A Swallow Press Book
“‘Profiles in courage’ may be an overworked phrase, but it fits this story exactly. Melanie Mayer has assembled a group of remarkable women and she uses many of their own words in chronicling their experiences in the last great trek of the nineteenth century. The book is not only enlightening about the various trails to the Klondike—the Chilkoot, the White Pass, the Edmonton, and the Stikin-Teslin—but it is great armchair adventure as well.”
R. N. DeArmond
Klondike Women is a compelling collection of historical photographs and first-hand accounts of the adventures, challenges, and disappointments of women on the trails to the Klondike gold fields. In the midst of a depression near the turn of the twentieth century, these women dared to act on the American dream. As they journeyed through the Northwest wilderness, they explored and extended not only the physical frontiers of North America but also the social frontiers about the “women’s place.”
Challenging the myth that the only women who participated in gold rushes were prostitutes and gold-diggers of the euphemistic sort, Melanie Mayer shows us that Klondike women came from all walks of life—socialites to poor immigrants, single women, wives, widows, and children. They planned to make their money through many different undertakings including mining, business, entertainment, professional, and service enterprises. Their approaches to life were as varied as their roles—optimistic or skeptical; cautious or adventuresome; gregarious or self-contained; contemplative or active. There was no typical Klondike woman. Individually, their stories can be funny, hopeful, tragic, or poignant. Taken together, they give rich, complex images of the people, times, and places of the gold rush.
A visually exciting book, Klondike Women features over 150 photographs and illustrations. This volume should appeal not only to the general reader, but to those interested in history, women’s studies, and the Pacific Northwest as well.
Melanie J. Mayer is a professor of psychology and psychobiology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. More info →
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When gold was discovered in the Fraser River country of British Columbia in the 1850s, St. Paul, Minnesota became the departure point for the plunge westward, as was St. Louis for the American gold rushes. Minnesotans soon caught the fever. Nine young men set out in July of 1858 for the goldfields of British Columbia.
The Black Hills have been famous ever since the gold rush days of the 1870s when General George A. Custer’s expedition in the summer of 1874 found and advertised placer gold in the Black Hills valleys and a rush to the Hills began. Indian claimants to the area were placated, defeated or ignored and by 1875 a gold rush that continues to the present was under way. The Homestake Mining Company in the Black Hills is today one of the largest operating gold mines in the world.
In 1898 men and women from all over the world converged on Alaska. Gold had been discovered. In the Yukon Territory, all winter long eager gold seekers struggled over the mountain passes connecting Canada with the United States. A small group of photographers chronicled this epic, creating images of men and women laboring through blinding snowstorms over the windswept, ice-covered mountains. One of that group was a young Swedish immigrant by the name of P. E. Larson.