Sunday, 31 January 2016

Operation of Traditional Gender Roles - Chapter 8

Traditional gender roles
Ma, Pa,Mary all fit into specific gender roles
Laura challenges it

"For the women who travelled to the western territories in the nineteenth century, the journey brought sharp dislocations. Traditional work patterns were daily overturned with women called upon to do what they had long regarded as "mens' work." The consequence was that gender role, class orientation, even self-evaluation, became troubled areas to many women"Lillian Schlissel, Women's diaries on the Frontier

Pa is the man of the house - protects the family from danger and takes care of them
Patriarchal society - does not want help from the women - self reliant
Resourceful - Collects materials to build the house/ timber for the door and gifts for the family
Jobs/ tasks require strength and can be dangerous - asserts masculinity and typical gender roles
Made sure that the wolves had disappeared

Ma and Mary conform to the typical gender roles associated with women
Prefer to stay at home doing the chores e.g looking after the children, cooking and cleaning
They do not interfere with what Pa is doing therefore knows what is expected of her and does not challenge this
Mary and Ma do the domestic chores and housework whilst Pa attends to the heavy, more challenging manly jobs
"Laura helped Pa make the door. Mary watched" Shows the contrasting characters of Laura and Mary

Laura challenges the typical gender roles - supports Schissel
She helps Pa make the door - this is seen as a mans job so would not typically be done by a female
Her input was not huge - just passing the tools to Pa - shows that she has more masculine traits than feminine ones
She has an inquisitive mind - interested in new things and exploring- wants to help her father with more challenging and adventurous tasks- in this chapter building doors and latches to keep the horses and the family safe
However Laura sometimes conforms to her gender roles "Laura helped wash the dishes and make the beds, but that day Mary minded the baby"
Therefore whilst Laura is helping Pa. Mary is looking after the children so is doing what is expected of her

This chapter exemplifies the contrast between Mary and Laura
Mary follows the rules so remains very much in the realms of gender roles
Laura is more of a free spirit- adventurous- challenges the stereotypical gender roles of women
Sitting down vs exploration of surroundings

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Read, Martha S: A History of our Journey Martha Read (1811-1891) traveled from Illinois to Oregon in 1852

This diary tells the story of Martha Read who set off for California on April the 16th 1852 from Illinois. From the sounds of it there were also many other families who followed in their travels. As Martha is quoted saying that "there is a great many a going from these parts and a great many families that we are acquainted with the roads" this tells us that many others were participating in these travels in the hopes of a better life and fortune. What stock they took on there travels consisted of "two waggons one span of horses three yoke of cattle two cows we take a tent with us and a small stove". The majority of their stock was for them to sell on their travels.

Roughly 3 weeks into the trip, they woke up in the early hours of the morning and went to the old fort and laid by for the day, which was apparently deserted for more than three years, this description tends to strike a resemblance to the western theme. The fort was in very good condition, "good rooms with good fireplace in them and furniture". In comparisons to other stories of similar trips that were told during this time period,  this story seems a lot less dangerous.

Several months later, They seemed to have came to a halt in their travels, due to severe weather conditions. To make sure that their stock was still in good condition, Clifton, who's identity is never verified, as well as the other families decided to stake claim to roughly 320 acres of land which is roughly 40 miles from Oregon City.

Eliza Ann McAuley- Iowa to the "Land of Gold"

Eliza Ann McAuley at age seventeen travelled with her brother and sister and a handful of others to meet her father in California, taking from April to September to travel from Iowa. They left with food and provisions and set off for the "land of gold" with her commenting about a week into the journey that  they pass through "Ottumwa, the prettiest place we have yet seen and have decided to come here and make our home when we return from California with a fortune." This is important as the McAuley family and others are travelling at the time of the California Gold Rush of 1849-1855. This is clearly a journey of great importance to this family as it is hoped that they will return with a fortune and prosper in the West.

They also "pitch our camp for the first time. Our campground is a beautiful little prairie, covered with grass and we feel quite at home and very independent." This description sounds very idyllic and expresses the desires of the American ideal to be independent and have your own home. 

Roughly a month after passing through the prairies they meet their first Native Americas a "Pawnee chief and twelve of his braves" who "expressed a desire to camp with us." As the description is not particularly detailed she gives the impression that this encounter was entirely positive, although no major obstacles or toils are recorded by her in her diary when surely there must have been some over the five month period, although many days are simply left unrecorded. The only problem is noted in July when  it was "so windy and dusty today that some times we could scarcely see the length of the team, and it blows so tonight that we cannot set the tent or get any supper, so we take a cold bite and go to bed in the wagons." She makes not mention of her home before this time or the family she has left in Iowa.

They eventually reach California in mid-September and are reunited with their Father who is known as 'Father Mac' by the local miners. Her journey appears to be one that fits the idealistic vision of travelling to California that was perpetuated to persuade people to migrate West.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Mary Elizabeth Munkers: Crossing the Plains in 1846

Mary explains how fortunate her family was compared to others on their journey to Oregon. The only obstacles her family faced where the Oxen catching diseases (some dying) and harsh weather conditions. That being said she describes her mother as being an "invalid" so that would slow the family down by making sure that she was not sick and was safe in the wagon. Surprisingly her family did not have any issues with the Native Americans, which made the journey easier. However it was often difficult to find resources such as fuel for camp fire, in order to overcome this the children would walk miles and miles to find food and water to survive. Luckily they did not get Cholera amongst other diseases that were spreading during that time period as many other families suffered with illness and disease.

In terms of the weather there was one major storm that disrupted the journey with thunder and huge amounts of rain that destroyed the sheltered tents and scattered peoples belongings across the wide open space. Therefore it was important to stock up on resources that would last a long time as they would never know whether they would be attacked by Indians or if the weather would stop them from moving.

When she reached the Columbia River they managed to get to Willamette Valley where they had a secure place to stay. They began to grow stock by farming seeds in the fields and growing fruit. This made them quite a bit of money as the Father received $14 per bushel of apples, by 1855 he had 100 bushels so had a good income for the time.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

William Swain Letter Written on the Trail to California

The letter from Swain details to his wife Sabrina the progress they have made on their journey and the events of recent times. The opening topic is that of a celebratory dinner (although the occasion is not specified) rather than how he is keeping or his concern for family, etc. Swain is highly unemotional at this point, simply complaining about postal services of his letters.

The surprise of good luck on their trip shows that they are familiar with death on similar activities or know of such stories. With this in mind, it shows the dominating American desire to explore and colonise also. Yet the motives of their trip are not revealed in this letter particularly, so could just be doing this to expand American ideologies and belief systems across the continent or extend their nation's power and exceptional mind-set.

This is clearly a trip of an exploration of some sort and so his singular paragraph on the actual landscape is entirely monosyllabic and descriptively simplistic with no value judgements or mention of what he as a human individual thinks of what he is seeing. What is surprising also is that there is no mention of potential animals, wildlife - other than two plants - or even Native Americans that they might (or might not as that would also be of interest to travellers) have seen. This might be explained by the typical American belief of the time that the West was essentially empty and desolate.

After this, he becomes more emotional about missing his home and family. He even becomes slightly poetic on the line 'I should long for the time to come when I shall turn my footsteps homeward' but seemingly disregards them and turns his focus back to the mission at hand. However his affection overules at the end as he is certain of his eventual return - 'when I get home I will kiss you all.'

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Slave narratives

Adams believed that no theme was more important in the American Dream than what he called 'the American dream of a better, richer and happier life for all our citizens of every rank'. 

However, this view is entirely contradicted by primary source material from a slave called John W. Fields who recalled that 'In most of us colored folks was the great desire to [be] able to read and write. We took advantage of every opportunity to educate ourselves. The greater part of the plantation owners were very harsh if we were caught trying to learn or write.' 

Therefore he was denied the ability to improve himself in anyway and have neither a 'better,richer or happier life' although it is clear from his account that 'most of us colored folks' had 'the great desire to be able to read and write'. Surely in the American Dream a desire would be able to become a reality but here we see that the American dream was not open 'for all our citizens of every rank' on equal levels. 

'Our ignorance was the greatest hold the South had on us' is equally telling as the American dream is often more commonly associated in modern times with hedonistic culture and vast wealth rather than a simple desire to be educated so that a person such as a slave could improve themselves and have a better life on a small scale.

Monday, 18 January 2016

March on Washington

The March on Washington

Adams believes that the American Dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man” that anyone should be able to benefit from the American Dream, and be free of discrimination.

Fifty years ago, on Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood in front of more than 250,000 protesters in Washington, D.C., and called for the end of racial discrimination in the United States in his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech. The political rally, which became known as the March on Washington, became one of the cornerstones of the American civil rights movement. Since the occasion 50 years ago, its impact on society, politics and culture have had profound effects on the hearts and minds of America and the world.

Even though he believes that the American Dream should be able to benefit anyone, he still thinks that these racial barriers are still an issue “Economic and racial stratification have grown markedly, raising doubts about the breadth and depth of opportunity. With the influx of immigrants to the US to pursue the American dream, there may be less opportunities for people to achieve their goals, so in one aspect, the American Dream is the idea of economical benefits, the goal to be “better and richer and fuller” and the drive to achieve the best you can. This however is not the sole ideal, “Religious transformation, political reform, educational attainment, sexual expression” all of these are varied ideals of the American Dream.

The Dream of Flight

In this piece, the dream of flight is shown as a cultural evolution and the Wright brothers' contribution to this advancement as they 'conquer the ocean of the air'. Although the flight of the plane was in 1903 and the term 'American Dream' was not popularised until the 1930s, the Wrights pursued the dream of flight for years. This is proof that the American Dream is subjective to individual circumstance and ambition; which is reflected in Cullen's extensive listing of American goals. In Cullen's introduction, he states that 'one of the most familiar American Dreams: that of upward mobility, a dream typically understood in terms of economic and/or social advancement' is highly idealised, and also is what the advancements provided by the Wright brothers focus on. They would open up the study of aerospace engineering to become one of the most commercial industries worldwide, also suitably related to Adam's view of the American Dream being something of a 'bigger, better and fuller' existence in the name of America.

It is events like these that contain the potential to immerse America further into a busier and industrial nation that Adams so intensely describes. For instance, the riverboats multiplying sixfold in sixteen years shows that if there is an open market for specific development, then America will surely invest in it. However, America is often aware of the financial implications of their investements. Adams states that the riverboats 'costing a hundred thousand dollars and more' which mirrors the quote on the exhibiton saying that everyone involved knew the flight 'would prove diffucult and costly'. There is a clear price tag to being 'bigger and better'.

If anything, the Wright brothers endorsed a potentially hedonistic and 'utilitarian' attitude when taking the flight ideas of the Europeans and utilising them to further their own credibility and success. Naturally, it became a game for the Americans to be better than any other nation at flying as it mirrored their ambitions of freedom and individualism.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Parade

Adams suggests that the USA is losing their culture and gaining business. The parade in the video opposes Adams, the video shows African American and white children alongside each other both celebrating in unison. The parade also includes symbolic characters of a Western including cowboys and Native Americans, this is also a rich part of American history so to some extent supports Cullen as the Western genre of film and television has become a huge business and in some ways loses the culture of the time. Despite it being a representation of the Wild West the Parade is celebrating the entertainment aspect instead of the historical implications.Adams says "If one man built a house in the woods, the Indians would probably soon tomahawk him and his family, but if a dozen families settled in a group, there might be comparative safety."  Again this shows the prejudice of the New Americans as the immigrants were given more opportunities in terms of jobs and land that the original Native Americans have been forced to give up. It also shows that minority groups have always been racially insulted which is still present to this day. The idea that the Native Americans are the dangerous group is due to their animalistic and savage representation in the Western genre, in fact the Founding Fathers were probably the most brutal.

"And amid the greatest surge of immigration in our history, one that brings more people from more of the world than ever before, we don't always speak the same language." This quote by Cullens is describing the American Dream but can be applied to the parade because it does not matter whether you are male or female, the colour of your skin or where you are from or economic status, in these moments everyone has come together purely for entertainment. From a social stance everyone is united by the enjoyment of the parade and there are no limitations. However the expansion of the Western genre in Hollywood means that the parade is more of a business venture, to make money as well as entertain. This makes the American Dream more of an economic ideology instead of a social one because it is about making money and taking the opportunities that are provided. Yet during the 1930s when the term American Dream was introduced it was more mixed in terms of social and economic benefit. The newly arrived immigrants would stay with people from the same country or spoke the same language which helped them to achieve the goals of the American Dream.

Therefore historically the American Dream as suggested by Cullens and Adams can be interpreted in different ways. The parade is a symbol of culture, business and quality.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

This blog is for members of Juliet William's Second AM1212 group. We meet on Tuesday at 12.00 in Alasdair's old office, TAB214.

Post a link to an example of primary source material from the American Memory site at and analyse it with explicit reference to Cullen and Adams. See Week 1's page on the LN for more information.