Kick Ass Women Who Inspire Me - Part 2

At #4 on my list of Kick Ass Women Who Inspire Me is Caroline Ingalls. (For the record, I'm writing about the real Caroline Ingalls, not the fictional Caroline of the Little House books and TV show. Not that those Carolines aren't worthy of praise.) I know what you're probably thinking - 'Caroline Ingalls' and 'kick ass' do not belong in the same sentence. And I'm sure Caroline wouldn't find the description very flattering. To be honest, she would probably be offended. The thing is that, once you really think about it, Caroline Ingalls is a totally kick ass, strong, and admirable woman.

First, some background information... Caroline Lake Quiner was born 15 miles west of Milwaukee in 1839. She was allegedly the first white child born in that area. She was also the fifth of her parents' seven children (the oldest daughter died as a child). When Caroline was five, her father drowned when the ship he was on sank in Lake Michigan. This left Caroline's mother, Charlotte Tucker Quiner, to raise her six surviving children (all of whom were under the age of ten) as a single mother. Charlotte also had to keep the family farm running. A couple years after her husband's death, Charlotte moved her family west to start over on a new tract of land. (No wonder Caroline grew up to be a strong woman. She got it from her mother.) After a short career as a schoolteacher, Caroline Quiner married Charles Ingalls in 1860. They had four daughters, and a son who died in infancy.

So, what is it about Caroline Ingalls that makes her so kick ass? Following what must have been a very difficult childhood due to her father's untimely death, Caroline married a man who just could not stay in one place. Charles Ingalls was a bit of a maniac, dragging his wife and young daughters all over the Midwest in his quest to avoid people, follow abundant game, and find a successful farm. Sure, Charles probably meant well, but can you imagine how hard that kind of life must have been on the gentle, ladylike Caroline? All the poor woman wanted was a home in or near a town with a church, school, stores, and neighbors. After a lengthy (by Charles' standards) stay near Pepin Wisconsin, Charles packed up the family and prepared to move away from an area that he felt was becoming too populated. This must have been devastating for Caroline considering she was being forced to leave an established area where she was surrounded by family. And where did the Ingalls family move to? Well, they basically wound up illegally squatting on the Osage Indian reservation. They were miles away from town, their neighbors weren't exactly close, and the Osage weren't too happy about the white settlers squatting on their land. During their time in Kansas, Caroline gave birth to her third daughter with the help of a neighbor woman. After getting kicked off the Osage Reservation, the Ingalls family returned to Wisconsin for a few years. They then moved to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, then to Burr Oak, Iowa, and then back to Walnut Grove. These places must have been an oasis for Caroline after the short time spent in Kansas. Then, after too many years of 'civilization', Charles decided it was time to move again - this time to a railroad camp in South Dakota. I'm sure Caroline was thrilled to live in such a rough and tumble place - especially with four young daughters. The Ingalls family wound up staying in the area, and were among the original settlers of De Smet, South Dakota. And you know what Charles wanted to do after living in De Smet for a couple years? He wanted to move farther west. But this time Caroline put her foot down, and the Ingalls family remained. Charles, Caroline, and three of their four daughters are buried in the cemetery outside of town.

Let's face it, the lives of pioneer women in the American West were full of hardships. They lived in sod houses and one-room shanties. They had to raise their children (at least the ones who managed to survive infancy), (somehow) keep their homes clean, do the laundry without the benefit of modern washing machines, sew and mend most of their clothing by hand, basically make all of their food from scratch, help tend to the livestock, work in the fields, and keep up with all of the countless other tasks involved with just staying alive. Oh, and they had to do all this while wearing long skirts and corsets. Pioneer women worked just as hard as their menfolk (if not harder), and all the while they were restricted by their clothing, societal dictations of the time period, and their gender. But just think of what all they got accomplished...

This is the kind of life that Caroline Ingalls lived. And it definitely could not have been easy. But she made the most of it. She kept her home clean - even when it was a tiny, cramped room dug into the side of the creek bank. She kept her family fed - even during that long, hard winter when there was hardly anything to eat. She raised four (strong, kick ass) daughters who were well-mannered, educated women. And through it all, Caroline remained a refined and ladylike woman. And that's what makes her a pretty kick ass, strong, inspirational woman.