Women’s Role in the West

Oghma Blog-a-thon

She was often a cowhand

She was often a cowhand


In the days of the westward movement women were second class citizens. It’s important to remember that when writing historical stories, whether they be romances or westerns. With few exceptions women weren’t much more than slaves. So a heroine would probably be trapped in this sort of situation. The man, her master, may be her father or an elder brother who’s now the head of the family or even someone her family sold her to. He might be the man she works for, as in cooking, cleaning, washing. Or she could be an innocent girl caught up in the life of a “soiled dove,” or a widow battling being alone again.

Consider the set-up of a few of my books to see how these poor ladies are situated: In IMAGES IN SCARLET, my heroine, Allison Caine, lives in Missouri. It’s 1866. Her family died during the Civil War, and her father, a photographer of famous people during the war, has died.  Trained by him to be a photographer, she sets out alone with her camera equipment in what was known as a “what’s it” wagon to go to Santa Fe where she wants to set up a photography business. But she knows she can’t travel the trail alone, so she plans to join up with a wagon train. Oh, I forgot to tell you, she’s armed with a Navy Colt, just in case.

Young ladies 1800s

Young ladies 1800s

In MONTANA PROMISES, seventeen-year-old Tressie buries her mother and a stillborn child and is left alone on the prairie. She is obsessed with getting revenge on her father who deserted them to go hunt for gold. The only way she can do this is with some help from a man. And in rides Reed Bannon, badly wounded and slightly flawed, but the answer to her needs. Except he doesn’t want to take her with him. She must figure out a way to change his mind. Women could not travel alone without dire consequences.

And so the stories go. If they are to be a tad realistic, then the women’s lives should be depicted much as they were. I prefer to write more realistic romances than many writers do, but leaving out the bedbugs and lice is probably a good idea. Hard to write a convincing love scene between two people who haven’t bathed in weeks, maybe months, and are infested with bugs. I get around this by having a lot of heroine-and-hero in-the-water scenes just to get them cleaned off a bit before they crawl into bed together.

typical swimming and washing hole

typical swimming and washing hole

So there, now you know what Sexy, Dark, and Gritty really means.


About veldabrotherton

For thirty years I've been a writer. Publication of my work began in 1994 . I'm pleased to have recently settled with Oghma Creative Media as my publisher. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. I recently signed a contract to write westerns again, and what fun it's been working on the first one. If I weren't writing my life wouldn't be so exciting.
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14 Responses to Women’s Role in the West

  1. Reblogged this on Alice White Author and commented:
    An excellent post about getting your facts right, by my friend, fellow author, and mentor, Velda Brotherton.

  2. Wonderful blog, Velda. I like your idea about cleaning off with a swim.

  3. Lori Ericson says:

    Reblogged this on Lori Ericson, Author and commented:
    The final entry in the February Blog-a-thon from writers of Oghma Creative Media. And this is from one of my favorite writers and people, Velda Brotherton! Always nice tot finish with a bang!

  4. Reblogged this on oghmacreative and commented:
    Last day of the February blog-a-thin, and it’s a great one! Our own Velda Brotherton!

  5. Loved this post, Velda! You point out a few things about women in the west that brought home to me the fact that they were indeed “second-class citizens.” I’ll remember this reminder when writing my own stories, for sure!

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