In the days of newly settled
Homesteads springing from the prairie,
Covered wagons, moving westward,
Men were first to turn the furrow,
Hew the forest, build the cabins,
Climb the mountains, widen pathways
For the slowly plodding oxen.
With them came the quiet women,
Capable in homespun dresses,
Milking cows and churning butter,
Helping with the seed and harvest,
Spinning, quilting, feeding babies,
Strong and calm and uncomplaining,
Helping where they most were needed.
But packed with love inside the wagons
Were treasures of a fragile beauty,
Dainty cups and plates of china,
One or two especial pictures,
Soft material for curtains
Waiting till the cabin windows
Should be finished, ready for them.
Those early, courageous women
Did not think their lives heroic,
Never dreamed that we would call them
Pioneers. They helped their husbands
Through the snowdrifts with the cattle,
Worked all day in field and garden,
Salted down the meat in barrels,
Fed the men and taught the children,
And then sat down by lamplight
To sew by hand and to embroider
Daisies on a baby’s gown. The mothers
Saved their precious seeds and planted
Apple trees for fruit and beauty,
To cheer the heart and welcome neighbors.
Long hours they worked, but satisfying,
No thought of honor in the future
But just to bring a bit of beauty
To the new home in the west.
– Barbara Ferguson
(This was composed for a Women’s Institute project when I lived in Upper Clearwater in the 1950s and 1960s).