Mama Minnie Field


Minnie Field was born on this day, June 1, 1892 in Belfast Ireland. In 1909 at the age of 17 she emigrated to Canada and by 1919 found herself working as a cook in the Golden North Hotel in Skagway. She also worked in Atlin and later in Juneau.
In Juneau Minnie became known as one of the best cooks in town, and baked a cake for President Harding when he passed through in 1923. After she had worked at the Juneau jail for about seven years, her duties were increased to include caring for prisoners’ children. At the time, Juneau had no orphanage, designated child care system or foster home program. Minnie began caring for several tots; she laid them side-by-side, crosswise in her bed, and slept on the floor. She worked tirelessly to house and feed the city’s children through her own and later government help.
She is a largely overlooked heroine – not a politician or an activist, not a teacher or a missionary – but a woman who contributed a great deal to the “least of them,” Alaska’s needy children, many racially mixed.

from a Juneau Empire Story by Ann Chandonnet about a biography written of “Mama Minnie Field by Dr. Walter Soboleff.

Martha Louise Munger Purdy Black


Martha Black is well known in the Yukon. Although she was reported to be the first woman to cross the Chilkoot Trail, she was actually the 5th (first was “Dutch Kate” Wilson in 1887, 2nd was Bell Healey in 1888, 3rd was Emilie Tremblay in 1894 and 4th was Jesse McDougall in 1895).
Martha Munger was born on this day, February 24, 1866 in Chicago.

When news of the Klondike gold discoveries reached the Outside, Martha and her husband Will Purdy made plans to head North. At the last minute, however, Will Purdy got a better offer to go to Hawaii. Martha was determined to break away from the straight-laced life she had led, and continued on without him – she was never to see her husband again.

Martha left Dawson for a year, but returned in 1900, when she joined a mining syndicate. The following year, her father arrived with the machinery to set up a sawmill, and a stamp mill for assaying the ore from quartz mines which were being developed. Martha was put in charge of the mills, and when she needed a lawyer, George Black came highly recommended. Within 2 weeks George had proposed marriage, but Martha held off for over 2 years. They were finally married in Martha’s large home at the sawmill on August 1, 1904. George was elected to Parliament in 1921 and served until 1935, when he was forced to resign due to ill health. Martha then ran in his place, and at the age of 69, she became only the second woman ever to be elected to Canada’s Parliament.

If you go to Whitehorse there is a beautiful “May Day” tree just off of 2nd by the city office building. The placque there says that it was Martha Black’s tree. In the spring when it blooms with hundreds of fragrant white blossoms, it is a beautiful reminder of a great lady. Martha died in 1957 in Whitehorse.

From numerous sources.

Nellie Cashman


Nellie Cashman came to the Klondike about 1898. She was a native of County Cork, Ireland and had worked as both a nurse and a grocer. She was known as the “Angel of the Cassiar” because of her tireless work with the sick men. She was also known as the Frontier Angel, Saint of the Sourdoughs, Miner’s Angel, and The Angel of Tombstone.

Her energy and selfless work is an inspiration. She died in Victoria on this day, January 4, 1925 at the age of 80 in the hospital there that she helped to build. She is buried in the Ross Bay Cemetery near all the Religious nuns and priests. I visited her grave in November. The cemetery is beautiful with a view of Ross Bay, a short walk from downtown through some very pretty neighborhoods.

Mollie Walsh


Probably one of the most famous women of Skagway, red-haired Irish descent Mollie was a waitress and church helper, coming here with Rev. Dickey in the goldrush. She was a kind person and everyone loved her, so why did her husband murder her on October 28, 1902 on a street in Seattle? Mike Bartlett claimed it was a “crime of passion” but later committed suicide leaving their son Leo an orphan.

Packer Jack Newman, long an admirer of Mollie, had a statue made of her in 1930 and sent it to Skagway where it sits today on 6th Street in front of a children’s park. An inscription written by Packer Jack goes: “…Her spirit fingers still reach across the years and play on the slackened strings of my old heart, and my heart still sings,—MOLLIE!—my heart still sings but in such sad undertone that none but God and I can hear.”

Lois Hudson Allen


Happy Birthday to Lois Hudson Allen born September 28, 1878 in Fredonia Kansas and came to Alaska in 1922 (the picture above is the women’s curling club in 1922 in Skagway).
In Colorado she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and to not be a burden on her sons she moved to Alaska. She was an editor in Colorado and so when she moved to Skagway published a newspaper here in 1936-38 called the Skagway Cheechako. She later moved on to Moose Pass Alaska where she died in 1948.

for more on her read: More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Alaska Women
By Cherry Lyon Jones