Heritage: Newsletter for the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission
Summer 1998
Woman's Worth: a review
By Walter Curtis

Frances Fuller Victor's fiction is back in print, titled Women of the Gold Rush. From Heydey Books of Berkley. I highly recommend it!

Oregon's greatest 19th century historian started her writing career in San Francisco. During the Gold Rush-fueled renaissance. She vied intellectually with the male journalists, using satire, wit, and classical allusions. So much so that, just before her husband spirited her away to grim, soggy, Portland, in 1864, Mrs. Victor was made editor of the New Era magazine.

Anna Greyfield - heroine of the lead novella "The New Penelope" - confides marital horror stories and vows never again to be loyal and stupid Penelope, while Ulysses roams the world.

Anna tells the narrator (Frances): "Women have a certain value among men when they can be useful to them." She rants on, describing the idea mate for the nomadic Western man: "Strong and course women who could wash shirts in any kind of tub out-of-doors under a tree, kneeling on the ground, to support themselves and a half dozen little hungry, young ones."

I can't go on! Mrs. Victor had plenty to complain about in her perilous and productive life. "The Mother of Oregon History" would write eleven books between 1870 and 1900. The River of the West and Bancroft's histories of Oregon and other states. Given only a clerk's credit and small pay.

(Jim Martin of Salem inspired the reprint biography of her, A Bit of a Blue. Editor Ida Rae Egli praises Martin for 15 years of research and the rediscovery of a major West Coast Suffragist.)

It's a happy event to have, in new dress, these graceful and surprising tales of frontier women [and] new life.

As my Jack Mormon father used to quip, "Next time around maybe the men'll have the babies!" Mrs. Victor put it differently: "Mind is the same, whether it resides in a man's form or a woman's."