Homestead National Monument of America
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January Newsletter
News from the Homestead
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With January, we welcome the start of a new year, and 2020 promises plenty of excitement here at Homestead National Monument of America.

Our theme for the year is Women Homesteaders: Leading the Way to Suffrage, as we celebrate and acknowledge the centennial of the 19th Amendment, passed in 1920. The 19th Amendment guaranteed the right for women to vote, after decades of fighting for that right. We'll have presentations, exhibits, and programs centered around the importance homesteading women had on this major moment in American history. We invite you to visit Homestead to learn more!

We hope you will join us for one or all of our wonderful upcoming events. Please note that the 2020 Special Event calendar has been published as well. To learn more about upcoming  events and programs, visit our website here.

Mark Engler, Superintendent
Farewell, Administrative Officer Sue Bruns!


Congratulations to Sue Bruns! After nearly 20 years of administering budgets, watching over property, assisting with contracting and human resources, Sue has retired. Sue, Homestead's Administrative Officer will be missed. Sue joined the staff at Homestead during the lead up to the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial program. The mark she has left on Homestead, with other National Park Service Offices and parks has truly been monumental!

For two plus years Sue lead the administrative function at Nicodemus National Historic Site, Kansas. Twice she was recruited to serve as Administrative Officer in an acting capacity at Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. As well her career took her to Brown v. Board National Historic Site, Kansas for a term as Acting Superintendent. Her budget skills were recognized early-on by the Region Budget Office; and for multiple years she would be called upon to work in Omaha during the annual budget closeout.

All divisions and programs at Homestead have been impacted by her work; including the completion of the Homestead Heritage Center and effort to bring this facility into operation. She put in place and oversaw the use of special use permits, thus expanding services for the American People. She administered the park's budget in an exemplary manner. Her work even touched the park's safety program and in recognition of her idea or method to track documentation; the park received the Andrew Clark Hecht Memorial Public Safety Achievement Award. As we thank Sue for her exemplary service, we also wish to congratulate her on her retirement and wish her the best!
Homestead Film Festival - Commemorating  the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment

Begin your celebration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment at Homestead by joining us in the Heritage Center for the annual Homestead Film Festival. Each weekend in January and February will feature a different movie tied to women's rights or the suffrage movement.  All showings will be at 2:00 p.m. in the Heritage Center Theater.

The Origins of Oz - Satu rday January 11th and Sunday January 12th 

 A documentary film on the background of The Wizard of Oz, including its links to early feminism and suffrage figures, including author Frank L. Baum's mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage.

The Wizard of Oz - Satu rday January 18th and Sunday January 19th 

 The classic 1939 musical film! When a tornado tears through Kansas, Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her dog, Toto, are whisked away to the magical land of Oz.

The Woman Behind Little Women - Saturday January 25th and Sunday January 26th

This biographical film on Louisa May Alcott reveals her democratic ideals and progressive values about women.

Little Women - Saturday February 1st and Sunday February 2nd

Set against the backdrop of a country divided, Little Women follows the four March sisters, on their journey to adulthood while their father is away.

One Woman, One Vote - Saturday February 8th and Sunday February 9th

This program documents the struggle which culminated in the passing of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing the right for American women to vote - it passed in the Senate by a single vote!

A League of Their Own - Saturday, February 15th and Sunday, February 16th

As America's athletic young men enlisted in the armed forces during World War II, a professional all-female baseball league springs up in the Midwest.

Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice - Saturday, February 22nd

This PBS documentary film explores the life of Ida B. Wells, an African American journalist, suffragist, and social reformer of the Progressive Era who fought tirelessly for Civil Rights.   

Who was the first woman homesteader to vote?

Did You Know?

As we commemorate in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed nearly all women, age 21 or older (except Native American women), in the United States the right to vote, it may surprise you to learn that some female homesteaders had been voting in elections for up to several decades before 1920 in some places in the American West.

Prior to statehood, five western territories, where homesteading occurred, provided full voting rights to women beginning in the years shown: 
1869 Wyoming Territory (statehood in 1890)
1870 Utah Territory (statehood in 1896)
1883 Washington Territory (statehood in 1889)
1887 Montana Territory (statehood in 1889)
1913 Alaska Territory (statehood in 1959)
The reason women were granted voting rights earliest in these five western territories is generally attributed to the important roles women played in the development of these territories, including their greater involvement in politics.  These territories offered new opportunities for many women to demonstrate their independence and importance in the establishment of new western towns and communities.  The concern by some that women's suffrage would end up just being a "second vote" for a dominant husband was not a compelling view, nor the realism, in these territories.

Other than during a 10-year period in New Jersey when women could vote (1797-1807), history reports that the first woman to cast a ballot in a general election in the United States was Louisa Swain (1801-1880).  She voted on September 6, 1870 in Laramie, Wyoming Territory.  This was at a time when the first homesteaders were claiming land in the same area and elsewhere in the west.  While Louisa Swain was not a homesteader, it is quite possible that some of the first women homesteaders of Wyoming and neighboring Utah did vote in elections not long after September 6, 1870.

So, who were they? 

The Bureau of Land Management's website for homestead records  lists when the first homesteads were granted in Wyoming and Utah.  And looking at the names of the earliest homesteaders, eight likely candidates for being the first women homesteaders (and voters) emerge.

For Wyoming Territory, on April 25, 1877, Ellen D. W. Hatch received a homestead for 40 acres in Laramie County, Wyoming, Territory.  This was the earliest date that any woman received a homestead in that territory.  But whether she also was a voter in late 1869 or in the 1870s is unclear at this time.

Otherwise, the first women who received the earliest homesteads in Utah Territory, and who might have voted, received their land on December 1, 1874.  That was over two years earlier than the first woman to get a homestead in Wyoming Territory.  Of the seven earliest homesteading women in Utah Territory, four were widows whose deceased husbands had originally filed for homesteads.  Under homestead law, widows gained rights to claim their deceased husbands' homesteads.  The other three earliest women homesteaders in Utah were either single women who had never married, were divorced women, or were widows who had filed homestead claims on their own.

The names of the seven women who got the earliest homesteads in Utah Territory on December 1, 1874 were:

Elizabeth Brown (widow of Francis Brown), 152.8 acres in Salt Lake County
Mansey J. Murphy (widow of Emanuel M. Murphy), 160 acres in Salt Lake County
Jane Panter (widow of William J. Panter), 160 acres in Salt Lake County
Anna Rowan, 80 acres in Salt Lake County
Rhoda Snell (widow of Cyrus Shell), 160 acres in Utah County
Susanna Williams, 40 acres in Salt Lake County
Janet Young, 160 acres in Salt Lake County
In sum, among these eight earliest women homesteaders in Wyoming Territory and Utah Territory, who had legal rights to vote by 1870, it is likely that at least some did vote in elections in the 1870s.  But exactly who among them was the first woman homesteader to vote remains a fun mystery for now, which further research still might answer. 

New Education Program at Homestead - 
Women Who Paved the Way: Exploring Women Homesteaders and Suffragists

Homestead's education program has been working to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment and share the contribution of women homesteaders with students in Nebraska and across the United States. Over the summer, we added a new distance learning program for the first time in several years thanks to the hard work of Teacher-Ranger-Teacher (TRT) Alisha, an 8th grade teacher at Culler Middle School in Lincoln, NE. Alisha lent her talents and knowledge to Homestead over the summer by participating in the TRT program. Her goal as a TRT was to create a new distance learning program highlighting women who homesteaded and examining how the homestead era and women's suffrage movement contributed to the overall struggle for equal rights for women.

"Women Who Paved the Way: Exploring Women Homesteaders and Suffragists" is in place for the 2019-2020 school year to celebrate and promote the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment. The program explores those who fought for the right of women to vote, as well as those women who sought out on their own to prove up on homestead claims. This new distance learning program is tailored towards middle school and high school aged students and is being offered FREE of charge. For more information about this and other distance learning programs contact the Homestead education staff today! (402) 223-3514 or  [email protected]

America the Beautiful Pass Sales Are Going Credit Card Only

Starting in 2020, all sales of America the Beautiful Interagency Passes at Homestead National Monument will be credit card only.

Did you know that there are seven different Interagency passes available, which provide access to thousands of federal land management areas under six different government agencies, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers?

The Annual passes (Annual, $80 per year; Senior Annual, $20 per year; Military, free to active duty military and their dependents; Volunteer, free with 250 hours of volunteer service; and the 4th Grade Annual pass, free) all cover one year of access. 

Some passes provide lifetime access: (Senior Lifetime, $80; Access, free to those medically determined to have a permanent disability).

Whichever pass best suits you, come visit the monument, get your 2020 Interagency pass, and #FindYourPark!
You don't have to feel as disconnected as the first homesteaders did.

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Homestead National Monument of America
Upcoming Events
Special Events and Exhibits at Homestead National Monument of America:


November 29 - January 5 - Winter Festival of Prairie Cultures (Homestead Education Center)

December 1 - January 28 - George Washington Carver Exhibit (Homestead Education Center)


Wednesday, January 1 - Monument is closed.

Saturday, January 11th and Sunday, January 12th, 2:00 p.m. - Film Festival: The Origins of Oz (Homestead Heritage Center)

Saturday, January 18th and Sunday, January 19th, 2:00 p.m. - Film Festival: The Wizard of Oz (Homestead Heritage Center )

Sunday, January 19th, 2:00 p.m. - Square Dance Workshop and Dance Session (Homestead Education Center)

Saturday, January 25th and Sunday, January 26th, 2:00 p.m. - Film Festival: The Woman Behind Little Women (Homestead Heritage Center)

Sunday, January 26th, 2:00 p.m. - Square Dance Workshop and Dance Session (Homestead Education Center) 

To learn more about events visit:

Women Homesteaders: Leading the Way to Suffrage

Homestead National Monument of America's Theme for the 2020 is: "Women Homesteaders: Leading the Way to Suffrage," as we celebrate and acknowledge the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, passed in 1920. Homestead will be hosting exhibits, events, and programs all year long, dedicated to the importance homesteading women had on this major moment in American history!

Homestead National Monument's historian, Jonathan Fairchild, has conducted extensive research on this subject in preparation for the Centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment in 2020. This research will help the interpretative program at Homestead National Monument of America, pushing the scholarship and interpretation of the many fundamental impacts of the Homestead Act on American History. A new education program has already been developed to provide K-12 education opportunities on this fascinating subject. In addition, other content, including two scholarly articles are forthcoming: one about homesteading and suffrage in Nebraska, and one about homesteading and suffrage across the United States. Check out the park website at to access these articles and to learn more about the crucial role of homesteading on women's suffrage!

Here is an excerpt from historian Jonathan Fairchild's upcoming paper, "Planted in the Soil: Women Homesteaders, the Homestead Act of 1862, and Suffrage." 

Many know the major moments of the Women's Suffrage Movement in the United States, but not many realize the role that the Homestead Act of 1862 and the women settling across the country under its provisions had in crusading for the vote for women in America. The story of the Homestead Act of 1862 and those who settled under it, known as homesteaders, is closely connected to the story of women's suffrage. Almost all of the states granting women full voting rights prior to the Nineteenth Amendment (the sole exception being New York) gave away land under the Homestead Act. Some of the most heavily homesteaded states were the earliest adopters of women's suffrage: Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, South Dakota, Kansas, and Oklahoma. (Nebraska, the most heavily homesteaded state, allowed women to vote for president prior to the Nineteenth Amendment, but did not allow full voting rights).

In fact, fifteen of the sixteen homesteading states west of the Missouri River granted women at least limited suffrage prior to the Nineteenth Amendment.[1] Historians have found that women represent around ten percent of all homestead claims, a number which significantly increases around the turn of the twentieth century. These Western and Great Plains states clearly illustrate a link between homesteading and the women's suffrage movement.

Figure 1- Map of Suffrage in the United States. Template Courtesy of
The ranks of land-owning women homesteaders across the Midwest and Western states swelled between 1862 and 1920, and especially in the early twentieth century. As more and more women joined the ranks of propertied Americans, they increasingly sought the rights that had traditionally been associated with being a landed citizenry - the vote. If homesteaders numbered about 1.6 million, and women homesteaders were a little over ten percent of that number, then more than 160,000 women were joining a historically enfranchised class and using their newfound economic power to push for their equality in the eyes of the law. When accounting the numbers of women who were the wives and daughters of homesteaders, or single women homesteaders who did not successfully prove up and earn their patent, then that number swells even higher.

It is no coincidence that as the Midwest and Western homesteading states were exploding in population, they were also granting women the vote - something few eastern states had done. In fact, the only non-homestead states that granted women voting rights before the 19th Amendment were New York, Rhode Island, Main, and Tennessee. Of those four states, only New York granted full voting rights. By contrast, 24 of 30 homestead states, and every single Midwest state granted woman suffrage prior to the 19th Amendment.   In 1920, 72 years after Seneca Falls, the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified - women were guaranteed the right to vote across the United States. It was homesteaders and the Homestead Act of 1862 that led the way.

[1] New Mexico was the only homesteading state west of the Missouri River which did not provide at least limited suffrage prior to the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Several states under the Southern Homestead Act of 1866 also did not give women the vote before the 19th Amendment: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

2020 Events Calendar Published
Homestead National Monument of America's 2020 Events Calendar has been published! If you're looking for something fun to do, look no further! The calendar, detailed below, can be accessed at any point from the park website as well. Be sure to check it out for updates and new events!

2020 Theme: Women Homesteaders: Leading the Way to Suffrage

2020 Schedule of Events:

Special Exhibitions at the Education Center

December 2019 - January 2020: Iowa Roots, Global Impact: The Life and Legacy of George Washington Carver
February-May: David Plowden: A Sense of Place (Black and White Photo Exhibit)
June-August: Impact: Willa Cather (Mixed-Media Art Exhibit)
September-October: Celebrating Women Art Quilts Exhibit: Women's Suffrage and the 19th Amendment
November 23 - December 31: Winter Festival of Prairie Cultures


11 & 12 Sat-Sun 2:00 p.m. Film Festival:  The Origins of Oz 
18 & 19 Sat-Sun 2:00 p.m. Film Festival: The Wizard of Oz
19 Sunday 2:00 p.m.   Square Dance Workshop and Dance Session
25 & 26 Sat-Sun 2:00 p.m. Film Festival: The Woman Behind Little Women 
26 Sunday  2:00 p.m. Square Dance Workshop and Dance Session

1 & 2 Sat-Sun 2:00 p.m. Film Festival: Little Women
2 Sunday 2:00 p.m. Square Dance Workshop and Dance Session
8 & 9 Sat-Sun 2:00 p.m. Film Festival: One Woman, One Vote 
15 & 16 Sat-Sun 2:00 p.m. Film Festival: A League of Their Own (film)
22 Saturday 2:00 p.m. Film Festival: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
23 Sunday 2:00 p.m. Black History Month Program - Black Homesteaders of the Great   Plains


Sunday 2:00 p.m. Women's Suffrage and the Homestead Act - Blake Bell, Former Historian at Homestead National Monument of America  


18-26 Sat-Sun TBA  National Park Week
18 Saturday 2:00 p.m. Ranger Led Junior Ranger Program

1 & 2 Fri-Sat 8:00 a.m. Birds & Bagels
16 Saturday 7:00 a.m. Homestead Critter Count - BioBlitz
23 Saturday 10:00 a.m. Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival - Free Workshop
23 Saturday 12:00 p.m. Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival - Competition

5 & 6 Fri-Sat 8:00 a.m. Birds & Bagels
7 Sunday 1:00 p.m.  Ranger Program
14 Sunday 1:00 p.m. Ranger Program
15 Monday 2:00 p.m. U.S. Immigration Naturalization Ceremony - U.S. Flag Day
21 Sunday 1:00 p.m. Ranger Program
26-28 Fri-Sun TBA Homestead Days - Music, living history, farming demonstrations

4 Saturday 7:00 p.m. July 4th Heritage Campfire Program
11 Saturday 10:00 a.m. Kids in Parks Program - Nature Detectives
11 Saturday 7:00 p.m. Heritage Campfire Program
18 Saturday 10:00 a.m. Kids in Parks Program - Nature Detectives
18 Saturday 7:00 p.m. Heritage Campfire Program
25 Saturday 10:00 a.m. Kids in Parks Program - Nature Detectives
25 Saturday 7:00 p.m. Heritage Campfire Program

1 Saturday 10:00 a.m. Kids in Parks Program - Nature Detectives
1 Saturday 7:00 p.m. Heritage Campfire Program
8 Saturday 10:00 a.m. Kids in Parks Program - Nature Detectives
8 Saturday 7:00 p.m. Heritage Campfire Program
23 Sunday 2:00 p.m. 19th Amendment Centennial Program  - Jonathan Fairchild - Historian at Homestead National Monument of America

5 Saturday 10-4 Living History Activities
6 Sunday 10:00 a.m. Cars of the Homestead Era 1900-1980's Car Show
7 Monday 10:00 a.m. Old Fashioned Spelling Bee at the Freeman School
17 Thursday 2:00 p.m. U.S. Immigration Naturalization Ceremony - Constitution Day
26 Saturday TBA Public Lands Day Volunteer Project

3 Saturday 1:00 p.m. Prairie Work Day - A Prairie Appreciation Week Event
11 Sunday 2:00 p.m. Family History Month Program - Special Speaker
24 Saturday 6:00 p.m. Howling Homestead


1 Sunday 2:00 p.m. American Indian Heritage Month Program- Special Speaker 
29 Sunday 2:00 p.m. Winter Festival of Prairie Cultures- Special Speaker
6 Sunday 2:00 p.m. Winter Festival of Prairie Cultures - Special Speaker
13 Sunday 2:00 p.m. Winter Festival of Prairie Cultures - Special Speaker
Homestead National Monument of America would like to acknowledge and thank our many partners, volunteers, and the community for their support in making these programs and events possible, including the Friends of Homestead, the Hevelone Foundation, the Coffin Family Foundation, Humanities Nebraska, the Nebraska Arts Council, America's National Parks, and others.

Meet Danny Toland, Homestead's Newest Staff Member!

Meet Danny Toland, Homestead National Monument of America's newest staff member. Danny Toland joined the Maintenance Division here at Homestead. Danny is originally from Ohio, and served in the Navy for twenty years - from 1992 to 1996, and then again from 2000 to 2016. He served on aircraft carriers, where he did maintenance work on the catapult system responsible for launching planes off the deck. Danny also was involved in Recruiting, as well as Logistics and Supply. He was stationed at Norfolk, Virginia, Lincoln, Nebraska, Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Bremerton, Washington. His favorite part of serving in the Navy? The travel - to more than twenty different countries across both Atlantic and Pacific tours. 

Danny's wife is a native of Beatrice, Nebraska. After years of moving from duty station to duty station, they decided to return to her hometown. Knowing that he was interested in continuing to serve the American people, Danny sought a job with the government - leading him to apply to a position in the maintenance division at Homestead National Monument of America. His projects have included erecting a new trail, and building new picnic tables. Danny says "I look forward to working at Homestead, and plan on being here for a long, long, long time to come!"

Glad to have you aboard, Danny - welcome to Homestead!

Ringing in the New Year with the First Homesteader

Daniel Freeman (1826-1908) is credited with being the first person to claim land under the Homestead Act of 1862. The 160 acres of land he homesteaded is the land on which Homestead National Monument of America was established in 1936. 

Although the Homestead Act passed into law on May 20, 1862, it didn't actually go into effect until January 1, 1863. And while many people applied for their homesteads on January 1, 1863, legend has it that Daniel Freeman beat them all to it. But how?

The story goes that Daniel traveled to Brownville, Nebraska, where he attended a New Year's Eve party. While at the party, he found Brownville's Land Agent and convinced that gentleman to open his Land Office at midnight so that Freeman could apply for his homestead as soon as the law took effect!

Because Daniel was successful in convincing the Land Agent to open at midnight, he was able to get his application submitted just after, effectively becoming the earliest homesteader. Seen here is his Homestead certificate, Certificate Number 1, Application Number 1 at the Brownville, Nebraska Land office.

Quite a way to ring in the new year!

Homesteading in the News

- This popular show on the Discovery channel highlights modern homesteaders, a lifestyle which is growing in popularity every year.