Near Fairfax in Nicollet County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
In 1860, there were 39 women here at the fort. Most were the wives and daughters of officers and enlisted men. Others were governesses, servants, and cooks hired by officers. Civilian women like Wilhemina Randall, the wife of the post sutler, lived here, too.
The wives of enlisted men usually worked as domestics for officers' families. Laundering was the only "women's work" regulated by the army. Laundresses received a set payment, living quarters, one ration per day, and medical care. At Ridgely, the laundresses lived here in log houses behind the stone barracks. Each was hired to wash for an average of 19 soldiers, and worked six days a week. Laundresses were generally well paid, getting 50¢ per month per man for enlisted men's laundry and $3.00 a month for officers' laundry. In addition, they could pick up a little extra cash mending or baking, or assisting officers' wives as nurses and midwives.
"To Be a Soldier's Wife"
When the first troops arrived here in 1853 to construct Fort Ridgely, a reporter with the expedition wrote about the plight of the women. He observed:
To be a soldier in the ranks is a hard and trying fate, but to be a soldier's wife, with a family of small children set down upon this remote and lonely frontier, with nothing but canvas to shelter them from
Erected by the Minnesota Historical Society.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Minnesota Historical Society marker series.
Location. 44° 27.232′ N, 94° 44.038′ W. Marker is near Fairfax, Minnesota, in Nicollet County. Marker can be reached from County Highway 30 1.1 miles west of State Highway 4, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in Fort Ridgely State Park; fee area – a Minnesota state park vehicle permit is required. Marker is at or near this postal address: 72404 County State Aid Highway 30, Fairfax MN 55332, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Log Buildings (here, next to this marker); Stone Barracks (within shouting distance of this marker); Who Lived in the Barracks? (within shouting distance of this marker); Attack from the Northeast (within shouting distance of this marker); Garrison Life Was Like Clockwork Bakehouse (within shouting distance of this marker); Fort Ridgely Closes (within shouting distance of this marker); Powder Magazines (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fairfax.
More about this marker. caption: David Geister, A Laundress's Work Is Never Done, 1858, 2005
Also see . . . Fort Ridgely. Minnesota Historical Society. (Submitted on April 3, 2014.)
Categories. • Forts, Castles • Women •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 3, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 302 times since then and 43 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on April 3, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.