[California, Nevada]: 1877-1880. First Edition. Red cloth with gilt and black embellishments to spine and front board. Some separation to center of text block, but binding holding tight overall. Comprised of 47 handwritten pages and a 2 page handwritten letter with envelope inserted at the rear; approximately 6 pages excised. Includes contemporary Victorial lithographic illustrations pasted onto almost each inscribed page. With poems, notes, literary quotations, and illustrations dated across 4 years from friends in California and Nevada, Kate's book is an important historical document of an educated woman's relationships as her family moved throughout the Western mining region shortly after the Gold Rush.
The earliest inscription to the book appears on the title page: "Sue to Katie Christmas 1877," under which the owner has added in her own hand "Kate V. Ford." From the outset, the book is a testament to the relationship between two women, with one giving the other a space where she can collect memories of her thoughts and friendships. Numerous entries come from Kate's companions at school, revealing that her parents did keep her enrolled despite their relocations. An entry from 1878 is headed "Remember Flint's Academy" and includes a poem about distance and separation from Carrie Heyman of Virginia City, NV: " On the facing page, dated 1880, is a poem from "Your schoolmate, Abbie Benson" of Santa Clarita, CA. Here too, separation and remembrance are key themes: "Whatever life may be or bring, In May-time or December, The sweetest burden of its song, Will always be 'Remember.'" While many of the young men in the album leave notes that are cheeky and light-hearted, most of the girls' poetry is serious and reflects the hardship and loneliness of being a young woman roving the West. Census records in California for 1870 show a male to female ratio of 100 : 38. The gender disparity led to certain dangers for women in mining towns, at the same time that it also opened new employment and civic engagement opportunities. The laws in California provided more power for educated white women, with the 1849 Constitution for example providing that "All property, both real and personal of the wife, owned or claimed by her before marriage...would remain her separate property." In her late teens at the time this book was compiled, Kate seems more than anything to be building a supportive female community; and her friends express longing for its permanence across distance and time. In this sense, the women leave their literary marks in the notebook in the hopes that they also leave a meaningful impression on another woman's life and sense of self.
With research potential including but not limited to history of the American West, women's role in the West, gender and ethnicity studies, history of education, women's poetry, family mobility, and travel at the turn of the century. Very Good + (Item #2277)