Publication Year



History, literature, American West, domesticity, public, United States


Comparative Literature | Social History | United States History | Women's History


At the end of the nineteenth century, America experienced what history textbooks label the "last of the Indians Wars," because of significant events like, the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Nez Perce resistance, the revival of the Ghost Dance religion, and finally, the massacre at Wounded Knee. It was also a time when rigid gender roles, what historian Barbara Welter called "the cult of domesticity," waned. Yet two women successfully used sentimental conventions of domesticity to establish careers as writers, in which they argued opposing views about the history of westward expansion and its impact on Native Americans. Twentieth century feminist critics of the cult of domesticity have given inadequate consideration to the malleability of domesticity as a tool for persuading public opinion on this topic. An examination of the lives and writings of Elizabeth Bacon Custer and Helen Hunt Jackson shows that a reconsideration of domesticity can help clarify our understanding of the contradictory roles women played in writing the history of the American West.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status