But back to Aunt Emily. New England women, left behind, had few men to pick from except the Irish, Portuguese, Italian, and French Canadians, all of them religiously, economically, and socially unacceptable. Some women turned mannish and assumed roles that their men had once preformed. Some espoused causes, affiliated themselves with Abolition or Susan B. Anthony or the antivivesectionists, marched in parades, got themselves arrested, wrote strong letters to the press, addressed meetings, and generally became characters without ever forgetting they were ladies. Even those who found mates among the reduced numbers of New England men found themselves doing things unfamiliar to their grandmothers. These matured as matriarch, the others as old maids. The clear lesson of New England's history is that when there are not enough suitable men around to run the world, women are perfectly capable of doing so.
--Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety