Most readers, if asked for a word association to women in 19th Century mining camps are likely to respond with an association to “working girls” and “red light districts”. But the mines of 19th and early 20th Century’s in California and Nevada had a share of women who were seeking fortunes of their own: roaming the hills in search of riches, prospecting, staking claims, and investing their wealth in townsites and ranches. Some were successful, some died in
poverty. But the ones who made history weren’t about to trade their lifestyle for anything more traditional. In fact, Lillian Malcolm, Broadway actress turned gold miner, wondered why more women didn’t choose the healthier, grander outdoor lifestyle of prospecting.
This year, Laws Railroad Museum and Historical Site will honor women in mining during Women’s History Month, on Saturday March 11th. Visitors to Laws will have the opportunity to hear from history docents about the lives and experiences of some of California’s and Nevada’s women gold-panners and prospectors. Some of these unconventional women travelled from the east
coast and even from other countries in response to “Gold Fever”. Others, like Ellen Nay, grew up prospecting alongside family members who hoped to strike it rich.
Some readers may be also be surprised by the historic link between the narrow- gauge railroad that came through Laws Station, and the mining industry. The railroad itself was built primarily to serve the mines. Passengers and produce were also transported, but the productive mines of the eastern Sierra were the real reason for rails through the Owens Valley.
Join us at Laws Railroad Museum and Historical Site on March 11th to learn more! Weather permitting, rides will be given on the Pine Creek tungsten mine’s ore cart, and the first 49 visitors to obtain autographs from six history docents will earn a bag of polished rocks from the gift shop/reception center’s “mine”.
The museum is open 10:00-4:00 p.m. Call (760) 873-5950 for more information.