For widows, homesteading may have been perceived not so much as an adventure, but rather a means of survival. Probably they were more likely to see a homestead as the route to an established home rather than as an investment which could readily be sold. Some undertook this endeavor with small children to support; others homesteaded alongside their grown children.
After her husband's death, friends advised Kari to put her three youngest children in an orphanage and go out to work. Instead she moved to North Dakota with her seven children (the oldest was ten) and took a homestead. In addition to managing the homestead, Kari took a variety of jobs which helped to supplement her income. She washed clothes and baked bread for neighbors, cared for the sick, cleaned, cooked ducks for the men who hunted on her land, and for a time had an 18-mile mail route which she covered by horse and buggy. She remained on her homestead until her death.
(Courtesy: Margaret Lein, Kenmare)
Hanna Amanda Boesen Anderson
Hanna Amanda's first husband, James, filed on the land, but tragedy struck. First a young daughter and then James fell ill and died. Hanna Amanda continued to live on the homestead and made improvements. She built a sod shanty for a coal shed, added another door and window to the house, and constructed a new roof for the barn. During these activities, she wore an old pair of her late husband's overalls. In a letter to her in-laws in Denmark, she commented on the negative reaction of a neighbor to her attire. "Why shouldn't I be the man in my own house?. . . I don't care if anyone laughs." Then she added, "Very few people come this way and I am a good ways from the road."
Hanna Amanda proved up the homestead and eventually sold it. She remarried, but shortly thereafter, she contracted the same illness which had claimed the lives of her daughter and former husband (probably tuberculosis). She died at 28, leaving a daughter, Myrtle, as the sole survivor.
(Courtesy: Myrtle Christensen, Fargo)
for Regional Studies