Woman As A Pioneer
William Worthington Fowler in 1877
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Every battle has its unnamed heroes.
The common soldier enters the stormed fortress and, falling in the
breach which his valor has made, sleeps in a nameless grave. The
subaltern whose surname is scarcely heard beyond the roll-call on
parade, bears the colors of his company where the fight is
hottest. And the corporal who heads his file in the final charge,
is forgotten in the "earthquake shout" of the victory which he has
helped to win.
The victory may be due as much, or more, to the patriot courage of
him who is content to do his duty in the rank and file, as to the
dashing colonel who heads the regiment, or even to the general who
plans the campaign: and yet unobserved, unknown, and unrewarded
the former passes into oblivion while the leader's name is on
every tongue, and perhaps goes down in history as that of one who
deserved well of his country.
Our comparison is a familiar one.
There are other battles and armies besides those where
thousands of disciplined men move over the ground to the
sounds of the drum and fife. Life itself is a battle, and no
grander army has ever been set in motion since the world began
than that which for more than two centuries and a half has
been moving across our continent from the Atlantic to the
Pacific, fighting its way through countless hardships and
dangers, bearing the banner of civilization, and building a
new republic in the wilderness.
Colonial Women, 1876, H. W. Pierce.
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In this army woman has been too
often the unnamed heroine.
Let us not forget her now. Her
patience, her courage, her fortitude, her tact, and her
presence of mind in trying hours; these are the shining
virtues which we have to record. Woman "as a pioneer”
standing beside her rougher, stronger companion -- man; first
on the voyage across a stormy ocean, from England to America;
then at Plymouth, and Jamestown, and all the settlements first
planted by Europeans on our Coast; then through the trackless
wilderness, onward across the continent, till every river has
been forded, and every chain of mountains has been scaled, the
Peaceful Ocean has been reached, and fifty thousand cities,
towns, and hamlets all over the land have been formed from
those aggregations of household life where woman's work has
been wrought out to its fullness.
Among all the characteristics of
woman there is none more marked than the self-devotion which
she displays in what she believes is a righteous cause, or
where for her loved ones she sacrifices herself. In India we
see her wrapped in flames and burned to ashes with the corpse
of her husband. Under the Moslem her highest condition is a
life-long incarceration. She patiently places her shoulders
under the burden which the aboriginal lord of the American
forest lays upon them. Calmly and in silence she submits to
the onerous duties imposed upon her by social and religious
laws. Throughout the whole heathen world she remained, in the
words of an elegant French writer, "anonymous, indifferent to
herself, and leaving no trace of her passage upon earth."
benign spirit of Christianity has lifted woman from the position she held
under other religious systems and elevated her to a higher sphere. She is
brought forward as a teacher; she displays a martyr's courage in the
presence of pestilence, or ascends the deck of the mission-ship to take
her part in "perils among the heathen." She endures the hardships and
faces the dangers of colonial life with a new sense of her responsibility
as a wife and mother. In all these capacities, whether teaching,
ministering to the sick, or carrying the Gospel to the heathen, she shows
the same self-devotion as in "the brave days of old;" it is this quality
which peculiarly fits her to be the pioneer's companion in the new world,
and by her works in that capacity she must be judged.
If all true greatness should be estimated by
the good it performs, it is peculiarly desirable that woman's claims to
distinction should thus be estimated and awarded. In America her presence
has been acknowledged, and her aid faithfully rendered from the beginning.
In the era of colonial life; in the cruel wars with the aborigines; in the
struggle of the Revolution; in the western march of the army of
exploration and settlement, a grateful people must now recognize her
There is a beautiful tradition, that the first
foot which pressed the snow-clad rock of Plymouth was that of Mary
Chilton, a fair young maiden, and that the last survivor of those heroic
pioneers was Mary Allerton, who lived to see the planting of twelve out of
the thirteen colonies, which formed the nucleus of these United States.
In the Mayflower, nineteen wives
accompanied their husbands to a waste land and uninhabited, save by the
wily and vengeful savage. On the un-floored hut, she who had been nurtured
amid the rich carpets and curtains of the motherland, rocked her new-born
babe, and complained not. She, who in the home of her youth had arranged
the gorgeous shades of embroidery, or, perchance, had compounded the rich
venison pasty, as her share in the housekeeping, now pounded the coarse
corn for her children's bread, and bade them ask God's blessing, ere they
took their scanty portion. When the snows sifted through the miserable
roof-tree upon her little ones, she gathered them closer to her bosom; she
taught them the Bible, and the catechism, and the holy hymn, though the
war-whoop of the
rang through the wild. Amid the untold hardships of colonial life she
infused new strength into her husband by her firmness, and solaced his
weary hours by her love. She was to him, "----an undergoing spirit, to
bear up against whate'er ensued."
The names of these nineteen pioneer-matrons
should be engraved in letters of gold on the pillars of American history:
The Wives of the Pilgrims.
Mrs. Catharine Carver.
Mrs. Dorothy Bradford.
Mrs. Elizabeth Winslow
Mrs. Mary Brewster.
Mrs. Mary Allerton.
Mrs. Elizabeth Hopkins.
Mrs. Ann Tilley.
Mrs. ------ Tilley.
Mrs. ------ Tinker
Mrs. [Alice] Rigsdale.
Mrs. Rose Standish.
Mrs. [Mary] Martin.
Mrs. [Alice] Mullins.
Mrs. Susanna White
Mrs. [Sarah] Eaton.
Mrs. ------ Chilton
Mrs. ------ Fuller
Mrs. Helen Billington.
Mrs. Lucretia Brewster
Nor should the names of the daughters of these
heroic women be forgotten, who, with their mothers and fathers shared the
perils of that winter's voyage, and bore, with their parents, the toils,
and hardships, and changes of the infant colony.
The Daughters of the Pilgrim Mothers.
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