Anti-Mythic Journey for Women

It has been suggested by historian Howard Lamar and psychiatrist Daniel Levinson that the overland passage played a vital role in the life cycle of men, corresponding to “breaking away,” improving, or bettering oneself, the stages that mark a man’s life.$ If experiences attain mythic dimension because some pattern in all the endless variety reverberates against the fixed frame of human needs and yearnings, if the westward migration became an expression of testing and reaching for men, then it surely must have been an “anti-mythic” journey for women. It came when the physical demands of their lives drained their energies into other directions. The severity of the dislocation of the journey can be gauged in the knowledge that about one of every five overland women was seized by some stage of pregnancy, and virtually every married woman traveled with small children. When women wrote of the decision to leave their homes, it was almost always with anguish, a note conspicuously absent from the diaries of men.