Land of Many Hands: Women in the American West

By Harriet Sigerman | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
“THERE WAS A SPIRIT
OF HELPFULNESS”
BUILDING
NEW COMMUNITIES

Almost as soon as they settled into their new homes and planted their crops or staked their claims, women and men set about completing another task— creating the schools, churches, organizations, and other signposts of community life.

Their first efforts to build new communities centered around simple, good-neighborly mutual assistance, such as quilting and cheese-making parties and helping each other bring in the harvest. Alice Lund, whose family and another family immigrated from Sweden to Minnesota and then to Wisconsin, described why the two families settled adjoining claims and built their log cabins close to each other—“to make it convenient for water, mutual aid and the joy and comfort of close fellowship.”

In the early stages of building a community, neighbors helped each other. Lorencita Miranda, a Hispanic resident of Lincoln County, New Mexico, recalled that in her early years there “[people] helped each other with their work. If someone was building a home, neighbors would help build it. If wheat was being cut, everyone would gather to help.…Women friends would help their neighbor when they had a bunch of men to

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