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Fredrick Jackson Turner’s thesis of the American frontier defined the study of the American West during the 20th century.
In Legacy of Conquest, she attempted to synthesize the scholarship on the West to that point and provide a new approach for re-examining the West.
First, she asked historians to think of the America West as a place and not as a movement.
Second, she emphasized that the history of the American West was defined by conquest; “[c]onquest forms the historical bedrock of the whole nation, and the American West is a preeminent case study in conquest and its consequences.” (Limerick, p.
22.) Finally, she asked historians to eliminate the stereotypes from Western history and try to understand the complex relations between the people of the West.
Instead of attempting to portray a prototypical frontier or missionary woman, Pascoe reveals complicated women who defy easy categorization.
Instead of re-enforcing stereotypes that women civilized (a dubious term at best) the American West, she instead focused on three aspects of the search for female moral authority: “its benefits and liabilities for women’s empowerment; its relationship to systems of social control; and its implication for intercultural relations among women.” (Pascoe, p.During the mid-twentieth century, most people lost interest in the history of the American West.While appealing, the Turner thesis stultified scholarship on the West.Unfortunately, the history of the American West became the history of westward expansion and the history of the region of the American West was disregarded.The grand tapestry of western history was essentially ignored.Even before Limerick’s manifesto, scholars were re-evaluating the west and its people, and its pace has only quickened.Whether or not scholars agree with Limerick, they have explored new depths of Western American history.Additionally, historians studied regions that would not have been relevant to Turner.In 1987, Patricia Limerick tried to redefine the study of the American West for a new generation of western scholars.Issues that not only challenged the Victorian moral authority but threatened America’s moral standing.Unlike Turner, the missionary women did not believe that the West was an engine for democracy; instead, they envisioned a place where immoral practice such as polygamy, prostitution, premarital pregnancy, and religious superstition thrived and threatened women’s moral authority.