This thesis is a record of a journey into the pioneer past both literally and metaphorically. The physical journey retracing the Oregon and Mormon trails was made in September of 1993, the year I was a National Endowment for the Humanities/Reader's Digest Teacher-Scholar; however, my intellectual and emotional journey into the lives of pioneer women covers several years of study. I compare my life experiences with those of pioneer women whom I studied, using geographical settings on the trail trip as memory triggers. My husband, as my traveling companion, plays an important role in this journey of discovery. Major themes are the contrast between public images and private attitudes, restoration and reality, independence and dependence, stereotype and individualism. In addition, I explore needs to balance family demands with personal aspirations, to deal with illness and death, to assess the value of material possessions, and to appreciate connections with other women. The trail trip serves as a catalyst for the exploration of a personal journey defining my own womanhood and that of other women as well.