Homesteading: Dreams and Realities

Review Questions

What specific types of hardships did an average American farmer not face as he built his homestead in the Midwest?

  1. droughts
  2. insect swarms
  3. hostile Indian attacks
  4. limited building supplies



What accounts for the success of large, commercial “bonanza farms?” What benefits did they enjoy over their smaller family-run counterparts?


Farmers who were able to invest a significant amount of capital in starting up large farms could acquire necessary supplies with ease. They also had access to new, technologically advanced farm machinery, which greatly improved efficiency and output. Such farmers hired migrant farmers to work their huge amounts of land. These “bonanza farms” were often quite successful, whereas family farms—unable to afford the supplies they needed for success, let alone take advantage of the technological innovations that would make their farms competitive—often failed.

How did everyday life in the American West hasten equality for women who settled the land?


Women who settled the West were considered by their husbands to be more equitable partners in the success or failure of the homestead. Because resources were so limited and the area so sparsely settled, women participated in work that was typically done only by men. Due in part to these efforts, women were able to inherit and run farms if they became widowed, rather than passing the farms along to male relations as they would in the East. The first states to begin granting rights to women, including the right to vote, were in the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest, where women homesteaders worked side by side with men to tame the land.