Cover image for They saw the elephant : women in the California gold rush
Title:
They saw the elephant : women in the California gold rush
Author:
Levy, JoAnn, 1941-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Hamden, Ct. : Archon Books, 1990.
Physical Description:
265 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780208022738
Format :
Book

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Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library F865 .L67 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

"The phrase 'seeing the elephant' symbolized for '49 gold rushers the exotic, the mythical, the once-in-a-lifetime adventure, unequaled anywhere else but in the journey to the promised land of fortune: California. Most western myths . . . generally depict an exclusively male gold rush. Levy's book debunks that myth. Here a variety of women travel, work, and write their way across the pages of western migrant history.""-Choice" "One of the best and most comprehensive accounts of gold rush life to date" DEGREES"-San Francisco Chronicle"


Reviews 5

Booklist Review

During the 1849 California gold rush, elephant was synonymous with the Mother Lode country--and those heading to the gold fields would proclaim that they were "going to see the elephant." An extensive collection of books are in print dealing with all aspects of this great exodus, but rarely if ever have any dealt with women and the roles they played. Levy disproves the commonly held belief that gold rush women were simply prostitutes, revealing them instead to have been hardworking miners, missionaries, actresses, boarding-house keepers, church builders, gamblers, school teachers, temperance speakers, and even a Wells Fargo stage driver. The extent of the women's participation in the gold rush is captured in the richness of their own words--from letters, diaries, and other personal accounts--as they relate how they coped with adversity and freedom on the frontier. The extensive bibliography will point the way to others interested in pursuing this long-neglected area of women's studies. To be indexed. --Fred Egloff


Publisher's Weekly Review

In the literature of the Gold Rush, women have been generally neglected. Freelance writer Levy here corrects that oversight with a colorful account of intrepid female argonauts--with and without men. She draws on letters, journals and reminiscences for a fresh view of western history. The women traveled overland, by ship round the Horn (one family survived three burning ships); they crossed the Isthmus of Panama by mule, and Nicaragua by steamship and mule. In California they ran boardinghouses, provided meals and laundry service for miners, and organized schools and churches. The cast of characters includes actresses and prostitutes, a stagecoach driver and ordinary women seeking to make a new home. Levy does for the Gold Rush what Lillian Schlissel did for the Plains emigrants in Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey . The book is a welcome addition to regional history as well as to women's studies. Illustrated. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Not just another book about the California Gold Rush, this account of the over-looked ``gold rushing women'' makes a significant contribution to the scholarship of women's studies. Quoting from letters, diaries, and reminiscences, California native Levy skillfully weaves together the stories of two dozen women, re-creating the experience of thousands. Liberated from social restraints, the women Argonauts worked as ``boarding house keepers and miners, missionaries and actresses, church builders and gamblers, school teachers and temperance speakers, even a Wells Fargo & Company stage driver.'' Devotees of Californiana will enjoy this adventure story. Scholars will value the extensive bibliography and the biographical postscripts.-- Virginia C. Parker, M.L.S., Logan, Ut. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

YA-- In this exciting and inspiring account of the women who helped settle California, Levy explores the leadership roles of those who contributed to the founding of businesses, towns, and mining camps. Photographs, letters, and diary accounts contribute to the realism of these adventures. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

The phrase "seeing the elephant" symbolized for '49 gold rushers the exotic, the mythical, the once-in-a-lifetime adventure, unequaled anywhere else but in the journey to the promised land of fortune: California. Most western myths promoted by writers, filmmakers, and other artists generally depict an exclusively male gold rush. Levy's book debunks that myth. Here a variety of women travel, work, and write their way across the pages of western migrant history. Some crossed plains and mountains with husbands and families in prairie schooners; others crossed the Panamanian Isthmus on their way to California on their own. Some women worked alongside men at the gold mines; others set up and kept homes, raised children, and ran boarding houses. As with other frontiers, the gold mining West allowed women a variety of working options; acting, teaching, shopkeeping, and preaching. Charley Parkhurst drove a stagecoach for Wells, Fargo and Company. On her death, it was discovered that "Charley" had disguised herself as a man so she could work to make her dream of buying a cattle ranch come true. Such were the women of the American West. For college and public libraries. -E. Kuhlman, University of Montana


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