Women's History
Votes for Women, Part 2 - Abigail's Powerful Pen

Votes for Women, Part 2 - Abigail's Powerful Pen
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.12

     challenging words:    beset, co-signed, homesteaders, ill-treated, odious, say-so, sober, suffrage, widow, estate, resistance, tragedy, brutal, slavery, spite, based
     content words:    When Abigail, Out West, Ben Duniway, At The New Northwest, Crusader Susan B., Oregon Congress

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Votes for Women, Part 2 - Abigail's Powerful Pen
By Toni Lee Robinson

1     Abigail's eyes sparkled. They were going west to Oregon! Waiting in the West was a new land and a new life, Father said. He had asked her to keep a journal of their trip.
2     "You write it all down," Father said to her. Abigail loved books, and she loved to write. She loved teasing out just the right words for what she saw and felt.
3     Mother wept as they left. "Why?" Abigail wondered. "I feel free! Whoopee!" No more odious chores dishes, laundry, tending the garden. All that was left behind on the Illinois farm.
4     Little did she know that the trip would bring its own hard work. It would also bring tragedy and loss. At the end of one dreadful day, Abigail sobbed as she wrote. "Mother has died. The cholera has taken her. Father is digging a grave on the small hill above our camp. We will bury her tomorrow."
5     A few days later, her three-year-old brother died, too. His small body was also buried along the trail. When Abigail wrote in her journal, it was no longer about the adventure of their journey. The rest of the trip was sober and silent.
6     Abigail thought often of Mother. Even before the sickness, Abigail realized, Mother's life had been eaten up by weariness. Birthing twelve children, cooking, cleaning, and following after Father had consumed her. Mother hadn't wanted to come west. She was tired and ill. Father had insisted on the journey. Since women had no say in their own lives, Mother had bowed to his wishes.
7     "It will be different for me," Abigail vowed. The West was a new world. There hadn't been time for life to set into hard, fixed lines dominated by male say-so. Out West, women surely would be free of household slavery.
8     What Abigail found didn't always measure up to her hopes. After her arrival, she was beset by suitors. Many men were looking for wives in order to increase their land holdings. Oregon homesteaders could claim 320 acres for themselves. A wife could claim another 320 acres. Abigail's father quickly remarried.
9     Abigail scorned any man who saw her as a way to claim more land. She refused her homestead rights. When a man named Ben Duniway wanted to marry her anyway, she was charmed. Ben seemed just the man she had been looking for. He was gentle, not demanding. He genuinely loved her. The two were married.

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