A Pioneer Woman’s Life

Last week I talked about a cowboy’s responsibilities on a ranch. They often worked from can to cain’t. So did the women–only I think they did a lot more because their job was never done.

She rose before dawn to get breakfast on the table. A pioneer wife knew the importance of putting a hearty meal into her husband’s stomach so she fixed things with a lot of protein, although back then she didn’t know what protein was. It was always meat of some sort—bacon, sausage or steak. Eggs were a staple as were biscuits. Sometimes they had flapjacks too. The men often carried extra biscuits with any leftover meat in their pocket to nibble on through the day because they seldom got lunch.

So, here is a partial list of the housewife’s jobs:

  • Breakfast
  • Getting the children up, dressed and fed
  • Feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs
  • Milking the cow
  • Washing dishes
  • Setting bread dough to rise for baking later
  • Making a lunch for the children and getting them off to school
  • Feeding and caring for the baby if she has one
  • Washing and ironing
  • Weeding and collecting vegetables from the garden
  • Sewing
  • Mending
  • Cleaning house
  • Start supper immediately after eating a bite of lunch herself
  • Churn butter
  • Put supper on the table
  • Wash dishes, then maybe sit with her husband and crochet, knit, or darn holey clothes
  • Get the children ready for bed
  • Soak beans to cook the next day


This isn’t near all but I got exhausted just making the list. Of course, some things she didn’t have do every day. Like laundry. That was usually done once a week. And when the kids got old enough they took over gathering eggs and milking the cow.

But still, the average woman back then had a child every year like clockwork. That only added to her long list. And, she was never allowed much time to recover following childbirth. A week at the most but often only a day or two.

My question….how lucky do you think we have it today? How long do you think you’d have lasted back then? I wouldn’t have made one entire day. But I’m kinda wimpy. Maybe you’d have done better.


A Pioneer Woman’s Life — 11 Comments

  1. I think we would have done whatever we needed to do, we wouldn’t know any better. To go back to that now, with the modern conveniences,hat I love, no I wouldnt make it. I can’t even handle camping, use an outdoor toilet, no way.

    • Hi Veda………You sound like me. Yet, if that life was all we knew, I’m sure we’d manage somehow. It would’ve been hard though. I like outdoor camping except for–the bugs, the bathroom situation, the hard sleeping bags, the lack of electricity………..

      Thanks so much for coming!

  2. Good morning Linda- I’ll say the ladies who came before us, should and are heroes in my mind. I’m like you, I think one day would have done me in.. we are extremely lucky today, that being said, I don’t think we would be where we are today if not for those who came before us. They taught our grandmothers and mothers so many great lessons who have been passed down, although many of the ways they did things have been altered to our modern technology, but there are still many things that they have passed down to us that can be of beneifial use if we would just put our minds to it.
    Thanks or another great article. You have a blessed Monday, my Sweet sister friend.

    • Hi Miss Tonya……I’m glad you enjoyed my post. We do owe these women a debt of gratitude. And it really irks me that the men get so much credit for settling the west when the women are who civilized it. They stood in the background and made sure things got done. They also brought libraries, schools, and books to the West.

      Love you, lady!

  3. Oh my goodness, we are SO spoiled with all our modern conveniences. I can’t even imagine trying to do even the simplest of tasks like washing clothes. It had to consume all of their time just because of how long it would take to heat the water and then you’d have to have another tub for rinse water unless you did like some and washed clothes in a creek. I love the romanticism of that time period, but would not want to go back and lose all of the modern things that make our lives easier.

  4. Linda, this was mighty helpful information for me. I was raised in the southeast and, except for 2 years living in the west, I know little about the daily life of pioneers except by research.
    I see that life was work from sunup to sundown, but I imagine these people were hearty, healthy, and never bored.
    I saw a PBS special once where the had several different families set aside modern life and conveniences and homestead for several months. The children were also involved in the experience. They all moaned and groaned about how hard it was in the beginning. The teenagers complained about missing their cell phones, I-Pads and video games before they began to acclimate to pioneer life. When it was over and they all returned to their modern conveniences, PBS interviewed them. The interview that struck me the most was the two teenage sisters who had put up such a fuss about wanting their regular life back. They were lounging in a hot tub next to the huge in-ground pool behind the mansion where they lived. They said they missed the pioneer life they had been living. There was always something to do and they had responsibilities. They felt needed and necessary for the family to survive. Now they just felt bored and restless. What I took away from that was that, no matter how hard life was on the frontier, the work and responsibility made people feel important and essential to their families. That’s a pretty big deal and I have wondered about all the implications ever since.
    Wonderful blog, Linda. Sorry that I don’t get over here as much as I’d like.

    • Hi Sarah…….I saw that PBS special. Very interesting experiment. Yes, I think the work really formed a strong bond in families back then. Kids are so bored these days and having all that time on their hands makes for getting into trouble. Maybe what they need to do with troubled kids is to send them to a place that’s like the old West. That would straighten them up I think.

      Sending love and hugs, my friend!

  5. Hi Linda – A lot of info in your blog for us to enjoy. Women back in the frontier had to be tough to work from sun up to sun down & have children to raise. No, I don’t think I would make it either. Way too many conveniences in our way of life now.

    • Hi Lois……Thank you for coming. I’m glad you liked my blog. We don’t realize how tough those pioneer women had to be until we see a list of their work. I have a whole new appreciation for them.

      Love and hugs!

  6. I am spoiled and wimpy, so I never would have lasted. I am very grateful that I was born in this time period.

    • Hi Cheryl C……..I totally agree. I’m grateful for these modern conveniences that give us more time to ourselves to like read books! Those pioneer women never had time to read.