What comes to your mind when you think about California's Gold Rush? But not until recently did I come across evidence in the Museum's archives that they practiced their trade in San Joaquin County. Knowledge about the presence of prostitutes in the gold fields is nothing new.One of the more prominent members was William Reed Kerr (18131861), a physician.Kerr studied medicine at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, got a license to practice in 1843, married, and moved to Ohio, where he and his family of four lived half a decade before heading to California's Gold Rush.
Some of the first people in the mining fields were wives and families who were already in California.A few settler women and kids and the few men who didn't leave their family worked right alongside the men but most men who arrived left their wives and families home.The number of women in California changed very quickly as the rich gold strikes and lack of women created strong pressures in the new Gold Rush communities to restore sex balance.The suggestion conjures images of lavishly dressed women draping the arms of tough looking gamblers drinking whiskey and throwing bags of gold dust on the card table. Prostitutes occupied a privileged place in gold-rush society, with economic opportunity beyond that of any other working American females.And they certainly belonged to the pioneer, gold-miner elite, involved in legendary bar-fights and shoot-outs in the honor of their slighted lover.