On the frontier during this period, however, gender imbalances often resulted in a reversal or ambiguity of roles. Men without wives took on additional domestic tasks or outsourced these duties to businesses created by women who moved outside the private sphere. Wives who came West to reunite families, however, often retained values associated with Victorian gender roles, regardless of their ability to actualize these ideals. Many women took on male responsibilities in addition to their duties as wives and mothers. However, they did not dismiss contemporary ideals of femininity and the domestic sphere (see Jeffrey 1998). Despite being forced to live in primitive homes made from logs or sod for the first years on the frontier, women made the best of their lack of resources and comforts. Pioneers found ways to make their rough frontier houses into homes that embraced Victorian notions of order and domesticity.
Artifacts like decorative clocks, ornate glass lamps, and ironstone china mellowed the harshness of frontier life by bringing material comforts of the east into western homes. Objects such as these communicated middle class status and values to both the family and visitors, suggesting that the ideal of the domestic sphere was upheld within the territories.