The Sunday Oregonian
Books Section
September 27, 1998
Jeff Baker

Women of the Gold Rush
Frances Fuller Victor
Heyday Books, $12.95 paperback

Frances Fuller Victor is one of Oregon's greatest writers and historians, and the fact that her most popular book, originally published in 1877 as The New Penelope and Other Stories has just been reissued in paperback is a cause for celebration. The new volume is edited by Ida Rae Egli, who also contributes a lengthy introduction that ably outlines Victor's amazing life. To cut that life down to the barest facts: Victor was born in 1826, wrote her first novel by 22, married in 1853 and homesteaded in Nebraska, moved back to New York when that marriage failed, married again in 1863 and sailed for San Francisco, lived there for a year and became a leading journalist, reluctantly moved with her husband to Portland in 1864, became the state's leading early historian and friend to many prominent pioneers, eventually wrote 11 books of poetry, history and fiction. "The New Penelope" is a great novella that holds up after more than 120 years and is particularly noteworthy for Victor's accurate, ahead-of-her-time depiction of strong, independent women. The other stories are equally fine.