Women and the Gold Rush

During the California gold rush, which started in 1847, there were only two percent of females amongst the immigrants, as the beginning of the gold rush was an adventure only enjoyed by the male immigrant population. This population graph rose up by 1857 with women making almost half of the number, as more and more people were lured to the glitter of the gold.

The perception about women in those days was that either they were good and virtuous or they were not good and had bad moral character. Since men out numbered women, it was a rare sight to see a woman staying single for a long period, even if she was widowed. Proposals would literally break down the door for a single female.

Due to the scarcity of females, they were much appreciated and were in great demand. If women were on board steamboats, it would be made public knowledge and advertised to bring in more customers. Single ladies were discussed much by the men of the family and great plans would be made about their debutante. It was a matter of utmost importance that they find the right match and get married. Though it was rare to find a woman in the mine fields working side by side with the men, it was not unheard of. Men were gracious and minded their manners when being around a female even in that crude surrounding.

The word of this got around all over the world, and many women sailed across all the way from Europe to San Francisco. They were immediately hired by saloon-keepers and the gambling houses on very high wages. Their jobs would often include sitting beside the gamblers or hand out drinks at the bar. And, since they were guarded by their employers, within a very short time, they all had husbands too. When this news got back to their homelands, even more women set sail for California.

Women were no exception to the gold rush fever, and one out of every ten miners was a female. Many of these women were not even with any male relatives, and were traveling on their own. Some of them signed up for tasks like cleaning, looking after and cooking for the group they were traveling with, and in return they were helped with their belongings and provisions across the passes.

Though they were not harassed or plotted against, still some women found more comfortable with hiding their identities and work as male miners. They made better wages and often times would end up getting the jobs which were reserved only for men. Since women are thought to be the gentler or the fairer sex, often times certain hard labours were only kept for the male members of the working class. Many women stated that they preferred living the life of a man.

Besides this, women opened up many boarding houses at major mining sites, which provided comfortable lodging and food for the travelling and the onset miners. They suffered similar hardships of mining which included constantly chilled hands and feet as a result of wetness and torn clothing.

Mildred K. Pearson

Leave a Reply

Next Post

A Short History of Bram Stoker

Tue Apr 25 , 2023
Abraham Stoker (his friends called him Bram), was an Irish writer and novelist. He was born on November 8, 1847. He died on April 20, 1912. Bram Stoker came from a large, Protestant family. He was the third of seven children. Bram was born with infirmity. He was bedridden, due […]
A Short History of Bram Stoker

You May Like