By Ronald Michael James, C. Elizabeth Raymond
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Extra info for Comstock women: the making of a mining community
In this way, it is possible to place the Augusta Ackherts, the Ty Gungs, and the Emma Earls in context and to understand them and their counterparts better. Statistical summaries of data on Comstock women are easily obtained but are not without their own problems. Enumerators invariably missed some people. This may have been more common in Chinatown and the red-light district, for example. In these places more people may have wished to remain anonymous, or they may have discouraged enumerators from lingering.
As Loverin and Nylen conclude, the first women to arrive in Virginia City were not all unskilled. Among the earliest residents were stylish and proficient practitioners of a demanding trade who made their living purveying fashion essentials to other women. Virtually from the beginning, Virginia City was understood to be a women's city, not simply a male mining camp. The mining boom also attracted women whose motives were not eco- Page 10 Children enjoying an outdoor class in Virginia City. (Courtesy of California Historical Society) nomic.
In spite of the astonishing amount of wealth that the Comstock produced, its days of bonanza were destined to end. By 1880 the mining district had begun a long downhill slide into depression that ultimately reduced its population to less than 1,000. Despite desultory revivals of mining in the intervening years, the local economy has depended for decades on tourism, promoted especially by the popular television show, Bonanza, which ran from 1959 to 1972. Given this history, it should come as no surprise that treatments of the Comstock's past have usually focused on the district's men.
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