In honor of International Women’s Day, I’m sharing this story excerpted (and condensed) from Farmington: a women’s history.
I started working on the book in 2014, shortly after my very first layoff. The research and writing provided some much-needed inspiration, and I found the story of Cynthia Collins particularly meaningful.
The apartment building I call home, “Collinwood,” stands on land that she once owned.
Meet Cynthia Collins.
The first white woman to settle in Farmington went from caring for her own small family to tending an entire settlement.
Granted, in May of 1824 this included her husband and only four other men. While George built the first Collins home, Cynthia cooked and cleaned for Arthur Power, his sons John and Jared, and his hired man, David Smith. A fifth man in the Power party, Daniel Rush, had left weeks before, suffering from intense homesickness.
Cynthia may have been feeling some sickness of her own. By the time she and George arrived in Farmington, her second pregnancy had progressed to five or six months. She may also have been caring for a daughter Huldah Collins, who would have been three years old, although no historical accounts mention the child.
From what we know of pioneer life in the early 19th century, Cynthia’s days likely began before dawn. Imagine hauling wood and water, cooking large meals and cleaning, while growing larger every day, suffering with swollen ankles, morning sickness, fatigue, and all the other symptoms typically associated with pregnancy. Even if she was one of those lucky women for whom pregnancy is a breeze, Cynthia worked every bit as hard as the men who cleared the land.
A hint—well, more than hint—of Cynthia’s mettle lies in a story related by Nathan Power to the Detroit Post & Tribune in January of 1873:
“Mrs. Collins … was a woman of great courage and determination. She once excited the applause and admiration of a large party of Indians by tying up one of their rascally, vicious-looking dogs with her garter and leading it off.”
Read the rest of Cynthia Collins’ story, and those of 11 other amazing women, in Farmington: a women’s history, available through amazon.com.