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

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  415 ratings  ·  60 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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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.
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
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. ...more
Russell J. J.
Jul 24, 2019 rated it liked it
After taking a delightful walking tour of Skagway, Alaska, entitled Ghosts and Goodtime Girls, I wanted to know more about these “ladies of the evening” that were so prevalent—and most probably essential—to the Gold Rush days of our 49th state. So I purchased Lael Morgan’s well-researched and acclaimed book Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush. Unfortunately, after reading it’s more than three hundred pages, I found that the walking tour I took told me just about everything I needed and ...more
John Geary
Jun 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting book. It gives you some insights into the history of the Gold Rushes in Alaska and the Yukon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – of course, it’s a history that you wouldn’t read in most history books in school. There were some poignant stories, some funny ones, and some inspiring ones. One of the more interesting ones involves Robert Stroud, who was involved with a good time girl named Kate Dulaney. For those who may not recognize the name, Stroud became the famed Birdman of ...more
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
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing

I came upon this book several years ago at the University of Alaska book store. I questioned my own interest in reading it and dismissed that interest for more than five years, finding it available each time I returned to visit family in Alaska. This year I found a copy in a used book store and even then continued to question my interest. During the process of reading it I found my motivation. “First seek to understand.” I thank the author for her work and encourage all readers to reach beyond t
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.
Jan 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Stories of the women who joined the gold rush to make money and to flee the constraints of the lives they were living. The author did an amazing lot of research for this book. Great stories and many photos of the people and places who were part of the wild and wooly Yukon gold rush. Who knew that these women played such an important part in that time and place.
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-miners in
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 Carmody
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
Leandra Vane
Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
First published in 1999, “Good Time Girls” is a lovely gem. The author, Lael Morgan, covers the good time girls and the far North gold rushes from the late 1800’s to around the 1930’s and into the final decline of sex worker lines in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

I reviewed this book on my blog The Unlaced Librarian:
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.
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.
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!
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“Don't throw your life away because of one man. Don't make yourself something he will always be glad he was rid of. Make yourself something he will wish he had kept.” 12 likes
“It's this way. When a fellow gets out on the creeks, he's so busy and has so much to be thinking about all the time that he doesn't have much chance to worry about women, especially with all the hard physical labor involved,' an old-timer told Marshall. 'It's only when a man's mind hasn't got anything to occupy it and his body's got nothing to get it tired that he can't get along without any women.” 0 likes
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