That's not the way I'd pictured pioneers, and these lovely ladies seem mismatched to the more stereotypically pioneer males:
But this is "a symbolical presentation," and so these women represent the ideals that animated the pioneers — as imagined by an artist in 1905. The male figures seem more like the fleshly people who traveled westward, while the female figures are the lofty spirits that propelled them. And then there are the canine spirits. No one could think pioneers had dogs like that. We squinted at this painting for some time, looking for the third dog, some white puffbull of a Bichon Frise or some such thing. It must be there, in those whitish daubings at the end of the lady's leash...
"They had their dogs on a leash?" Meade asks sarcastically.
But no, that's not a leash. She's carrying a stick. I read more of Blashfield's quote (PDF) and it forces me to disengage from the center of the painting where the refined/enervated females and their dogs had held my eyes:
"Considered pictorially, the canvass shows a ‘Prairie Schooner’ drawn by oxen across the prairie. The family ride upon the wagon or walk at its side. Behind them, and seen through the growth of stalks at the right, come crowding the other pioneers and ‘later men.’ In the air and before the wagon, are floating four female figures; one holds the shield with the arms of the state of Iowa upon it; one holds a book symbolizing Enlightenment; two others carry a basket and scatter the seeds which are symbolical of the change from wilderness to ploughed fields and gardens that shall come over the prairie. Behind the wagon, and also floating in the air, two female figures hold, respectively, a model of a stationary steam engine and of an electric dynamo to suggest the forces which come with the ‘later men.’”Ah! What later men we all are!