Take a look at any prepping organization, social media group, or event, and you’ll probably see far more men than women. We know that just over half of the U.S. population is female, so why don’t we see this reflected in our prepping community? When I first got into preparedness, there were some women speaking about being prepared, but it seemed as if their voices were drowned out by the comparatively large number of men who take an active interest in prepping. Honestly, it was intimidating and often times made me feel like I had to have the mindset, clothing, and gear of a man in order to be properly prepared.

That mindset quickly changed as I dove deeper into preparedness, but it’s something that I see a lot of new female preppers struggling with to this day. They see that preparedness is typically male-dominated and may feel discouraged to jump in when there are fewer female role models to look to.

Now let me be perfectly clear: both men and women need to be prepared. It’s easy to misinterpret this attempt to encourage more women to get involved with preparedness as an attempt to silence men. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We need to get more women involved so that both men and women can cohesively work together during an emergency.

I hear it all too often, though: “My wife/daughter/sister/girlfriend doesn’t want to get prepared.”

If trying to convince them through conversations about the value of preparedness isn’t working, then maybe showing them this article about how women have impacted the history of prepping will encourage them to get involved. I dare to say that women have always been the original ‘preppers,’ even when that label hasn’t been applied to them. In many cases, these daughters, wives, and mothers just had to survive and figure out a way to make life easier on themselves and their families.

Here are five ways that women have changed the course of prepping history.

Pioneer Days

A pioneer family with their covered wagon, Nebraska, 1866.

A pioneer family prepares to head West in their covered wagon, Nebraska, 1866. (U.S. National Archives)

Women in pioneer days were responsible for much of what the family needed to survive. They were the backbone of the homestead. It was tough at times. They endured hard winter months while taking care of children, and in some cases also tended to the farm or assisted their husbands in doing so.

In addition to taking care of the home and farm as well as raising children, pioneer women provided medical care and grew vegetable gardens to supplement the family’s diet. They made basically everything from scratch including butter, candles, soap, and clothing. They also preserved food for the winter months.

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A family outside their log cabin in New Mexico Territory, 1895. (U.S. National Archives)

Pioneer women made significant contributions to their communities. Women were particularly influential in developing churches and schools, believing that these institutions had a civilizing effect on pioneer society. In some cases they would also work as school teachers.

According to Ohio History Central’s article on frontier women, “Women operated businesses, either in partnership with their husbands or alone if widowed. There are accounts of women who ran sawmills, gristmills, and inns. Some women even weaved and sewed things that they could later sell to bring in some extra income.”

Pioneer women were tough as nails and they did whatever they had to in order to survive and thrive.

The Great Depression

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Families often repurposed fabrics and made their own clothing. (Russell Lee / Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection)

The Great Depression was an extremely difficult time for everyone. Unemployment reached 25 percent in the United States, and most people’s bank savings were wiped out. Those who lived through the Great Depression learned quickly that wasting anything wasn’t an option.

They learned to live with less and to better budget their finances.

In addition to making their own clothes, linens, quilts, soap, bread, and home remedies, women would pick up a hammer and saw and make a new table if they had to. They learned to repair anything and everything themselves.

The WPA Gardening and Canning Project in Mississippi helped preserve food to reduce waste. (Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

The WPA Gardening and Canning Project in Mississippi helped preserve food to reduce waste. (Mississippi Department of...

Nothing was thrown away. Old clothes were cut down to make new clothes or quilts. Bread bags could be used as freezer bags or garbage bags. Containers, jars and boxes were all reused or repurposed into something else.

The Great Depression taught people everywhere to re-evaluate how they lived their lives, placing an increased emphasis on reducing waste, saving money, and becoming more self-sufficient. For more details on what we can learn from those who survived this era, read our previous article, 6 Timeless Survival Lessons from the Great Depression.

Women Inventors

Women are to thank for inventing many of our modern conveniences. Some of these products reduce the amount of time spent on mundane or repetitive tasks, while others directly improve our emergency preparedness.

A cotton mill worker named Margaret Knight invented a machine to make paper bags with a flat square bottom in 1868, a fundamental design that impacted how we produce grocery bags to this day. She went on to patent 86 additional inventions, and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame.

This paper-bag machine was one of many sophisticated inventions by Margaret Knight.

This paper-bag machine was one of many sophisticated inventions by Margaret Knight. (Wikimedia Commons)

Chemist Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar while trying to perfect a lighter fiber for car tires and earned a patent in 1966.

Marion Donovan invented waterproof disposable diapers. Her first prototype was constructed from a shower curtain, and later modified with snaps that eliminated the need for safety pins.

Inventor Josephine Cochrane patented the dishwasher in 1886. Though she was affluent enough to never need to use it herself, it sure helped her servants. And the rest of us are glad to avoid wasted hours of scrubbing dishes.

A stamp from Romania honors Josephine Cochrane for her invention that changed the world.

A stamp from Romania honors Josephine Cochrane for her invention that changed the world. (Wikimedia Commons)

Martha Coston invented marine signal flares, taking an incomplete idea mentioned by her deceased husband and going through the lengthy process to develop it into a successful product.

Tabitha Babbitt noticed that lumber workers needed a better solution to work more efficiently so she invented the circular saw which would be used instead of the two-man pit saw. The first prototype was made in 1813.

Anna Connelly invented the first outdoor fire escape with an external staircase, patented in 1897. It has saved countless lives that might have otherwise been lost to residential fires in urban areas.

Support During WWII

A technician helps prepare panels for an A-31 Vengeance bomber. (Alfred T. Palmer / Library of Congress)

A technician helps prepare panels for an A-31 Vengeance bomber in Tennessee, 1943. (Alfred T. Palmer / Library of...

During WWII, around 350,000 women served in the U.S. Armed Forces in some way. Between 1940 and 1945, the female workforce in the U.S. increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent.

Before WWII many of the working roles women held were primarily traditional jobs such as sewing, and women weren’t expected to work if they had families to raise. WWII changed not only the type of work women did but the amount that they did. They were working jobs they had never worked before and on a full-time basis.

A female lathe operator at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant in Texas. (Howard R. Hollem / U.S. Library of Congress)

A lathe operator at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant in Texas, 1942. (Howard R. Hollem / Library of Congress)

According to History.com, “In May 1942, Congress instituted the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, later upgraded to the Women’s Army Corps, which had full military status. Its members, known as WACs, worked in more than 200 non-combatant jobs stateside. By 1945, there were more than 100,000 WACs and 6,000 female officers.”

Women played a huge role in the factories as well as office positions that were once occupied by men.

Women were also able to obtain their pilot’s license to fly American military aircraft. They transported cargo and participated in simulation strafing and target missions, which freed thousands of male pilots for active duty.

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Above: Jane Kendeigh embarked on an evacuation mission to Iwo Jima in 1945, becoming the first U.S. Navy flight nurse to set foot on an active battlefield. The mission resulted in the successful evacuation of nearly 2,400 wounded Marines and sailors. (US Department of the Navy, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery)

Because women were working more while their families still needed to be taken care of, Eleanor Roosevelt urged her husband to enact the Community Facilities Act of 1942 which opened up the way for childcare for their workers.

Safety Program

The AMBER Alert system was implemented to stop child abductions. (Bob Bobster / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

The AMBER Alert system was implemented to stop child abductions. (Bob Bobster / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

In 1996, while riding her bike with her brother, Amber, a 9-year-old girl, was abducted in Texas. A neighbor witnessed the abduction and called authorities. Amber’s mother, Donna, called the media and FBI who later discovered Amber’s body.

This tragedy led Donna to become a vocal advocate for tougher laws governing kidnappers and sex offenders. Amber’s parents were also the driving force behind the establishment of People Against Sex Offenders (P.A.S.O.). This organization collected signatures in an effort to compel the Texas legislature to pass more stringent laws against this category of offenses.

Donna testified in front of the U.S. Congress in June 1996, asking legislators to create a nationwide registry of sex offenders.

For several years, alerts were manually distributed to participating radio stations. Then in 1998, the Child Alert Foundation created a fully automated Alert Notification System which notified surrounding communities when a child was reported missing or abducted.

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The America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) alert has been implemented many places worldwide:

  • Canada implemented the AMBER alert system in 2002.
  • Australia implemented a similar version in 2005.
  • Mexico joined in the AMBER alert system in 2011.

As of January 2019, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimated that 941 children had been successfully recovered as a result of the existence of the AMBER Alert program.

Conclusion

As we evaluate all of these instances in which women have had an impact on prepping history, we can see a strong pattern: when something needs to get done, it gets done. Time and time again women have been instrumental in improving the way we work, care for our families, and live a fulfilled life.

Throughout our everyday routines, we should be prepared for whatever may come our way; whether that’s a harsh winter, a large-scale economic collapse, inventing out of necessity, supporting our country, or enacting laws which help our society as a whole.

Being prepared comes in many different forms, and we must always remember that it isn’t just about enduring an apocalypse — it’s about surviving and thriving every day.

About the Author

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Morgan “Rogue” resides in Texas with her husband, daughter, and two dogs, with their second daughter on the way. Her family is always venturing into the wilderness and challenging themselves, as well as others, to love the outdoors. Through Rogue Preparedness, she works toward making the world a more prepared place, where people can feel confident in knowing that they possess the skills, knowledge, and items to get them through any emergency or disaster. She educates and entertains on her YouTube channel, website, and social media platforms, as well as in-person events held in Texas. You can find Morgan at roguepreparedness.com


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