How Women Brought Law, Order, and Refinement to the Old West
By Shirley Kennedy, Author of , Book 3 of the In Old California Series
In 1849, news of the gold discovery at Sutter’s Mill brought gold-seekers to California from all over the world. Men by the thousands staked claims up and down the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Mining camps sprang up everywhere—some with colorful names like Bed Bug, Delirium Tremens, Poverty Flat, and Mad Mule Gulch. During the early days of the Gold Rush, nearly all the camps’ inhabitants were men whose only interest was in finding gold. As a result, living conditions were crude, and law and order was practically nonexistent.
But that was soon to change. A trickle of women began to arrive—mostly miners’ wives who had never worked outside the home. They soon found opportunities they had never dreamed of. Unaccustomed to performing “women’s tasks,” desperate miners were willing to pay a high price for someone willing to bake, cook, or wash and mend their clothes. As a consequence, many women opened laundries, bakeries, and restaurants. In 1850, a woman named Luzena Wilson, a dutiful wife and mother, opened her own hotel in Nevada City.
The enormous lure of gold proved elusive for many. As time passed, many men returned home, discouraged and empty-handed. But many stayed, and when they did, they sent for their wives and children. A rude awakening awaited many such wives. Back East, they’d lived a life of comparative luxury. Now, after a grueling journey by either ship or wagon train, they found themselves in the worst living conditions imaginable, their children subject to unfamiliar dangers, such as wild animals and deep, abandoned mine shafts. But with strength and determination, most stayed and began to make changes. Schools and churches were built. Streets were cleaned up and paved. Towns passed new laws, such as the one that sentenced offenders to thirty days in jail for “using the vilest kind of language in front of ladies and children.”
In a mining town known by the unflattering name of Hangtown, the women of the newly formed temperance league demanded the name be changed to something more dignified. In 1854, Hangtown became the city of Placerville, another example of how women played a huge part in the taming of the West.
About Lucky Creek Lady
Pampered, fun-loving Laurie Sinclair hates everything about the rough, ugly mining town of Lucky Creek, California. She only left Philadelphia because her wealthy father opened the Monarch Gold Mine—and because Brandon, the man she’d hoped to marry, sent her away. But when Brandon changes his mind, she’s ready to pack her bags—until her father is suddenly killed in a mine explosion, and her brother is badly injured.
As troubles mount for the Sinclairs, including a ruinous unexpected debt, they save themselves by selling half their mine ownership to Darcy McKenna, a friend of Laurie’s late father. Brusque and brooding, Darcy is the opposite of exuberant Laurie. Yet, as Laurie stays on to help him in the office, Darcy soon finds himself smiling and happier, while Laurie finds her interests are changing. She might even be falling for Darcy. But her heart won’t truly be tested until Brandon shows up—and throws her life into chaos.
About the Author
Shirley Kennedy was born and raised in Fresno, California. She lived in Canada for many years and graduated from the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. She has published novels with Ballantine, Signet, and several smaller presses. She writes in several different genres, including Regency romance, Western romance, and contemporary fiction. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is an active member of the Romance Writers of America, Las Vegas chapter. Please visit Shirley at www.shirleykennedy.com.