P R O M I S E D L A N D S
M O L L I E W A L S H
The most heroic men in Alaska
are the women.
– Labelle Brooks-Vincent, Argonaut
THE WEST for Mollie Walsh was a promised land of hopes and dreams. It was the same for her parents when they escaped from Ireland’s famine in the late 1840s to Scotland and then came west to New York in 1864 and on to Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. At age 21 in 1890, Mollie ventured further West on her own. After seven years in the Treasure State of Montana, in 1897 she joined the Klondike Gold Rush. This new land promised greater opportunity for an independent, fulfilling life. After encountering and overcoming numerous challenges, she reached the Klondike in 1898 and partnered well in business and then marriage, but by 1901 she fled the Yukon in a bold attempt to save her family’s diminishing fortunes. A year later at age 33, in facing an ever-mounting challenge, she died a violent death.
Thirty-two years after the great Klondike Gold Rush, a White Pass packer who had known Mollie Walsh gave her to posterity in a bronze bust. In an inscription for her bust, erected in 1931, her admirer wrote, “Generations shall surely know this inspiring spirit.” Her upright, mysterious figure stands quietly in Skagway, Alaska, to this day, waiting to be recognized. This biography, comprehensive and documented, tells her story and explores her “inspiring spirit.”
Mollie’s biography is also about the late 19th-century Yukon and Alaska stampedes to the gold-filled creeks of the Klondike and the golden sands of Nome. Mollie’s story also tells of the working and living conditions of women in the Midwest, West, and North. Additionally, it delves into the sociological phenomena of “blackface,” Tom Shows, Topsy as a masque ball costume, suicide choices, women horsewhippers of men, and why women are murdered by men who say they love them. Finally, this is also a human story about what was of value to one woman in the West, the grit and discipline she exercised to claim her land of promise, and the events that led to her being robbed of it. Others like and unlike Mollie appear in this human story of humanity in search of promised lands.
This is, not surprisingly, a hell of a story.
– Richard Gibson, geologist & historian, author of Lost Butte Montana.
688 pages, 228 Illustrations (22 maps, mostly historical photographs and images).