Women's Experiences on the Western Emigrant Trails

During the western emigrant trails era, 1841–1869, an estimated 500,000 people traveled over a complex system of overland trails to western destinations, seeking a better life, economic opportunities, and religious freedom. The trails era is characterized by a succession of migrations, beginning with agricultural migration to the Pacific Northwest, followed by the Mormon migration to Utah, and finally gold rushes to California, Colorado, and Idaho-Montana. Each decade of the period exhibited distinct characteristics as the various types of migrations meshed and flowed together.

The proportion of men, women, and children varied greatly with the type of migration. Men dominated the mineral migrations (at least 80% and at times 95%), whereas a more balanced men/women ratio characterized agricultural migrations. Agricultural emigrants to the Pacific Northwest intended to ...

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