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Lady of the Klondike

The perfect woman. Traveling alone to the Klondike gold fields. She says that Seattle is the perfect city.

I stumbled on this fable in an old newspaper. It’s reprinted from the December 20, 1897 Seattle Times in the New Haven, Connecticut Daily Morning Journal. The ST of that day is missing in digital archives.

“Over Crystal Fields She Glides”, Illustration from The Woman Fashion in Jan 16 1896 Seattle Post Intelligencer

Her name was made up, Marie Reedeselle. For example, there are zero hits for Reedeselle in Google. Likewise, the name does not appear in Ancestry with all of its records and indexes of the past.

If not in height of leg, she at least had a tall tale to make a good match for Paul Bunyan.

With not even a dog

The article framed her as possessing every quality a man could desire. Single, pretty, and with a sweet voice. Moreso, though, she had money, drive, and could farm, haul, and mine better than any companion. Should they but come to Seattle and outfit themselves for life in the Klondike, they might have the chance to meet her.

“Mrs. Marie A. Reedeselle of Hopeville, Conn., and New York city has arrived in Seattle on her way to the Klondike on one of the most desperate adventures ever undertaken by a woman…

“She intends to go to Dawson over the snow and ice, and will take her own sled with about four hundred pounds of provisions. She is going absolutely alone, with not even a dog for a companion. And she is planning all this for gold, which she proposes to get by locating a claim, and not by marrying or working for wages…

Klondike ready

“She has excellent letters of recommendation with her, and was evidently a popular woman, as she is an extremely pretty one. She is of French descent, is well dressed and appears to be well supplied with money, which she says she made during the past two years at farming. This woman Klondiker has a very pleasant voice, and only in strength does she resemble a man.”

She was quoted at length, for example regarding her attire: “My wearing apparel for the Klondike consists of the heaviest union suit of flannel I can purchase and over this I will wear a union suit of chamois. I am having a suit of heavy mackinaw made. The skirt will be quite short but still a skirt. I will wear seal skin shoes and leggings and heavy German socks.”

Young woman in union suit
Illustration of union suit from Young Woman’s Journal, February 1890

Abandoned

Her friends abandoned her. She abandoned meat — a vegetarian who packed only unground wheat and dried fruits and vegetables. And she trained at gymnastics three hours daily.

And of course she was only remiss that she must leave her way station Seattle behind. “The rain here does not bother me and it seems to have something soothing about it. I think this is the best place in the world for Klondike outfits and accurate information.”

We only have the one tale of Mrs. Reeneselle. I assume her tale came from Erastus Brainerd or one of the other Klondike promoters in Seattle. But if she was real, I wonder what happened after she pulled her weighted sled over Chilkoot Pass. Of course there is no doubt that she reached Bonanza Creek, skating across Lake Bennett.

I picture her standing over the creek with creased paper in one hand. The gold dust is slowly lifting itself out of the river and settling into the sack in her other hand, drawn out by her lovely voice reading to it her letters of recommendation.

Afterward

To find out about real women of the Klondike, read this great Scattering of Seeds article and head over to the Gold Rush Museum’s page.

Here’s more articles I’ve got about the Klondike:

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