Just consider the word History: his story. That’s true, isn’t it? The heroes, adventurers and destiny-changers are most often the men of the past. But women have played the same dramatic roles. In nineteenth century Oregon, women transplanted to this western wilderness from comfortable homes in the civilization of the eastern “States”, lived in considerable physical hardship: death in childbirth being frequent. But an amazing number survived, nurturing their families, sometimes outliving their husbands. Later generations of women led the way in promoting social justice and establishing the cultural community of the new city. They were torchbearers for women now pursuing professional careers.
Pioneer women endured long sea voyages to come to the primitive Willamette Methodist Mission in 1837 and 1840. A few came already married and with their small children, others married at the mission either to a man to whom they had become engaged before leaving home or, after a hasty courtship, to one met at the mission. By 1841, the survivors had left that first unhealthy location, and their goal of “civilizing” the Indian population.
With the generational changes in educational opportunities, the right to own property and vote, the evolution of what is accepted by our society, women’s lives today have a freedom that would have been impossible for the earliest Salem women. We must not forget them: their family and community accomplishments established the foundation for the lives we enjoy in the Salem of today.
All the profiles in this series are based on research compiled by Virginia Green from a variety of sources. Additional information and corrections are welcome. Use Comment section that follows each article.