July 17, 2011

Frontier Woman's Trials in Nome, Alaska


From The Times Dispatch, Richmond, VA
November 4, 1906 
Woman's Trials in Nome, Alaska
Suffered Years of Hardships.  Nursed Strangers and is Repaid With Interest
LOS ANGELES, November 2--In a store window at Fourth Street and Central Avenue is a collection of Alaskan curios that are the property of a little woman who also possesses piercing blue eyes and chin that denotes fierceness and determination.  She is Mrs. Marie Riedselle, the first white woman to brave the hardships of the Klondike in the search for gold. 
Eight years ago Mrs. Riedselle made her first trip to Alaska.  She was an osteopathic physician, living in New York, when she first decided to try her luck at mining.  From there she went to Seattle and purchased a miner's outfit.  Eskimo dogs and the few bare necessities.  For two years she lived at Dawson City, nursing, doctoring and studying, but without getting nearer to the gold mine. 
"I determined that I must get to Nome at all costs," she said in recounting her experience.  "I got to Nome, and there my chance came.  I heard of a young fellow who was supposed to be dying with pneumonia.  His partner had done all he could for him, but had failed to relieve his suffering.  I arrived just in time, and together we nursed him back to health. 
"Out of gratitude they took me into partnership in a claim they had just staked out in Eldorado, sixty miles from Nome. 
"The hardships of that winter were terrible.  Many times we had nothing to eat for days at a time.  One partner was sick and the other far away from us most of the time.  We had years of hard work, but we found a rich claim, and I am back in civilization for a time.  My visit here is to be brief, as one has to fight always for that which he would keep in Alaska, and some of my property is now in litigation." 
The dogs are splendid animals, and Mrs. Riedselle's constant companions.  For weeks at a time she has depended solely upon them for friendship.  In the collection in a suit which she treasures as the finest ever seen in Alaska.  It consists of a long coat, or "parka," made of reindeer skin, with hood and cuffs of longer fur and a border of tiny squares of light and dark furs, forming an Indian pattern, and a pair of deerskin trousers and matelocks made in Siberia from finest skin.

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