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Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Sign on the Dotted Line...And Become the First Woman to...
by Heather Blanton
My character of Daisy in A Lady in Defiance is based on a real person. Mollie Kathleen Gortner was the first woman to file a gold claim in the state of Colorado. As is so common, most of the facts around Mollie have morphed into legend, but I was intrigued when I read her story. She had grit, determination, and, arguably, the favor of God. Remember, there is no such thing as luck.
Mollie came to Cripple Creek, CO in 1891 to visit her son. Gold had just been discovered at the settlement and Perry Gortner had been dispatched to do some surveying. Mollie worried about her son living and working in a boom town and decided to visit. Rumors have always swirled that Mollie spent some time working as a prostitute. That might explain her fear for her son’s safety in a wild-and-wooly mining town. Either way, her visit was fortuitous, to say the least.
She and her son decided to see some sights. They rode into a canyon to have lunch and watch a herd of elk. Mollie dismounted from her horse and took a seat on a rock for a better view. She noticed an interesting rock formation next to her and broke off a piece. Sure enough, there was gold in them thar hills. Snap. Just like that, she was a mine owner...well, not exactly.
Mollie and her son went to file a claim but the clerk balked at handing the paperwork to a woman. Before either man could say another word, an indignant and furious Mollie snatched up the forms and signed her name on the dotted line. Clearly, the clerk had a choice at that moment. Just how much trouble did he want? I can only imagine the look in Mollie's eyes. The clerk didn't have to imagine it. He had the feisty hell cat right in front of him and her glare backed him down.
He pushed the paperwork through without another word. The Mollie Kathleen mine is in operation to this day.
It never ceases to amaze me what some of those hardy, 19th-century women accomplished. Simply by defying expectations, refusing to be a prisoner to their gender, pushing back when someone shoved, they left their mark on the Wild West. It's true what they say: well-behaved women rarely make history.