Thousands of women took advantage of the Homestead Act of 1862 that offered free federal land in the United States. Women who were single, widowed, divorced, or deserted were eligible to acquire 160 acres of federal land in their own name. A married woman was not allowed to take land in her own name unless she was considered the head of the household. Millions of married women, daughters, and other female family members assisted their families in proving up on their homesteaders. While their name wasn't on the paperwork, they we part of the homesteading experience too.
Women homesteaders and the Homestead Act helped lead the way to women’s suffrage. Homesteading women created an atmosphere where ideas about women’s rights could flourish. More than 100,000 women received land in their own name under the Homestead Act, paying taxes on their land – leading many to raise the cry “no taxation without representation!” as they pushed for the vote.