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Women Homesteaders of Washington’s Channeled Scablands

In March 2022 Antiquity's Principal Archaeologist Beth Mathews presented a poster titled "Women Homesteaders of Washington’s Channeled Scablands: Summary Statistics and Spatial Patterns for 5 Counties." The poster was presented at the 75th Northwest Anthropological Conference.

Washington Women Homesteader Project

This project started in early 2017, after the author realized that Americans understand very little about women's history, the history of the colonization of the West, and the history of the Progressive Era. Unfortunately cultural resource management archaeologists are also not adequately identifying historical archaeology themes in their research contexts, outside of the traditional dominant narratives that were written nearly a century ago.

Previous studies (Mathews 2019, 2020, 2021) have established that the homesteading history of Washington may have unique local variations from that of the West in general. The goal of the present study was to summarize statistics for women homesteaders in Washington’s Channeled Scablands to explore 1) how common it was for women to homestead; 2) when homesteading peaked; and 3) if spatial or temporal patterns exist in women’s homesteading. The Channeled Scablands region was selected as a study area because of this region’s unique American settlement history and the difficulty of farming in this area.

Summary Statistics and Spatial Patterns for 5 Counties

In 2021 Mathews spent a record number of hours on this project, tallying Homestead Act patent data for the Scablands Counties: Spokane, Lincoln, Whitman, Grant, and Adams. It turns out this region had more feme sole homesteaders than all of western Washington. Trends in homesteading in this region also correlated with trends in the agricultural history of the region, indicating that the homestead process here was much more dependent on local industries rather than settlement patterns. Another fascinating finding of this study was that successful women patentees tended to have family living in the area, which is likely the case for both male and female homesteaders.

Check out the poster for details.

Next Steps?

All of these answers of course lead to more questions:

  • The most common question about this study was: Are you going to do this for the rest of Washington? Absolutely. I hope to complete this by 2024, to be presented at the 2024 NWAC.

  • For 2023 I hope to do a little detour and conduct an analysis of Donation Land Claim Act grants.

  • I'd also like to study what percent of female claims were successful, comparing female claims to female patents.

  • What would you like to see? Email Beth at

Go to the Antiquity Library Tab to view these posters:

Mathews, Bethany K.

​2019 Washington Women Homesteaders: Finding the Underrepresented History of Land Claimants in Early Washington, Northwest Anthropological Conference, Kennewick, Washington, March 22.

2020 The Process and Practicality of Ordering Washington Homestead Land Entry Files: A Case Study of Women Homesteader Records, Northwest History Conference, Tacoma, Washington, October 20.

2021 Western Washington Women Homesteaders: Summary Statistics and Spatial Patterns for Nineteen Counties, Northwest Anthropological Conference, virtual, April 8.

2022 Women Homesteaders of Washington’s Channeled Scablands: Summary Statistics and Spatial Patterns for 5 Counties, Northwest Anthropological Conference, virtual, March 10.

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