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Women's History
A Woman's Place Is in the West, Part 1



A Woman's Place Is in the West, Part 1
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   high interest, readability grades 4 to 5
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   4.03

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    bumbled, cleaned-up, courtship, deputy, forbade, forbidding, frittering, gadding, lurch, needlework, often-used, psalm, rebuke, rutted, settling, stepfather
     content words:    When Papa, Now Esther, But Mother, Seth Hopkins


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A Woman's Place Is in the West, Part 1
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     Esther stood at the kitchen window looking out. She watched the wagon lurch down the lane to the road. "Take me, too!" her heart cried as the wagon lumbered out of sight.
 
2     She would have given anything to be sitting on the wagon seat with her brothers. She loved going to school. But it was not to be. Never again would she feel the excitement of dressing for school in the morning. Never again would she be in the wagon, bumping and jostling along the rutted road that led to the school.
 
3     For four years, Esther had gone to school every day. She'd learned numbers and letters. She'd learned to read. Her older sister Molly had helped her practice reading and sums. That was when her father was still alive. Things were different then.
 
4     Esther remembered the day she'd read a Bible verse to her father. "Psalm 23:1," she'd read carefully. "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." The Bible was the most often-used reading text in school. Esther loved the comforting, solid sound of its words.
 
5     Papa had beamed with pride. "That's my girl!" he'd said. "She's so bright we'll have to put a bucket over her head to see if the sun is shining!" He had laughed and caught her up in a bear hug. Esther kept the memory of him close to her. The pain of missing him often threatened to close over her like a dark night.
 
6     After Papa died, Mother had married another man. Esther's new father wasn't like Papa at all. The new man insisted on being called "Father." Esther wished she didn't have to call him anything. He was a hard man. He ran the family with an iron fist.
 
7     Any breaking of Father's rules brought a slap across the cheek with his hand or a yardstick. From the youngest to the oldest, every child was expected to do a full day's work. Esther's older brothers worked outside. They did the heavy farm work. They were also hired out as apprentice carpenters. Their wages were kept by Father as part of the household funds.
 
8     Women, Father said, were prone to laziness and gossip. They must be kept busy and quiet. Esther and her sister Molly weren't allowed to speak while he was in the house, unless he asked them a question. The girls did housework as well as barnyard chores. Esther labored through an endless list of tasks each day.
 
9     The women, Mother included, weren't allowed to read for pleasure. A girl or woman who was reading, Father maintained, was wasting time. There was no need for women to read anything but the Bible. Even that was to be done only at certain times.

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