REVIEW - MORE THAN PETTICOATS
Jones, Cherry Lyon, More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Alaska Women. Globe Pequot Press. Softbound. $10.95. 12 black & white photographs. 134 pages.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with honoring Alaska’s women. Many of us women think there should be more of it; tons more. However, it seems a bit odd to honor well-known women. The fact that this is part of a series of Remarkable Women of Name-Your-State may enter into it.
Of the twelve women whose lives are examined in this small book, six are the subject of many articles and two of books. Yes, Harriet Pullen, Tillie Paul, Nellie Lawing, Crystal Snow, Clara Rust, and Anfesia Shapsnikoff were amazing women who triumphed over adversity in Alaska. That’s why they’ve been written about, or, in Nellie’s case, wrote her own.
The other six, Fannie Quigley, Margaret Harrais, Lois Allen, Josephine Sather, Jessie Bloom, and Rusty Dow are new to this reviewer, so that almost makes up for the famous six. Fannie came up in the Gold Rush, landed at Kantishna, found it to her liking, and stayed to garden and hunt.
Margaret, who came in 1916, was the first superintendent of schools in Fairbanks. A community activist, she took the prohibition of alcohol in Alaska as a major cause, making this reviewer doubt her popularity with a number of Alaskans. She did write her memoirs, but they were never published. However, they’re available at the University of Alaska library.
Lois Allen, a journalist, came to Alaska at the age of 63. After her husband’s death, she’d raised her four sons alone. Two had died, but the other two were happily married when she decided, after a diagnosis of breast cancer, to leave Colorado in 1936 and publish newspapers in Alaska, first in Skagway, then at Moose Pass. She died at the age of 74, after thirteen years in Alaska, but showed what courage and determination can accomplish.
Josephine Sather lived for forty years and ran a fox farm on Nuka Island in today’s Kenai Fjords National Park. Watching wildlife and protecting her foxes kept her quite busy. In the free-wheeling days of the 1920s and ‘30s, although the lease said no killing of animals or birds, she disposed of at least 200 eagles and 17 bears. She outlived two husbands (another marriage was annulled) and ended her life back in her native Austria.
Jessie Bloom, from Ireland, started the first Girl Scout troop in Alaska while living in Fairbanks. She and her husband were the only Jewish couple in town, so she took their daughters to Seattle and Dublin many winters for a community. Husband was too busy with civic affairs, including helping the university get under way, to come along until many years later.
Rusty Dow the woman trucker, is in some ways the most interesting of the women. She settled in Palmer, married, and drove a truck alone on the new Alcan Highway from Anchorage to Whitehorse in seven days. Women didn’t drive trucks at that time, but she then drove for the military around Anchorage, including the newly-finished Whittier tunnel. While saying nothing about it, she also turned 50 in 1944, when she made the Alcan run.
The price is modest, so you may want to buy a copy, if for no other reason than to enjoy the photograph on the back cover. The lay-out people surely didn’t know, but it’s a famous picture of five good time girls on their way to the Klondike. The headline below states: "Meet Inspiring Women of Alaska."