Army wives on the American frontier: living by the bugles by Anne Bruner Eales

By Anne Bruner Eales

Relocating from the restrictive chrysalis of "civilized" culture and Victorian viewpoints within the East, the ladies who their military husbands to forts within the West made an expedition right into a freedom of throught and motion that the majority of them had by no means skilled or maybe imagined. "No one drawn to the heritage of the yank West or women’s background may still pass over this well-written, rigorously researched, entire remedy of a subject matter that earlier students have principally ignored." —Herman Viola, writer of "Exploring the West"

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When Mrs. Roe, still used to civilian titles, called the general/captain Mr. Phillips, the officer's son giggled at her mistake, for which, Frances felt, the child should have been sent to bed at once. Although resounding from over one hundred years ago, some of these stories of army life will seem familiar to today's military wife. The frontiers and the nature of warfare are different, but women of the twentieth century still wait for their men to return after months and even years away from home.

22 Although Turner's thesis was undoubtedly male-oriented, women who moved west found potential for development, not least of all their own. While the frontier did not always provide as many economic opportunities for women as it did for men, the West afforded a more flexible atmosphere and an expanded view of women's role in society and their place in the home. 23Many army wives met the opportunity with flexibility and independence. Page 10 Being young, they were usually more openminded about new ideas and experiences; several were even eager for adventure.

And women who had to walk as their wagons were "roped" down gorges or hauled up steep inclines quickly substituted comfortable boots for soft-soled dress shoes. Army wives discovered on the trail west that the cherished clothes and adornments that had defined genteel female status in the East became burdens to be loaded and unloaded, cleaned and mended, and protected, often to no avail, from western elements. As the women's physical environment changed, their mental outlook was also transformed.

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