Gold Diggers

Historian Charlotte Gray profiles six of the stampeders who travelled to Dawson City in the 1890s during the last great gold rush.

Charlotte Gray

Between 1896 and 1899, thousands of people lured by gold braved a grueling journey into the remote wilderness of North America. Within two years, Dawson City, in the Canadian Yukon, grew from a mining camp of 400 to a raucous town of over 30,000 people. The stampede to the Klondike was the last great gold rush in history.

Scurvy, dysentery, frostbite and starvation stalked all who dared to be in Dawson. And yet the possibilities attracted people from all walks of life — not only prospectors but also newspapermen, bankers, prostitutes, priests and lawmen. Gold Diggers follows six stampeders — Bill Haskell, a farm boy who hungered for striking gold; Father Judge, a Jesuit priest who aimed to save souls and lives; Belinda Mulrooney, a 24-year-old who became the richest businesswoman in town; Flora Shaw, a journalist who transformed the town's governance; Sam Steele, the officer who finally established order in the lawless town; and most famously Jack London, who left without gold, but with the stories that would make him a legend. (From Phyllis Bruce Books)

Read an excerpt | Author interviews

From the book

Gold bound Bill and Joe together. If their partnership was successful in striking gold, it would let them vault out of poverty, hunger, hopelessness and into a gleaming future. Joe clung to this vision with tight-lipped fury, refusing to speculate how he would use his wealth until he actually felt the heavy yellow dust trickle through his fingers. Easygoing Bill loved to fantasize how he would spend his precious nuggets - on a rich man's toys like one of the new horseless carriages, or on travel to distant cities like Paris that otherwise he could never hope to see. But how long would it take to find the stuff?

From Gold Diggers by Charlotte Gray ©2011. Published by Phyllis Bruce Books.

Author interviews

Featured VideoMichael interviews Charlotte Gray about her latest book "Gold Diggers" which chronicles the complicated and overlapping lives of six such obsessives: Bill Haskell, a gumboot miner; Father Judge, a Jesuit priest ; Belinda Mulrooney, a flinty 25-yr-old entrepreneur; Sam Steele, the heroic Mountie, Jack London, the writer, and Flora Shaw, a special correspondent for the "Times of London."