“Mary Crownover Rabb Churning”
Materials: Paper and ink
This object is a pen and ink drawing titled “Mary Crownover Rabb Churning” by Michael Waters. Mary Crownover Rabb wrote one of the first accounts of early life on the Texas frontier. Mary penned her story of life on the frontier for her children and grandchildren to read. Originally born in North Carolina in 1805, Mary met and married John Rabb in 1821 and in 1823 their family moved to Stephen F. Austin’s colony in Texas. Over the course of their life in Texas, the Rabb family moved several times, establishing temporary homes along the Brazos and Colorado rivers. Mary’s life was not without hardship. When John was away on business, she would try to ease the children’s fear of the nearby Karankawa and Tonkawa Indians. The family lost one of their homes to flooding. Later, when Texans fled their homes in 1836 in fear of Santa Anna’s forces known as the Runaway Scrape, one of Mary’s children died. Her description of those first few years in Texas was published under the title Travels and Adventures in Texas in the 1820’s.
Life on the Texas frontier was hard for early pioneer women. Many Anglo-American women who journeyed to Texas migrated with their families. At the time, women were expected to stay home while men went virtually everywhere else. Women managed all the child-rearing responsibilities including education and socialization. But they also helped to clear land and plant crops. They were also in charge of sewing all their families clothing. Women who were fortunate enough to be literate expressed themselves and cataloged their experience in diaries and letters. Similar to the works of notable pioneer woman Laura Ingalls Wilder, early women writers in Texas provided information on what life was like at the time.
A number of pioneer women provided early accounts of life in frontier Texas. Stephen F. Austin’s cousin, Mary Austin Holley, wrote Texas: Observations, Historical, Geographical, and Descriptive, in a Series of Letters, Written during a Visit to Austin’s Colony, with a view to a permanent settlement in that country, in the Autumn of 1831, which was published in 1833. Her family letters and diary gave a good record of life during the Texas Revolution. She later wrote a book titled Texas which detailed the history of the state and it is one of the first known histories of the state in English. Jane Cazneau published Eagle Pass; or Life on the Border under the pen name Cora Montgomery in 1852. Her book detailed the years between 1840-1852 during which her husband founded a town and opened a trade depot. Teresa G. Viele wrote Following the Drum: A Glimpse of Frontier Life in 1858. The book described the years she and her husband Egbert Ludovicus Viele stayed at Fort Ringgold. It included descriptions of the landscape, food, and Comanche raiders.
Pioneer women writers in Texas also used their literary talents to fight for the right to vote and advocate for social reform. Female writers in Texas have written everything from poetry to novels. One of the first articles dedicated to the history of female writers in Texas was a two-part article titled “Women Writers of Texas” in 1893 by Bride N. Taylor, vice president of Texas Women’s Press Association, which ran in the Galveston Daily News. It gave brief biographies of more than 70 female authors starting with Mary Austin Holley. Since frontier times, Texas has had a long, rich history of female authors who contributed to the state’s literary legacy. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]