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Pioneer Women---In The Background!
I always thought the stereotype of women that most historians painted was so off of the canvas. The Gold Rush era was a good example. When you see a photo of the men panning gold and the hardships that they speak of that they had to endure in all kinds of elements---something is missing in many photo's---"Women."
Missing are the wives daughters, single women who with unbelievable courage and strength that stood right beside them. Some Gold Rush women had come along with their husbands to the mines and traveled for months in covered wagons to get there.
Once on arrival that dream for many was washed down those streams that the fever of the gold rush painted in its swift waters. For many of the women who actually lived in the camps while their husbands panned for this precious mineral, it was a harder life. Many women found that taking on chores of washing and cooking for other camp men was very profitable.
Many Eastern women that were disgruntled over the low wages that they were receiving started coming to the gold fields and soon found that they could cook and make as much as thirty dollars a day and women that did washing could make twice that much. This was big money in 1849.
Several women found unconventional ways to disguise there identity to accomplish their endeavor among the men. One Mexican woman used a string of mules to bring flour to the camps, she did this by disguising herself as a man.
Charley Parkhurst, was mention through out this time period as a fierce stagecoach driver and was never afraid to use his gun when needed. He was known as "One Eyed Charley," for he had lost one eye after a kick from a horse. He was respected and admired for his skill with the driving of four-or six-in hand of the reins.
Women from all walks of life came to seek their own fortune. On Sundays and nights after panning for a few specks of gold, the men wanted recreation. Many found that piles of gold dust could be put into their hands with a simple game of cards without getting a speck of dirt on their gowns. of course there were the prostitutes. We might say a lot of gold nuggets never traveled far from where they were discovered?
Many of these women that cooked meals in a simple Dutch oven beside a stream or under a pine tree made a fortune and went on to start there own business after the gold rush played out. They became business women in their own right and now were the bread-winners and raised their families.
Yes, these women in their own ways, had to endure what was placed in front of them to survive and paved the way for us. Yet, some have forgotten and left them off of many painted canvas's of our history.
• History is a painting of memories to lead us into the future!