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Dame Shirley and the Gold Rush
Dame Shirley and the Gold Rush
(James J. Rawls, Alex Haley, John Holder)

Dame Shirley and the Gold RushDame Shirley and the Gold Rush (1992)
Dame Shirley and the Gold Rush relates how a series of letters, written by a woman known as Dame Shirley and published in a San Francisco magazine in 1854 and 1855, were instrumental in inciting the California gold rush.
Dame Shirley was the pen name Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe used to write about her experiences during the Gold Rush. She and her husband traveled out to California seeking the adventure and prosperity that the rugged country "with gold laying all about" had to offer.
After the difficult journey there, she saw that life in a mining camp was often dangerous and disappointing. She wrote about her experiences in letters to her sister, now known as the Gold Rush letters. When printed, her letters brought readers the truth about life in a mining camp, and they were widely circulated, and she became something of a celebrity! Written for young readers, this biographical story of Dame Shirley's experiences is based on her letters, giving readers a firsthand account.
James J. Rawls is a published author of several children's books. Some of his published credits include Dame Shirley and the Gold Rush (Stories of America), Land of Liberty: A United States History and Never Turn Back: Father Serra's Mission (Stories of America).
John Holder is a published author and an illustrator of several children's books. Some of his published credits include Dame Shirley and the Gold Rush (Stories of America), Funny Bones and Other Body Parts: How It Works (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) and A Christmas Carol (Ladybird Classics).
Alex Haley, as General Editor, wrote the following introduction:
Introduction By Alex Haley, General Editor
Writers are witnesses. They tell you what they have seen in their lives and in the world around them. The best writers surprise us with the truths they present. Dame Shirley and the Gold Rush is about the writer who first brought the truth about the California Gold Rush to a large audience.
It was a truth that surprised many people in the 1850s. According to the rumors of the day, gold lay thick in the riverbeds and hillsides of California's mountains. They said anyone could get rich just by heading west and picking up the gold that lay all around. Thousands chased after the rumors, The truth of what they found and what happened to them became Dame Shirley's story. It is a story of a writer bearing witness to her times. ~ Alex Haley.
(The above Foreword by Alex Haley is presented under the Creative Commons License. © 1993 Dialogue Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
Dame Shirley and the Gold Rush • Reviews
"The Shirley Letters have received the highest possible praise by virtually every historian of the Gold Rush. - Open Letters Review.
"Jim Rawls's book is a wonderful resource for children to study the reality of the typical mining town from heyday to ghost town. It includes a general description of the hardships endured by the miners as well as several examples of the effects of prejudice (and too much whiskey!) on the many 'foreign' miners. I would have liked to see a few more direct quotes from the Dame Shirley letters, but the information is given using age-appropriate language and length. Definitely worth the time to read." - San Diego, California.
"An interesting look at the California gold rush of the 1850s tells the story of Dame Shirley, who traveled there with her doctor husband. Her letters to her sister describing the rough life, racial tensions between Hispanic and white residents, and the fact that few became rich from mining were later published in a San Francisco magazine." - Yuba City, California.
"In the 1850s, thousands of gold-seekers journey to California to strike it rich. Among them is a young woman whose restless spirit thrives in the exciting and dangerous time of the California Gold Rush." - Cambium Learning.
"This book relates the story of Louise Clappe who wrote a series of letters published in a San Francisco magazine during 1854-55 that was instrumental in relating the true story of the California Gold Rush." - California Online Resources For Education.
"Dame Shirley, writing from the California gold fields to her sister back east, noted that, 'You will hear in the same day the soft melody of the Spanish language, the piquant polish of the French...the silver, changing clearness of the Italian, the harsh gargle of the German, the hissing precision of the English, [and] the liquid sweetness of the Kanaka.' " - The La Grange Mine.

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