“‘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.
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