The Land Run of 1889
Women in the Land Run
Many women, both white and African American, participated in the Land Run of 1889. They were also lured by promises of inexpensive land and further opportunities. Married women followed their husbands, sometimes unhappily, to what was considered the uncivilized frontier. Single and widowed women also made the race themselves for the same reasons. The Homestead Act stated, in regards to gender, that women must be single or widowed, at least twenty-one years of age, and the head of household to claim a homestead. Upon arriving and staking a claim, women worked alongside men to build their homes and begin their farms. Along with taking care of any children, they also labored to take care of a household, often within a primal sod home and without the same conveniences of their former lives in the East. The women were forced to be versatile, using what they could find to keep their homes. For example, they gathered cow chips to burn for cooking; chased out intruding mice, snakes, and bugs; and cooked while sometimes having to shield falling dirt and mud from the food. They also served as mediators, politicians, leaders, and teachers until towns could be established.
A woman holding down a claim on a town lot in Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, following the Land Run of 1889 (15727, D. S. Mitchell Collection, OHS).
Two women and one man on horseback in front of the Southwestern Lumber Company just before the run (19412.7, William F. Harn Collection, OHS).