Illinois Women Pioneers

Funded through an Educate and Automate Grant from the Illinois State Library,
a division of the Office of the Secretary of State


By Iris Nelson, Quincy Public Library and Kim Bunner, Parlin-Ingersoll Library

While many of the women featured on this web site were pioneers in other ways, this section is dedicated to those women who settled the wild lands of Illinois.

Emigrants traveled west hungry for new land and full of hope. During the 1800's the population of Illinois grew rapidly: 1820--55,000 ; 1830--160,000 ; 1840--480,000 ; and 1850--850,000. Most of the influx in the early 1800s were from the southern states, primarily Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. By the 1830s settlers were coming from New England states, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

This section on women pioneers features entries by women in diverse circumstances. While these accounts are unique and often dramatic, these women all give us a reflection of their times, their strengths, and their fortitude in settling the frontier. Their stories vary from women who remember their childhood years coming across the prairie and their difficult self-sufficient lives on farms, to reflections from the perspective of a refined, educated New England woman of means but yet encountering the same bleakness of frontier existence. We also get a glimpse of women settling in a more urban environment and the struggles of woman and child traveling via a single horse and carriage from Pennsylvania to Peoria.

The story of women crossing the thresholds of the wild frontier country cannot adequately be told since written accounts are sadly rare. The accounts presented here add to the accessibility of documentation and awareness of the triumph of spirit and dedication women bore as quiet heroes of their time.


  1. Ramblin' Thru Spoon River Country:
    Mahala Blount Mills
    Harriett McKinzie Turner
    Jeanette Pigsley Mitchell
    "Aunt Kate" (Owens) Perry
  2. Christiana Holmes Tillson
  3. Mother Slough, One of Peoria's Pioneers

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This page last updated: Friday, 24-Sep-1999 12:34:33 CDT