The Homestead Act 1862-2012
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Homesteading and its Economic opportunities for women and minorities

In all, an estimated 10-12% of all homesteads patented in the United States went to women, with the majority after 1900. Although ,there are many cases of women getting homesteads prior to 1900. 

By the early years of the 20th century, railroads were built in once-remote places thus allowing relatively easier and faster access to nearby land. This is in contrast to decades earlier when people mostly traveled long distances by covered wagons to settle homestead land. Further, in 1912, residency requirements for how long a homesteader had to stay on the land in some states to “prove up” dropped from five years down to three. So the process became quicker. In some cases, women saw homesteading as a way to acquire land that could be sold to then finance their desired future careers, while for others it was a way to acquire farmland that would be the foundation of their economic future.

Various minorities, subject only to citizenship requirements from the original 1862 Homestead Act (of either being a citizens or declaring intention to become a citizen) homesteaded throughout the Country. This included many African-Americans, even in far-off places like Alaska. In one case, there was an African-American Spanish American War veteran homesteading at Rampart, Alaska, a once-thriving gold rush town on the Yukon River in central Alaska.
The full story of homesteading by minorities largely remains to be told, including the African-America experience. However, some recent scholarship has brought to light examples of Hispanic homesteaders in the Southwest and even Native American homesteaders,  both under special Indian Homestead Acts from the 19th century, and later homesteading in Alaska in the 1950s and later.

Last updated: 03-07-2012