Comstock Women: The Making of a Mining Community

Overview

The conventional view of Virginia City as a ramshackle mining camp populated largely by miners and the businesses - saloons, hotels, brothels- that served their needs obscures a significant and fascinating aspect of its history: it was home to large numbers of women and children. In this provocative and path-breaking collection of essays, noted scholars from several disciplines examine the lives of the women, from all social classes and many ethnicities, who settled on the Comstock Lode and struggled to create a ...
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Overview

The conventional view of Virginia City as a ramshackle mining camp populated largely by miners and the businesses - saloons, hotels, brothels- that served their needs obscures a significant and fascinating aspect of its history: it was home to large numbers of women and children. In this provocative and path-breaking collection of essays, noted scholars from several disciplines examine the lives of the women, from all social classes and many ethnicities, who settled on the Comstock Lode and struggled to create a stable community in that transient boomtown setting. The contributors to Comstock Women consider the complexity of women's experiences on the Comstock Lode, combining traditional historical research with demography, ethnic studies, architectural history, material culture, and literary studies, using as many tools as possible to arrive at insights not addressed by earlier histories and the limited primary records. Their conclusions change the way we view the position of Chinese women, the history of prostitution in the district, the economic roles played by women in the mining West, the wide-ranging social impact of such anodynes as opium, and the idea of community in a boomtown environment. A final essay on gender archaeology suggests yet another way to examine the lives of women who left few written records of their lives.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This book goes far in refuting the exaggerated popular images of women in early mining towns as dance hall girls or prostitutes. James (Temples of Justice: County Courthouses of Nevada, Univ. of Nevada, 1994) and Raymond (George Wingfield: Owner and Operator of Nevada, Univ. of Nevada, 1992) have written or collected a number of essays offering a much richer portrait of women and their activities in Virginia City, Nevada. Several essays examine various occupations, including needle worker, lodging-house keeper, and social service worker. Other sections address ethnic diversity, opium use, divorce, divination, and participation in social organizations. The final sections deal with opportunities for gendered archaeological research and a critique of the "Wild and Woolly School" of the history of this mining area. Appropriate for collections on the American West or the history of women in academic or large public libraries.Patricia A. Beaber, Coll. of New Jersey Lib., Ewing
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Product Details

Table of Contents

1 "I Am Afraid We Will Lose All We Have Made": Women's Lives in a Nineteenth-Century Mining Town 3
2 Women of the Mining West: Virginia City Revisited 17
3 Redefining Domesticity: Women and Lodging Houses on the Comstock 43
4 "They Are Doing So to a Liberal Extent Here Now": Women and Divorce on the Comstock, 1859-1880 68
5 The "Secret Friend": Opium in Comstock Society, 1860-1887 95
6 Creating a Fashionable Society: Comstock Needleworkers from 1860 to 1880 115
7 Mission in the Mountains: The Daughters of Charity in Virginia City 142
8 Divination on Mount Davidson: An Overview of Women Spiritualists and Fortunetellers on the Comstock 165
9 "The Advantage of Ladies' Society": The Public Sphere of Women on the Comstock 179
10 Their Changing World: Chinese Women on the Comstock, 1860-1910 203
11 "And Some of Them Swear Like Pirates": Acculturation of American Indian Women in Nineteenth-Century Virginia City 229
12 Erin's Daughters on the Comstock: Building Community 246
13 Girls of the Golden West 265
14 Gender and Archaeology on the Comstock 283
App. I Statistical Profile of Women on the Comstock 303
App. II Birthplace of Females in Storey County, 1860-1910 309
App. III Occupations of Women on the Comstock, 1860-1910 317
Notes 325
Selected References 373
Contributors 381
Index 385
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