Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of History
This thesis will examine nineteenth-century women and their primary role in the cultural formation of frontier sentimentalism. White, middle class women primarily moved west with their husbands and families, initially to the Midwest in the early nineteenth century, and were continuing to settle in the Great Plains and further west by the end of the century. The first generation of women who migrated west were the pioneers of frontier sentimentalism, but it prevailed in successive generations of westering women. This thesis will argue that in the formation of their own form of sentimentalism, nineteenth-century women were at the heart of a new cultural phenomenon that not only shaped their lives and experiences in the West but was instrumental in the crafting of an American myth. Women along the eastern seaboard like Lydia Maria Child began producing sentimental novels that enshrined pastoral republican virtues in a field of American literature dominated by women. Expected to disseminate society’s moral standards, women encouraged Americans to follow all these virtues, associating them with a patriotic citizenry. Women who migrated West carried these values with them, and by mid-century they were living the experience that became the frontier sentimental. The American frontier became idealized as the epitome of the nation’s identity and mythos by the end of the century, and women were doing the cultural work of mythmaking.
Hastings, Erin Elizabeth, "Ordinary Power: Frontier Sentimentalism and Cultural Perceptions of Gender in the Nineteenth-Century West" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 1373.