Domesticating the West


Domesticating the West

The Re-creation of the Nineteenth-Century American Middle Class

Brenda K. Jackson

Women in the West Series

184 pages


December 2008


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In 1881 Thomas and Elizabeth Tannatt said a final good-bye to Massachusetts and the eastern seaboard and set out in search not of land but of opportunities for social and political advancement. Facing severe limitations to their goals in the depressed and disheveled postwar East, the Tannatts went west to Walla Walla, Washington Territory, to pursue their dreams of influence and status.
Domesticating the West examines the motivations of late-nineteenth-century middle-class migrants who moved west to build communities and establish themselves as leaders. The West offered new opportunities for solidly middle-class eastern families who endured hardship, uncertainty, and displacement during the Civil War, and who struggled to carve out meaningful social space in the war’s aftermath. Brenda K. Jackson places the Tannatts at the center of this movement and demonstrates how gender, class, and place affected the new migrants’ abilities to integrate into their new communities. She also shows how easterners redefined themselves as leaders of a new, moral western environment through volunteerism and political participation. While many studies of westward expansion focus exclusively on the earliest pioneers, Jackson adroitly shows how later arrivals shaped the social, economic, and cultural growth of the nation.

Author Bio

Brenda K. Jackson is an assistant professor of history at Belmont University.


“A useful study of an important topic. [Domesticating the West] will provide a beginning for similar investigations that will help enrich our understanding of the role of late-nineteenth-century middle-class community builders and leaders on the western frontier.”—William F. Willingham, Oregon Historical Quarterly

“Jackson successfully achieves her goal of providing the “nineteenth-century middle class with a face and identity” with her case study, which clearly points toward the importance of middle-class members in shaping the political, economic, and social landscapes of newly evolving communities in the US West.”—G. Grytz, Choice

“By detailing how middle-class individuals moved westward in attempts to improve their lives, Brenda K. Jackson’s work adds to a slowly expanding body of literature on the nineteenth-century American middle class in the post-Civil War era. . . . Jackson’s thorough research of family papers (especially Elizabeth and Thomas’s family letters), corporate records (Oregon Railway and Navigation Company papers) and government records (military and pension) from both coasts allows her to piece together a very detailed accounting of the Tannatts’ physical and class mobility. . . . Jackson’s strong narrative about one middle-class family’s westward and upward mobility will reward a careful reading.”—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

“Jackson’s book deftly shows how late-19th-century middle class migrants like the Tannatts helped shape the society, economy, and culture of the American West and the nation. The Tannatts’ story should appeal to those interested in the history of the American West and, particularly, eastern Washington.”—Robert Bauman, Washington State Magazine

“This is not simply a book about the thoughts, duties, and lives of a middle-class couple. At every step of their journey, Jackson relates the history of the times. . . . Domesticating the West is a well-written, splendidly researched book containing a treasure-trove of information. It provides a useful perspective for both historians and history buffs exploring the comings and goings of middle-class Americans.”—Pacific Northwest Quarterly

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