARK, IN THE RAIN, IN HAIL STONES THE SIZE OF HENS EGGS, AND DO IT WITHOUT COMPLAINING.

Voice Over: I WORE A DARK WOOLEN DRESS WHICH SERVED ME ALMOST CONSTANTLY THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE TRIP. THE WOOL PROTECTED ME FROM THE SUNS RAYS AND PENETRATING PRARIE WINDS. IT ALSO ECONOMIZED IN LAUNDERING WHICH WAS A MATTER OF NO SMALL IMPORTANCE, THE CHIEF REQUISITE WATER BEING SOMETIMES BROUGHT FROM MILES AWAY. (GRAPHIC: CATHERINE HAUN, 1849)

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker: THESE POOR WOMEN STARTED OUT IN THEIR CORSETS AND THEY HAD THEIR LONG SKIRTS AND THEY HAD THEIR BONNETS WITH PASTEBOARD IN THE VISORS SO THAT IT WOULD STAND UP STRAIGHT IN THE SUN. SUSAN BADGER DOYLE3: WOMEN IN THOSE DAYS FELT THEY NEEDED, BECAUSE OF THE ETIQUETTE, THEY NEEDED TO COVER THEIR ARMS AND LEGS. JOYCE BADGLEY HUNSAKER9: THE LONG SKIRTS WERE GETTING CAUGHT IN THE FIRES, IN THE COOKING FIRES, THEY WERE GETTING TORN ON THE SAGE BRUSH AND THE ROCKS, THEY WERE GETTING CAUGHT IN THE WHEELS.

Voice Over: IN JUMPING OFF THE HORSE TODAY I CAUGHT MY DRESS IN THE HORN OF THE SADDLE AND TORE ALMOST HAVE THE SKIRT OFF. THAT I MUST MEND TONIGHT. MY DRESS IS VERY DIRTY AND HAS BEEN NEARLY IF NOT TWENTY TIMES, AS LONG AS I LOOK AS WELL AS THE REST, I DON'T CARE. (REBECCA KETCHUM, 1853 #7720)

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker: BY IN LARGE, THE WOMEN DID NOT WANT TO LOSE THOSE LONG SKIRTS BECAUSE THAT WAS THE ONLY PRIVACY THEY HAD FOR THEIR PERSONAL BUSINESS OUT ON THE PLAINS. FIX SHOT HERE OFTEN TIMES THE WOMEN WOULD GO OUT IN GROUPS WHEN ONE HAD TO DO HER BUSINESS AND THEY WOULD CIRCLE HER WITH THEIR SKIRTS OUT END TO END. WITH THE PERSON NEEDING PRIVACY BEING THE ONE WITHIN.

Narrator: DESPITE THE DIFFICULTIES DURING THESE FIRST WEEKS ON THE TRAIL, MOST WOMEN MAINTAINED THEIR OPTIMISM. EVENINGS THERE WAS TALK, MUSIC AND DANCING.

Voice Over: WE ARE A MERRY CROWD. WHILE I JOURNALIZE, JOHN OF THE COMPANY IS PLAYING THE VIOLIN, WHICH SOUNDS DELIGHTFUL WAY OUT HERE. MY ACCORDION IS ALSO GOOD AS I CARRY IT IN THE CARRIAGE AND PLAY AS WE TRAVEL. (GRAPHIC: AMELIA HADLEY 1851)

Voice Over: AS I SIT WRITING BY THE CAMPFIRE, JOHNNY KEEPS PILING ON THE STICKS TO SEE THEM BURN, HENRY IS SITTING ON A CAMPSTOOL SAYING "OH DEAR, I BELIEVE I'LL DIE OF JOY." INDEED WE ARE ALL AS HAPPY AS CAN BE. (GRAPHIC: MARY RIDDLE 1878)


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