Louis was known far and wide for its superior iron

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Louis was known far and wide for its superior iron production, and its foundries belched their black smoke into the sky every day. The foundries turned out wrought iron products from stoves to tools to the elaborate pointed fences that were common in some of the bourgeois neighborhoods of St. Louis. It was hard enough to deal with the loss of her husband, but Molly felt that the iron city was making her heart harden like a piece of molten metal. She longed to enjoy the beauty of the countryside, to breathe fresh air, and to make a clean start with her life. The construction of the Eads Bridge in St. Louis had connected east and west rail lines, facilitating travel across the Mississippi River to the open expanse of unsettled western territories. Molly lamented the ease with which others might follow her from the city to this beautiful, untouched natural landscape. Nevertheless, she chose not to worry about future development; 160 acres would be quite enough land to create her own natural oasis away from city life. Molly and her sister knew that carving out a new existence for themselves in the middle of nowhere would not be an easy task, but they were young, hardy, and unafraid. Other women had used the Homestead Act to become independent homeowners. Many of them were driven to establish lifestyles free of the seemingly inescapable expectation of marriage and family. In addition to fearing a general loss of legal rights, female homesteaders were particularly loath to marry once they had become property owners. The government allowed only one homesteader
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