Women in the Gold Rush
In 1897, journalist Annie Hall Strong wrote in the "Skagway News:" "First of all, delicate women have no right attempting the trip...Those who love luxury, comfort and ease would better remain at home." She outlined a list of the basic necessities that a woman must bring with her to the Klondike, noting that "First and most important of all, by far...is the selection of proper footwear." At the top of her list were house slippers, wool socks, walking shoes, arctic boots, felt boots, gum boots and ice creepers. There were lots of mittens, underwear and bloomers, but only "one summer dress" was recommended. Women from all walks of life joined the Gold Rush. Some accompanied their husbands while others came on their own as fortune seekers. Many women "struck it rich," some through mining claims, some through hard and honest work, and some by catching the eye of a wealthy man. Typical of these hardworking women adventurers was Mrs. Willis, who left her disabled husband at home and set out alone to the Klondike, vowing that she would not return until she could bring a fortune with her. True to her word, she staked a claim that yielded $300,000. She also opened a lucrative laundry business in Dawson City, complaining that she "once had to pay $250 for a box of starch." Women came north as tourists, miners, shopkeepers, housewives, medical professionals, cooks, entertainers, prostitutes, nuns, teachers, secretaries, business women, authors and newspaper correspondents. As the boom towns matured, women were not such a rarity. By 1900, 23% of Skagway's citizens were Euroamerican adult women (about 525), 16% were children, and 61% were adult men. By comparison, Nome, which was still at the height of its boom in 1900, had only a 10% female population
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