Though the new gold rush town of Virginia City, Montana, located in rich Alder Gulch, was not yet a year old, the winter of 1863-64 proved to be quite trying for its residents. The charming sheriff, it is later found, leads a double life as the leader of a murderous band of thieves. The people are rendered helpless for a period as lawlessness ensues. Danger is everywhere and only by pulling together, organizing resistance, and taking the law into their own hands are they able to stop the tirade. Though the story is often told, women are often left out of it. Women on the mining frontier are often portrayed as hookers and dancers. While many of them are, many exceptions are often left out of historical accounts. The women of Virginia City in this trying time are just such individuals. These women, regardless of the fact that they have been repeatedly skipped over, played a major role in the events of 1863-64, and not just as whores and entertainers. There is no typical woman that can be assessed, but rather a cross section of women fulfilling various roles on the mining frontier can begin to show the diversity of their existence.
Julia Clark, ’06 Glen, MT
Majors: History, Sociology and Anthropology
Sponsor: Richard Thomas