girls of the golden west

Wayne Hsieh

This week we add another woman’s perspective to the story of life in California’s gold camps. An everyday perspective. Of the very few women who made up gold-rush communities, most were not notorious—definitely not internationally notorious, like “Spanish dancer” Lola Montez—but just plain folks, doing their best to get food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. 

Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler

This week we return to the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, California’s gold country, to meet more of the bold, sometimes brazen women who made their marks early on. Appropriately enough, the U.S. senator who introduced legislation that led to the Nineteenth Amendment (and women's right to vote) lived in Nevada City. World-class soprano Emma Nevada was another well-known native. Locally famous was gambler Eleanor "Madame Moustache" Dumont. Scandalous internationally was Lola Montez of adjacent Grass Valley.