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Women of the Gold Rush

Historical Thompson PassMrs. Dowling, Mrs. Anne Barrett, Miss Lillian Moore — these women and 60 others joined the Valdez Gold Rush.  Some were married, some were adventuresome unmarried women. They were all looking for something more exciting than church socials and tea parties.

Mrs. Dowling became a living legend on the trail. At Klutina Lake, she nursed an Army man stricken with typhoid back to health. About her, Copper River Joe wrote: "When these men [crossing the glacier] were about to give up, a woman by name of Mrs. Dowling, shamed them into a final effort and it saved them, because one among them had the nerve, though undoubtedly she was the weakest physically."

Mrs. Anne Barrett, a popular Swedish beauty, prepared for the Valdez Trail by walking 20 miles every day. After crossing the glacier, she started a restaurant at Klutina Lake and was famous for her fresh lingonberry pies. Later, she became a mine owner at Slate Creek and a restaurant owner in Valdez.

Lillian Moore, a Vassar graduate, was an excellent horsewoman. Captain Abercrombie hired her to help take his horses over Valdez Glacier. She wrote home that she had "out-walked the men." Concerned about the treatment of horses, Lillian Moore started an organization to rescue them. Later, Lillian and her husband ran a transport company taking goods by horse drawn sleds over the Richardson Trail.

Women played an integral role throughout the gold rush facing challenges alongside their male peers. Obstacles turned into opportunities for many women who braved the wilds of Alaska at the turn of the century.

—Nancy Lethcoe