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Determined Homesteader's Wife

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''Travelers in the backcountry often reported that women and men routinely shared the heaviest manual labor. Both sexes worked together in the fields, not merely at harvest time but through the entire growing season. Women not only tended the livestock but did the slaughtering of even the largest animals. Travelers were often startled to observe delicate females knock down beef cattle with a felling ax, and then roll down their sleeves, remove their bloody aprons, tidy their hair, and invite their visitors to tea.
Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer

A Determined Homesteader can't Settle the Frontier alone, no matter how stubborn he may be. He needs an equally determined wife. At least in fiction, the Determined Homesteader's Wife is usually a strong-willed woman who's handy around the cabin and fields and probably knows how to load and shoot a gun. And if she doesn't have those capabilities at the beginning of the story, she soon will have. Especially when those skills are required to protect the Determined Homesteader's Children.

The "prairie romance" subgenre of Romance Novel will often have the protagonist becoming one of these, either from the beginning of the homestead or as a mail-order bride.

Has a tendency to become the Determined Widow if the main character of the story is The Drifter or The Gunslinger.



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  • Zig-zagged in 3:10 to Yuma (1957) in the case of Dan's wife Alice. In the beginning, she isn't determined at all, and this trope is clearly averted. Alice complains about how hard life has been and how much they've had to struggle and pesters Dan to get a loan which might help save their foundering cattle ranch. Later, when Dan is about to go out on what seems likely to be a fatal march with Ben Wade, this trope is played more straight. Alice intercepts Dan, begging him to stop, telling him not to risk his life over anything she said the day before. She insists that she's loved their life, even with the hardships and struggles.
  • Mrs. Dance in Canyon Passage. She refuses to give up and move to town even after her husband and eldest son are killed in an Indian raid.
  • Sabra Cravat of the Edna Ferber novel Cimarron and its 2 subsequent film adaptations. She settles in Oklahoma with her husband during the land rush and toughs out many years on the frontier, then takes over the family newspaper business when her husband leaves her due to wanderlust. She ends up becoming an important frontier figure in her own right.
  • Destry Rides Again: Mrs. Claggett, who reacts to Kent trying to take her farm by taking a shot at him with her rifle—just barely missing—and yelling "Come and get it!"
  • First Winter: The mother of the frontier family newly arrived in the Canadian wilderness, hacking firewood and feeding the children while their father spends the winter at a remote logging camp earning money. The mother's teenaged daughter Moira becomes the Determined Homesteader's Daughter after her mother dies.
  • There's Nell McLaughlin of Flicka who talks some sense into her stubborn, horse rancher husband.
  • The Purchase Price has Joan go to rugged North Dakota. She manages to keep her head up by being fiercely determined to win Jim's affection and be a good farmer.
  • Mrs. Jorgensen in The Searchers. Her husband is not only not the Determined Homesteader, but he's given way to despair, blaming the country for the death of his son. His wife responds with a rousing speech of how this country will become a good place to live, even if it may take their bones in the ground to achieve it.
    Mrs. Jorgensen: It just so happens we be Texicans. Texican is nothin' but a human man way out on a limb, this year and next. Maybe for a hundred more. But I don't think it'll be forever. Some day, this country's gonna be a fine good place to be. Maybe it needs our bones in the ground before that time can come.

    Let's Play 
  • Plague and Treachery on the Oregon Trail has Susan Neckebard, who was not that determined to follow manifest destiny as her husband at first, but his incompetence forced her to show off her phenomenal survival skills.

  • Angle of Repose: Susan Ward is an Eastern girl who's used to the finer things; she's even received post-secondary education. But after she marries Oliver, an engineer who works in mining out West, she finds herself with little money in a hostile environment. She makes the best of it, writes of her adventures for magazines back at home and keeps up with her art.
  • Robert A. Heinlein loved the uber version of this trope for female leads in space frontier settings. The ideal frontier wife, to roughly paraphrase, "should be able to fire a gun, pilot a ship, navigate by stars in space and on planets, skin and gut animals, build cabins and solve quadratic equations in her head while raising children." See, for example, Time Enough for Love.
  • Some of the women in The Icelandic Sagas seem to have been like this.
  • Marianne in Cloud of Sparrows was one of these before dying.
  • Kristina in The Emigrants downplays and deconstructs this trope. She has trouble rooting in America, gets medical troubles from repeated childbirths and miscarriages, but is determined to create a good home for her family.
  • Women of Lancre in the Discworld are modelled off the British version of this, the Determined Hillfarmer's Wife. Thinly fictionalised versions of the real thing turn up in James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small series.
  • Ma Ingalls of the Little House on the Prairie series.
    • Her daughter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, becomes this in The First Four Years and the sequel series about her own daughter.
    • Ma Ingall's mother took it a step further and was a Determined Widow alone, with a mass of children, on the western frontier.
  • Claire Fraser becomes one of these (while retaining her status of ginormous badass) in the later books in the Outlander series. 18th Century American wilderness? Pssh, it can be beaten. (It helps that she has all the medical expertise of a 20th-century medical doctor and a good set of vaccinations.)
  • British Sea Captains in the Napoleonic Wars would have their wives with them, as the Admiral and Mrs Croft show in Persuasion.
  • Sarah (Plain and Tall) was the mail order bride subtype.
  • Emily "Auntie Em" Gale of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book.
  • Patience and Sarah has Patience in the role, with her tomboyish unofficial wife Sarah as the Determined Homesteader. The two move to New York and start a farm together.
  • RWBY: Fairy Tales of Remnant: In The Man Who Stared at the Sun, the farmer's wife only finds out about the contest when the farmer doesn't come home for dinner and the sun doesn't set. After failing to convince him to come home, she leaves and the sun tries to get the farmer to look away by observing how upset she is. However, the wife takes that as a challenge, brings food to the farmer, and then takes over running the farm. Thanks to her work and the help of the Determined Homesteader's Children, the farm thrives, which allows the farmer to concentrate solely on the sun.

    Live Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Traveller volume Sword Worlds contains in a sidenote in which a soldier returns from the Fifth Frontier War to see his home wrecked by the war. Then he sees his wife, Ilja, gallantly rebuilding the house and after a suitable reunion joins her in rebuilding their family home to prove that nothing can break the spirit of a true Sword Worlder or a true Sword Worlder's wife.

    Real Life 
  • An old record of Alaska songs that tells of one sourdough's idea of a dream mail order bride: "If she can mush through ice and snow when it's 45 below, hurry up and send me the lady...If she can pitch a tent at night, don't need matches for a light when howling winds do blow...if she's like her photo looks... hurry up and send me the lady."
  • A variation of this which may be called "determined captain's wife" existed along the Atlantic coast. The wives of America's old nautical aristocracy would have influential posts in seaports because their husbands were away at sea. Some went to sea with their husbands and became medics or de facto ships' officers. They had the same sort of determination and resilience as their Western sisters though they didn't have homesteads per se and even though at first glance they often seemed prim and delicate from their high breeding. West or East, they raised 'em tough then.
  • It's not just homesteaders. As an Older Than Feudalism example, The Bible contains a long monologue praising the virtuous wife of a sage busy with statecraft, and it's basically the same picture.
  • In Russia, the equivalent of this trope is zheny dekabristov - "Decemberists' wives", spouses of the participants of the failed December uprising of 1825 who voluntarily decided to share their husbands' exile to Siberia. Expect any film or book on Decemberists in exile paying a great deal of attention to their wives.