Friday, September 23, 2016

How the West was weird

Every now and then, I encounter a post that makes me realize how little I know, and how there are entire realms of thought that never, ever, cross my mind:
A great deal of weirdness in conservative life can be explained by the theory that smarter women were more likely to end up out in the West/frontier and also be able to offset the consequences of marrying a relatively lunkish guy because their domestic labors were monetized.  They also could afford to take the chance of marrying a lunk because he didn’t need to be all that clever to make it in the West.

Over time as the domestic sphere lost its financially remunerative aspects, the general pattern was established, but that just left such women scrambling to compensate in other ways, leaving them prey to scams and schemes because they had income pressure but no easy way to integrate it into their increasingly narrow domestic sphere.
It's true that the romantic heroes of the West tend to be taciturn and competent rather than facile and intelligent. But I have no idea what significance that might hold or how it has shaped modern society, nor have I ever given the matter a moment's thought.

However, we do know that intelligence tends to flow through the maternal line. So, it's an interesting line of thought, even if it is one that I am unlikely to pursue myself.


tz said...

I believe the average intelligence higher, and that it was the usual media libel like the one today where every father is a dolt. The west was also generally peaceful, but the outlaws make for better stories (Tom Woods wrote on this in his books)
The thing about farming and ranching is there are constant tests and nature doesn't grade on a curve. Women had to pull their weight.

Amy said...

The west was not the wild lawless place it is portrayed as, but it did offer challenges and people of high spirit, intelligence, and fortitude that differed from their urban dwelling counterparts were needed to tame and develop it.

Perhaps intelligent but not docile women were attracted to this task, to the adventure, and didn't care so much about marrying education as marrying intelligence and a capable worker with whom she could make that life free of urban constraints and some of the shackles of polite society...not leaving it all behind, certainly, but not perfectly conforming and willing to risk much for the chance to escape all of the petty strictures and dictates (not that those same things didn't arise as towns were settled...immigrants bring their habits with them, hmmm?). Western frontier settlers, original punk rock.

The push west always seems to be one of two opposite desires: to escape society but not necessarily civilization, and to tame the wild and civilize all. As time goes on and no territory remains, the twain meet and something has to give. So those descendants of western tamers bemoan the loss of the way it was and try to codify some means of preserving it.

Weird, indeed.

Gordon Scott said...

My great-grandmother came wast in a covered wagon with her husband and baby daughter. She set up house in a dugout-lack of lumber meant one built half underground. It was six miles from that house to the nearest source of water, a windmill.

They eventually gave up trying to farm in ranch country ando got into the newspaper business. 40 years later that infant girl had married my grandfather, and he and her brother ran the newspaper. One Sunday the men were off hunting sandhill crane. A bulletin came over the radio about an attack on a place few had heard of-Pearl Harbor. My granother started making calls, and got enough staff to come in to work the Linotypes and the press. She managed to get out three extra editions of the paper that day. Not bad for a housewife.

Feelings mattered little. Hard work and discipline did.

Bame said...

"However, we do know that intelligence tends to flow through the maternal line."
Does it ? I would be interested by the evidences.
From a biological point of view, why would it be true ? Genes are mixed, why would intelligence be different than other genes ?
From the educational/acquired intelligence I see how women tending to do the education of children does imply that women pass their IQ rather than the one of the father.
But if the father is actually a father, he does pass his IQ.
In other words, this should be true for Africans and State sponsored families, not for Western ones.

Amy said...

Genes that code for intelligence are carried on the x-chromosome...they are not necessarily expressed equally in male and female offspring, but expression doesn't prohibit carry. Males tend to exhibit higher intelligence as inherited from mom. Moms intelligence is a factor but she's passing on ,ore than she is genetically capable of expressing.

Johnny said...

There were a few wealthy investors who went west, but for the most part they were poor people who wanted to better their circumstance by owning land, land they could not afford out east. One can think of it as a form of land speculation, except the speculators lived on the property and invested sweat equity into it. That is a part of history they don't teach. The major incentive that brought most Europeans to the US was land that they would not otherwise be able to afford. The common preference is for more romantic vision. You know, love or hate. Freedom or kill natives or avoid oppression back home or whatever.

deti said...


Are you the Amy who frequently comments at the linked post as "AmyP"?

Amy said...

No. Different person.

Aeoli Pera said...

I was born in the wrong era.

Aeoli Pera said...

The Y-chromosome associated with intelligence no longer exists.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit confused about this topic. Is it meant to also explain smart female / dumber male couples in ancient / Dark Ages / preindustrial Europe?

Granted, it might explain some things about the courtship behavior and preferences of Northern European women.

"However, we do know that intelligence tends to flow through the maternal line."
Does it ? I would be interested by the evidences.

Yeah, I'm not convinced either.

I mean, consider the mulatto sprog of white women. Is their average IQ 100? I really don't think so. (Caveat: unless the average IQ of mudsharks is 92... a possibility that cannot be entirely ruled out.)

CarpeOro said...

Didn't need to be all that clever to make it? Besides nature, which has considerable impact when you don't have the safety net of a community, there was also the matter of the differences in weather patterns from their prior home. When you don't have all the tools available or readily purchasable a short distance away, you learn to make do. Stupid doesn't get you to far when you have to be MacGyver to survive the unexpected.

Is she theorizing that bright women married lunks who were planning to go West? Or a flood of single women going West? I'd need to see some kind of support for either. Since there are ample studies showing a female proclivity to chose safety over opportunity to advance, that doesn't point in the direction of intelligence, it points in the direction of desperation. She may just as well have said that the predominant type of woman going West was uglier than average - they couldn't find anyone to marry them in the East. SMV goes up with scarcity.

All in all, sounds like wishful thinking to me.

Bame said...

Thank you Amy, that was a very interesting & informative reading.

Feather Blade said...


Perhaps a distinction between intelligent and educated would be useful in reference to the men?

There's single women and then there's single women. Some went out to supply bawds and beer to a starving market, and some went out to teach the farmers'children (which required both intelligence and education in those days), and hopefully find a husband, whereupon they would be replaced by another single eastern girl gone out there for the same purpose.

You may be right in saying that they were too plain to get husbands back east. That's the trope isn't it: intelligent but plain, pretty but dumb.

But really, if intelligent women were successfully getting husbands who were satisfied with them and bringing up families of more intelligent children... does it really matter that desperation was also a factor? Embrace the power of "and", man.

Matamoros said...

However, we do know that intelligence tends to flow through the maternal line.

Bah, humbug. This is feminist "science". Even studying genetics the intelligence comes from the male y chromosome. Female intelligence is largely pass through, doesn't affect the offspring much.

Religiously viewed, this feminist twaddle would make woman the favored of God and in His likeness, transmitting His image. But it is not true. Man was created in the image and likeness of God, woman was made from man.

Men's y chromosomes are extremely stable, while the x is prone to large mutations, and is a "special program" to create men. Those interested may read Dr. Joseph P. Farrell's book "Genes, Giants, Monsters, and Men", especially Chapter 8 "A Memory of Man Past: Genetic Clans, Archeological Anomalies, Evolutionary Enigmas, and Speculative Solutions."

Bottom line, if intelligence came from women, women would be the great scientists, creators, etc. of civilization instead of men. Doesn't happen.

R Devere said...

"Is she theorizing that bright women married lunks who were planning to go West? Or a flood of single women going West? I'd need to see some kind of support for either. Since there are ample studies showing a female proclivity to chose safety over opportunity to advance, that doesn't point in the direction of intelligence, it points in the direction of desperation."

Lady clearly got her history lessons by reading "Lonesome Dove" a couple of times and from no other sources, as that was pretty much the theme of White Knight McMurtry's tale of the West. See: Allen, Clara.

Settlers and explorers are clearly among the more intelligent. Same with the immigrants to the US in the first three centuries. The comfortable intellectuals and the dullards stay home.

rumpole5 said...

My ancestry research indicates that every other generation or so of my family, from the first Whiteman who arrived in the 1640s, to the last Lerner who got here in 1857, were early settlers who cleared and developed completely virgin land. They did this again and again, from Pennsylvania, to Ohio and then to Indiana. Except for the coastal states, most of the USA was wilderness almost up to the civil war. Therefore, most of the US population must have possess the "western" attributes that you ascribe to folks west of the Mississippi. What one could say is that each generation "boiled off" the next west bound generation, leaving the homebodies behind. Thus the new Westerners would be more adventurous than their progenitors were. Indeed, this must have been a continuous process starting with the first "boil off" of the more adventurous folks out of the European populations. It must have taken some nerve to leave everything behind.

Unknown said...

intelligence through maternal line? sure, when the women can take credit for smarts. Why don't they say ignorance is passed through the maternal line, too? It means the same thing.

Johnny said...

I have long noticed that the intellectual class is fond of running down men of accomplishment who achieve with other than their smarts. And since successful homesteaders were men of accomplishment by virtue of hard work and risk, naturally they don't like them. So, what does the intellectual class say? Well gosh they were stupid.

Most of this discussion lacks an understanding of the complexity involved in who went west. I will use my particular local and namesake ancestor as an example. The state of Wisconsin got logged off in the 1840's, more or less. The Irish potato famine was around 1847, a time when Wisconsin was opening up for homesteading.

To stay alive the poor Irish moved to the United States. The poorest ended up in the cities in Irish ghettos and in very difficult situations. The ones who had a little money would buy into a roughed out property usually started by a "yankee," because they lacked homesteader skills and that was what they could afford.

Central Europe was also short of food and among the Germans there were numerous small time revolts, all of which failed. The rule was the local duke would let you leave, but if you didn't leave you were apt to be killed. It was mostly revolts in the small towns and cities, and so most of the immigrants were not peasant farmers. Commonly they had more money, could buy into a homestead, and they flooded into Wisconsin and the Midwest generally. My particular namesake ancestor left a pregnant wife behind, so no doubt he was leaving in a hurry. The wife showed up a year or two later.

So... how does this fit into they were all stupid, or the women were ugly, or whatever theory? I submit not at all.

Hammerli 280 said...

I've also heard that the mother's intelligence is about 2/3rds of her child's intelligence, the father contributes 1/3rd. That's an average, of course.

That being said, dummies don't survive on the frontier. There are too many ways to wind up like the Donner Party. On the other hand, someone reasonably bright could prosper.

Johnny said...

Just another comment on the settling of the frontier BS. The initial settlers were not numerous and many of them were things like trappers and fur traders. Most people went west when the Indian menace in the area was greatly reduced, they were commonly homesteaders (farmers), and not uncommonly settled in groups or near established settlements. Most of the wild, wild west stuff was after they crossed the Mississippi river. Texas and points west north. And even then a lot of the settlers went through to California which had Indians that were greatly abused and easily pushed aside.

During those periods when it was lightly settled it was a wild and woolly place. It had Indians and a criminal element and societies loose twigs. The Scotch-Irish were the group that got involved with that stuff the most, apparently because they were hostile to the British and went west very early on. But that was during the early settlement period, not the majority that came along later.

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