A True Partner: Rebecca Boone Guiding Force Behind Frontier Husband

By Fenning, Esther Talbot | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 19, 1997 | Go to article overview

A True Partner: Rebecca Boone Guiding Force Behind Frontier Husband


Fenning, Esther Talbot, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


According to local historians, the adage that behind every great man is a good woman was especially true in the case of frontiersman Daniel Boone and his wife, Rebecca.

From her birth until she died in 1811 at the age of 73, Rebecca Boone lived on the cutting edge of the American frontier. Like most women who forged their way west with their families, Boone possessed all the skill necessary to create a civilized world in the midst of danger and primitive conditions.

Even so, Boone and her female counterparts were largely ignored in the annals of American history and literature. The stories about the saga of the frontier focus primarily on men, Lindenwood College English professor Jean Fields says. Fields, who teaches American literature, is working on a book about Rebecca Boone. She chose Boone because Fields said she typified the ordinary and forgotten woman of the frontier. "These women had skills that were considered high tech at the time," Fields said. "Rebecca not only was a superb linen maker, leather tanner and weaver, but she was a good shot. She had to be to protect her livestock and family." Researching Boone's life took 10 years of digging through diaries, journals and account books in small-town libraries. It was especially difficult because Rebecca Boone was illiterate. Not only did she leave no written records, but she was isolated on the frontier for most of her life. "We know more about women like Martha Washington and Abigail Adams because they were educated and basically the products of an urban aristocracy," Fields said. Rebecca and Daniel Boone had nine children. They endured the loss of their oldest son, James, who was killed by marauding Indians when he was 16 and the youngest, Israel, who died in the last battle of the Revolutionary War. Fields, who often slips into the present tense when referring to Rebecca Boone, said that because Daniel Boone was a hunter and traveled, Rebecca suffered not only the hardship of isolation and constant danger but the responsibility of raising her children alone. `Strong Base For Family' Boone had utmost confidence in Rebecca, Fields said, and took it for granted that she could handle things so that he could leave for long periods. "She seems to have been a strong base for the family. She was a clannish woman who didn't trust much outside her family," Fields said. Rebecca Boone will be front and center this weekend at the 1800s Trades Show and Military Re-enactment at the Historic Daniel Boone Home & Boonesfield Village, 1868 Highway F, Defiance. Rebecca will be portrayed by Elizabeth Richards and Kathie Bixler as she receives her husband's appointment as territorial judge and military commandant of the Upper Louisiana Territory. …

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