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Lot 57

A Feminist Perspective of the Gold Rush

57. FARNHAM, Eliza W. California In-Doors and Out; or, How We Farm, Mine, and Live Generally in the Golden State. By Eliza W. Farmham. New York: [Miller & Holman, Printers & Stereotypers, N.Y., for] Dix, Edwards & Co., 321 Broadway. 1856. xiv, [2], 508, [8, ads] pp. 12mo, original dark green blindstamped cloth, gilt-lettered spine. Binding rubbed and lightly stained, extremities frayed, corners bumped (some board exposed), spine slightly darkened, lower hinge cracked (but strong), occasional mild foxing to text, interior fine. Contemporary ink gift inscription to Lizzie B. Wakely, New York, December 1856. Modern ownership inscription of C. N. Galvin in Los Angeles.

     First edition of a feminist perspective of the Gold Rush. Braislin 703. Byrd 47. Cowan I, p. 82. Cowan II, p. 203. Norris 1105. Rocq 16835. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 72. See Notable American Women (pp. 598-600). Farnham (1815-1864), feminist, prison reformer, author, lecturer, and proponent of the superiority of the female sex, has left us “one of the most important books of the Gold Rush and 1850s” (Kurutz in Volkmann Sale, Zamorano Eighty 36n). Farnham came to California to settle the estate of her husband Thomas Jefferson Farnham (q.v.) and chaperoned a few “proper unmarried girls” to the gold fields to introduce civilization to the untamed region. She arrived in Santa Cruz in 1849, and her El Rancho La Libertad at Santa Cruz was actually more of a feminist agricultural venture. Farnham includes several chapters on mines and mining and a chapter on “Women in California.” The appendix includes the Donner Party and Vigilance Committee of the 1856. Unusual subjects discussed are the effects of the mining life on children of miners and the impact of mining on the environment.

Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 232:

Farnham, the pioneer California feminist and widow of Thomas Jefferson Farnham, dated her preface July 1856, Santa Cruz. While providing important observations of California in general, chapters XXXV through XXXVIII are devoted to the mines. Eliza wrote: “My own experience in mining is confined to this variety [placer]. I washed one panful of earth, under a burning noon-day sun, in a cloth riding-habit, and must frankly confess, that the small particle of gold, which lies this day safely folded in a bit of tissue paper, though it is visible to the naked eye, did not in the least excite the desire to continue the search.” She went on to note the negative effect of the Gold Rush on children. Eliza attracted the notice of many chroniclers of the Gold Rush because of her famous circular to attract women to California. In this circular, she wrote: “It would exceed the limits of this circular to hint at the benefits that would flow to the growing population of that wonderful region from the introduction among them of intelligent, virtuous and efficient women.”

      A review of California In-doors and Out appeared in The Edinburgh Review for April, 1858.

     With this volume, we include a copy of the author’s Life in Prairie Land (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1847; Buck 356). Carl Wheat’s copy, in original cloth, with his bookplate. (2 vols.) ($200-400)

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