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Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush: A Secret History of the Far North

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  369 ratings  ·  56 reviews
In the boomtowns of the Alaska-Yukon stampedes, where gold dust was common currency, the rarest commodity was an attractive woman, and her company could be costly. Author Lael Morgan takes you into the heart of the gold rush demimonde, that "half world" of prostitutes, dance hall girls, and entertainers who lived on the outskirts of polite society. Meet "Dutch Kate" Wilson ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by Epicenter Press (first published 1998)
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3.71  · 
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 ·  369 ratings  ·  56 reviews

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Mar 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Vicki by: Marie Nentwich
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeff Tucker
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
The history books tell us that Mrs. T.H. Canham was the first non-native woman to cross Chilkoot Pass into Yukon Territory, but she was actually the first “respectable” woman to make that trek and traveled with her husband in 1888. The first woman to make that dangerous passage was actually a well-known prostitute, “Dutch Kate” Wilson, traveling on her own, in 1887. The discovery of gold in the Klondike region of the Yukon, and later in Alaska, lured thousands of prospectors and adventurers to r ...more
Jul 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I had a hard time getting into the style this was written in at first, but once I figured that out, it was good fun. I almost could have used more background on the Alaskan frontiers and explications of all the primary source quotes, but the author did a pretty good job fitting enough in and really letting the anecdotes about the women shine.

It really was a different world. It's easy to forget what different personalities flourished in different times. It felt very much like the author was just
May 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Didn't think this book was as much of the women as it was of the men & the politics of the times during the goldrush. Slightly disappointed, but still made for interesting read as I was up in the area at the time of reading it.
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it
The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th were hard times for women...dominated by men with few chances to become financially secure on their own. Then came the gold rush to Alaska and the Yukon. Women were an extremely scarce commodity. Those who were willing to face the hardships of the North country and use their bodies as saleable service, were afforded the opportunity to become wealthy beyond their dreams. Each chapter is a vignette of these ladies. This is a little noted pa ...more
Sean Kottke
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Last unread acquisition from the Alaska cruise. This is an exhaustively detailed, meticulously researched, and salaciously entertaining history of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush "demimonde." There's fodder for a thousand true-crime and frontier noir tales in them thar hills, but the bigger picture they all cohere into is an alternative history of the Gold Rush, one defined by women who found their own means to empowerment in a gold-crazed, uber-masculine atmosphere.
Nancy Lambert
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I picked this up on vacation in Alaska. It is a serious history and study of the contributions of prostitutes during the gold rush. It begins with Dawson in Canada and follows thru Alaska gold strikes to Fairbanks. Along the way the USA comes in for criticism about how the government did not govern during this wide open period.
Amy Siegfried
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Just could not engage with this book which rather disappointed me. I had thoroughly enjoyed the similar book about Seattle's good time girls but just could not finish this book. Made it through Chapter 3 and no further.
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was a pretty good book on the female involvement in the Yukon/Alaska gold rush.
Lexie Zimbelman
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really interesting stories that give you an amazing sense of how horrifying it would be to have been a woman in those times!
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Every time I travel somewhere,I make a point of reading about places I visit.This time around I happened to be in Alaska and in the heart of "last frontier" where "odds are good but goods are odd" I have found several cute little bookshops in Juneau.My favourite was bookshop called "Rainy Day Books" with cute little old lady inside and I liked the place & atmosphere & name of the shop so much that I returned again and again.

"Good Time Girls" is a excelent book about first wave of gold-m
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book takes you back to the gold rush days of the late 1800s and early 1900s, when fortune seekers headed to Alaska and western Canada--the men to mine gold and the women to mine the miners. It's a sympathetic portrayal of prostitutes, dance hall girls and other entertainers who had limited options for supporting themselves in other ways.

Morgan straddles the line between an academic work and a popular book. The best parts are the wonderful photos and the in depth profiles of some of the wome
Michelle Wardhaugh
I found this a thoughtful history that showed a great deal of respect for its subject. The role of working women in pioneering this distant and formidable frontier was given its due, and a balanced view was given to both the depths and heights that the actions of these women showed. This book shows a collection of characters no less colorful than the more famous and infamous names of the Old West. There were a lot of illustrative photos that were a vital addition to the text, and I only wished t ...more
Liss Capello
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
Well, I wasn't sorry I decided not to buy this book and to borrow it from the library instead. Its strongest points are the little biographies and vignettes of individual women who worked as prostitutes in Alaska during the late 1800s - beyond this, it makes an effort to draw a comprehensive picture of how prostitution as an institution shaped the landscape of the society of Alaskan towns, both during the booms and moving forward into the 20th century, but it struggled some by getting bogged dow ...more
Amber Ray
Apr 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Interesting history. Reading up on whatever I can get for a trip to Alaska. These women lived hard lives, but not all their history was pain and degradation.

Some of these women were damn tough broads who gave as good as they got. The luckier ones even got pretty rich, married out, or retired to more mainstream professions.

One girl who committed suicide though was given some touching memorials--several miners attested to "keeping company" with the girl and sharing a bed, but all denied having r
Sherry Wyeth
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book was a really enjoyable read, but I am partial to the Fairbanks area after living there for a few years.
The author tries very hard to condense a lot of information about a lot of women in a short space. That at times makes it a bit frustrating because you want more information about the people you are reading about.
This is a quick read, that I would think you would enjoy if you are interested in women and their role in Alaska's early history. That said it is a book about women who are
Mar 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Picked up this book on a recommendation while doing the Seattle Underground tour and thought it would be something about Seattle. Actually it's about the "sporting girls" who pioneered in Alaska and Yukon during the late 1800s and the quasi-respect that the earned during the time. It was an interesting read, but far too many names to keep track of them all. You get the overall sense of what was going on during the Klondike gold rush and the gold rushes that followed in Nome and Fairbanks, and wh ...more
David Johnson
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Apologies to the author Lael Morgan, but I could not finish Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush: A Secret History of the Far North.

I was expecting something full of entertaining stories, but the writing style was like an academic paper with copious notes and terse language.

It was not a page-turner for me. Eventually, I returned it to the library.

If you like your stories to be backed up with hard cold facts, and you have an appreciation for the lascivious facets of the US's final front
Joyce McCombs
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant, behind the scenes look at a hidden part of Alaska's history. I was fascinated by the individual stories of "the girls" as well as the great descriptions of how society (and men!) treated them. The most amazing thing I learned was that there are very few photos that exist of the girls because it wasn't considered polite for them to pose in a studio, and most folks couldn't afford their own cameras. It tickled me to know some "married up" and became staunch foremothers of Fairbanks so ...more
Sue Shipley
Apr 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting, full of facts and personal stories of the girls of the north. The author ties together many of the stories with the men who owned the dance halls and theaters. Also the men in law enforcement the judges and others. This Book tells of "girls with a heart of gold" with many stories of help to destitute miners and those that fell ill.

The old saying "live fast and die young" certainly applies to many but not all of the girls. Some lived well into their eighties. Wish I had read this bef
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Not quite what I expected and a little dry in parts for an anything but dry kind of history. I wouldn't necessarily buy this new if I knew what I know now -- but the pictures are truly the gems that bring it all together. Though it was somewhat dry for me in parts, it was only because of the absolute wealth of information. I do love how she gets into specific people and their lives and some chapters are interwoven from people you've met in other chapters. Neat-o for sure!
Jan 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Essentially a series of vignettes of women who helped make Alaska what it is today. Many of these demimondaines had been part of the development of the west and just moved north to where the men were. As occurred elsewhere, a few married out of the line; others made investments elsewhere to support them selves; some were killed or committed suicide as a result of love lost. One could argue that Alaska, like Seattle was made a state, in part, by prostitutes.
Jan 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
Read a book a couple of years ago called Soiled Doves about prostitution in the old West that I really enjoyed. This one had too much stuff that really was of no interest to me. The stuff about the Gold Rush was info that I skimmed. I was interested in the women, their lives and why they did what they did. Those parts were what I wanted the book for. Not bad, but not really quite what I was looking for.
Feb 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Having grown up in Fairbanks, Alaska I have always been interested in Alaskan history especially the tough women who made the trek over the Chilkoot. Lael Morgan is a very talented writer and has done amazing research in Alaska. If you ever want a fun read about the early settling years must grab this one!
Sep 27, 2009 rated it liked it
This book had some very interesting parts when it would go into more detail about the people. Quite often, it would just mention a name and say how long they lived there and whether or not they married or had a boyfriend. I admit to skimming these sections as they really weren't informative at all. The ones where more info was available were much more interesting.
Jul 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Terrific read that was recommended to me while traveling through Alaska. Well researched, charming and honest. The author brings the taboo and hidden history of the "girls" to the forefront in a respectful and at times, humorous manner. Highly recommend - especially if you plan on traveling through Alaska and the Yukon (lots of interesting historical trivia).
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics-history
As others have said this book wasn't as exciting as I had hoped. There were a few personal stories that gave enlightenment in the lives of the women at the time but mostly the book is filled with statistics and an account of where people were moving to and from.
I did chuckle at the story of Grace Lowe and the deducting of wages.
Mar 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
This interesting stuff and lots of it, but seems to be written to capture the research rather than make it compelling nonfiction pleasure reading. I rather would have liked more discussion, not just a bald report of who went where when and did what. Lots of girls; not so much a good time.
M read this before I could get to it and shared quite a lot of it along the way, reading selected chapters and passages aloud here and there. Interesting content! But I felt that I heard the meat of it by proxy so I no longer plan to read it in its entirety.
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was such an interesting read. A great book for anyone who enjoys northern gold mining history. It was so much more than a book on the sex trade, it painted a picture of what life was like in the mining towns.
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