From 1840 to 1870, almost 250,000 courageous women undertook an unpredictable and strenuous journey that began east of the Mississippi River. They generally traveled with wagon trains on one of three routes: the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, or the Santa Fe Trail. Most traveled with husbands or other family members, but a few also traveled with children of their own.
One of the most serious events women endured on the journey was childbirth. An estimated twenty to twenty-five percent were either pregnant or gave birth to children on the trail (Schlissel, 1982). This in itself posed danger due to the unclean circumstances, complications and the lack of doctors and midwives.
In their diaries, many women reported their childbirth in a very nonchalant and stoic manner. One woman kept a diary of her trip but never once mentioned that she was pregnant until the entry where she told of the birth. "A few days later my eighth child was born. After this we picked up and ferried across the Columbia River, utilizing skiff, canoes, and flatboat to get across, taking three days to complete."
Others report more devastating incidents of childbirth. It was not uncommon to lose the mother, the child, or both during childbirth in the 19th century; this was especially true along the trail. It was common for other members of the wagon train to take on orphaned children, either adopting them or just taking them the rest of the way until they could find relatives or someone to take them.
We are NOT taking anyone pregnant!