A Mine of Her Own: Women Prospectors in the American West, 1850-1950

A Mine of Her Own: Women Prospectors in the American West, 1850-1950

A Mine of Her Own: Women Prospectors in the American West, 1850-1950

A Mine of Her Own: Women Prospectors in the American West, 1850-1950

Synopsis

From the California gold rush through the mid–twentieth century, a special breed of women played an integral and heretofore unrecognized part in some of the most stirring adventures of the pioneer experience: the saintly Nellie Cashman; the copper queen Ferminia Sarras, known for her grand sprees; the former rodeo champion turned prospector; the ex-actress who snowshoed her way to Nome; and many more. Chosen as one of the top ten books of all time by the Mining History Association, A Mine of Her Own tells the definitive story of America's women prospectors for the first time.

Excerpt

The wilderness envelops the prospector. Under the forest canopy, far from any trail or human habitation, the solitary gold panner kneels beside a stream. In the far North, a small, dark figure moves slowly across ice fields and glaciered mountains. Through the eerie silence of Death Valley, a treasure seeker leads a couple of burros past corrugated tawny hills and undulating dunes toward the sandy plain. Deep inside Apache country, a sourdough makes camp, despite warnings that such a venture will lead to nothing but a tombstone. From the Arctic Circle to the Mexican border, the prospector's world is a remote wilderness, and the prospector an insignificant speck dwarfed by its immensity.

We have a fixed image of how the speck would appear at close range--a lean, bearded, weatherbeaten man in a battered Stetson with burro, pick, and pan. Nothing has prepared us to find instead a lean and weatherbeaten woman under the Stetson. For years the presence of women prospectors has remained a lost piece of history, as thoroughly misplaced as the lost Cashman Mine, which some fortune seekers believe a woman discovered. But unlike many lost mines, the women prospectors unquestionably existed, and they plunged with zest into all aspects of the prospecting life, from the rigors of the ice fields to the dog-eat-dog world of mining promotion.

Women prospectors, no less than their male counterparts, reveled in pioneering through the world beyond the pale. Since explorers first probed the Rockies, the wilderness has meant excitement and discovery. The search for riches gave thrust to the adventure, and prospectors spoke of being possessed by the dream and turning it over in the mind for pleasure--"beautiful fascination," one woman called it. "She was like all prospectors; she got up every morning believing firmly that she was going to hit the Mother Lode" is a recurrent theme in recollections of the women prospectors. If she struck a promising sample the search became intensive, sometimes even continuing at night by lantern light . . .

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