• Courtesy the Pikes Peak Library District.

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    Girls and ox team on the road
    • Date
    • 4/1/1859
    • Creator
    • Unknown
    • Description
    • One of six wood engravings in two-page spread in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, April 30, 1859, titled "Going to Pike's Peak, the New Gold Region - From Sketches by our own Correspondent." Image shows two women with two-whe... more
      One of six wood engravings in two-page spread in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, April 30, 1859, titled "Going to Pike's Peak, the New Gold Region - From Sketches by our own Correspondent." Image shows two women with two-wheeled covered wagon drawn by two oxen. One woman rides on one of the oxen, holding a rifle, while the other woman, holding whip, walks alongside. Image is captioned "Girls and Ox Team on the Road." less
    • Rights
    • (c) Pikes Peak Library District. All rights reserved.
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    • Pikes Peak Library District

  • Courtesy the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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    Mining gold, Claim No. 3, Miller Creek
    • Date
    • c1897
    • Description
    • Woman panning gold and 3 men standing on bank.
    • Rights
    • Public domain. There are no known restrictions.
    • Partner
    • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

  • Courtesy Brigham Young University, via the Mountain West Digital Library.

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    Scofield [Utah] #33, Mrs. Seth Jones and Family and Casket at time of Mine Disaster
    • Date
    • 1900-05
    • Creator
    • Anderson, George Edward, 1860-1928
    • Description
    • A photograph of a group of people, including two small children, gathered around a coffin. Taken indoors. Electronic reproduction. Gelatin dry plate negative; 12.70 x 17.78 cm. (5 x 7 in.).
    • Rights
    • Http://lib.byu.edu/about/copyright/special_collections.php; Public Domain; Courtesy L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University; Public
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    • Mountain West Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Brigham Young University - Harold B. Lee Library

  • Courtesy the University of Nevada, Reno, University Libraries, via the Mountain West Digital Library.

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    Fanny Hanks
    • Date
    • 1866
    • Description
    • Photogrpah of Fanny Hanks; Caption on image: Fanny Hanks, Virginia City, Nevada, 1866; The End of Fanny Hanks; Fanny Hanks, many years ago a wealthy and well-known actress in this city, died two weeks ago in the County Almshouse; In her palmy days in... more
      Photogrpah of Fanny Hanks; Caption on image: Fanny Hanks, Virginia City, Nevada, 1866; The End of Fanny Hanks; Fanny Hanks, many years ago a wealthy and well-known actress in this city, died two weeks ago in the County Almshouse; In her palmy days in the 'fifties her salary as a singer and dancer was $700 a week, while enthusiastic miners in the front rows used to throw her over the footlights gold enough to more than double her pittance. In the height of her prosperity she married John Woodard, a worthless gambler, who was killed when he was found beating her on one occasion; After that she waned in popularity, lost her money in stocks, and for five years before entering the Almshouse helped the servants of rich people when work was heavy; San Francisco Daily Report, November 20, 1893; Music Hall burned September 23, 1866; Carte de viste less
    • Rights
    • This item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the righ... more
      This item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s). less
    • Partner
    • Mountain West Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • University of Nevada, Reno, University Libraries

The white world of the American West at the beginning of the California Gold Rush was overwhelmingly male, with estimates that for every woman in the territory there were over twelve men. Although this number gradually balanced out through the 1850s, and subsequent gold rushes such as the Klondike Rush in Alaska were never quite as segregated, women were seen as “other” in the West well into the 20th century. While many women capitalized on new, looser social mores to make their own destiny by working in the mines or operating businesses they could never have owned alone back east, most of the women who eventually made their way west did so as helpmeets to the men and symbols of a return to social order. A woman in the West could earn her husband a lot of money with her homemaking skills like laundry or baking, and men saw marriage as not only a necessary emotional or physical contract but also a good economic investment. As large numbers of women arrived in boomtowns, they formed groups very similar to those that existed back East, such as temperance societies and church social groups, and worked to tone down the social behaviors of rowdy miners. Prostitutes, who for a time were the most numerous female group in the West, were the one exception to this trend. By 1850, San Francisco alone had over 2,000 prostitutes, some of whom were elite and mixed with the city’s burgeoning high society, but most of whom were simply good-time girls, providing sexual favors to lonely and often violent miners in small tents or shacks for meager earnings. While the West was symbolic of opportunity and frontiers for many who travelled there, including thousands of white women, it was also bound by the morals of its time. Women were accorded many new freedoms as long as they agreed to abide by the existing social contract.