Frances Blackhouse’s Women of the Klondike is a fascinating account of those women who trekked north to at the turn of the 20th century to play a variety of invaluable and oft-forgotten roles in the United States gold rush. Blackhouse seeks to thoroughly illuminate those women who served as explorers and entertainers, nurses and reporters, at a time when such activities were largely atypical.
Laural Merlington’s thoughtful narration communicates a deep respect for these women, from the infamous Klondike Kate to those showgirls whose names have not endured through history. Merlington takes a serious tone, certainly, but she’s not afraid to let a little levity in too, highlighting with great empathy the most human details of life in the Klondike.
Women played a critical role during the gold rush, and this is the only book that brings to light the stories of these diverse women. Backhouse delves into the lives of women - entrepreneurs, nuns, doctors, nurses, journalists, and dancehall entertainers among them - who were caught up in the gold rush and lived amazing lives. Through letters, journals, newspaper accounts, and personal interviews, Backhouse explores all of their untold stories.
Some were reckless dreamers who headed north alone. Others were looking for fortunes, or husbands. Still others went to the Klondike to gain professional recognition. Many women found that conditions were vastly worse than they had expected - Lillian Oliver noted that scarcely a day passed during her trip to Dawson when she did not see a wooden cross marking the grave of a fellow traveller. Other women found success in the Klondike - Mrs. John N. Horne struck gold and commissioned a gold washboard broach in honour of the profession that had once supported her.