Nov. 1931: There were some blessed days when the wind blew at such an angle as to carry the dust past us
and away. On other days there seemed no chance to escape the irritation of the prickly chaff and dust which
surrounded us in a moving cloud and adhered to our clothing and sweat-damp skin.
— Caroline Henderson, Letters from the Dust Bowl
Caroline Boa Henderson (1877-1966) lived an extraordinary life. Able to access higher education in an era where women had limited access, she graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1901 and embarked upon a career as a teacher. After teaching in Iowa, she moved to western Oklahoma and began a second career as a farmer.
In the course of this, her life became quite ordinary for 1930s-era Westerners: she endured the Great Depression and carried on against the backdrop of the Dust Bowl. At the same time, she pursued an M.A. in English at the University of Kansas. Her writings and correspondence are housed at Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, and they offer a window into her extraordinary life as well as into the day-to-day experience of women during the Dust Bowl.
Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz is a historian of 19th-century America and of women’s and gender history. She teaches the undergraduate survey of U.S. women’s history and a graduate class on women/gender in American history, and she is working on new research about 19th-century women’s rights reformers and motherhood.