Staking Her Claim: The Life of Belinda Mulrooney, Klondike and Alaska Entrepreneur by Melanie J. Mayer and Robert N. DeArmand (review)
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MelanieJ. Mayer and Robert N. DeArmand. StakingHer Chim: The Life ofBelinda Mulrooney, Klondike andAlaska Entrepreneur. Athens: Swallow Press / Ohio University Press, 2000. 415p. Allen e M. Parker Embry-Rjddle Aeronautical University Mayer and DeArmand's Staking Her CUim: The Life ofBelinda Mulrooney, KlondikeandAlaskaEntrepreneur meticulouslyand sympathetically documents die remarkable life ofBelinda Mulrooney (1872-1967), frontierswoman and pioneer in the Klondike and Alaska. Rather than a theoretical study, this is a biography of a unique personality ofwhom most readers will never have heard. Mayer and DeArmand's biography details the many significant accomplishments ofawoman whose entrepreneurial spiritplaced herout ofsyncwith mainstream late 19th- and early 20ch-century views ofa woman's place in society, but was a perfect match for the ambitious, adventurous spirit of the Yukon goldfields and beyond. While Mulrooney experienced failure as well as success, and not all her actions and business dealings were admirable, she thrived on physical and economic challenges that left many of her contemporaries devastated, and weathered the loss of two fortunes with pluck and dignify. Belinda Agnes Mulrooney left Ireland as a young girl when her parents sent her to live with relatives in Pennsylvania. After a limited education, Mulrooney moved to Philadelphia at age 17, where she worked for two years; the money she earned launched her life as an independent businesswoman when she moved ro Chicago in 1893 and became actively involved in the real estate boom accompanying theWorld's Fair. Mayer and DeArmand suggest that the significant involvement ofwomen activists in the development oftheWorld's Fair perhaps reinforced Mulrooney's determination to succeed in life on her own terms. Her success in Chicago led her to consider new opportunities further west; in 1894, she moved to San Francisco, where, at age 22, she had already achieved more than many of her contemporaries. After fire destroyed Mulrooney's investment property in San Francisco, she talked herself into a job as the first stewardess working on a ship running from San Francisco to Juneau, Alaska; in this job, she quickly branched out into retail sales, providing bodi necessity and luxury items to passengers travelling on the ship. Her travel and merchant experience at this time (1895-96) established valuable personal and professional contacts for her future. Restless by nature, Mulrooney joined the gold rush into the Klondike, trekking over the Chilkoot pass and travelling the Yukon River to Dawson, arriving in June 1897. Mulrooney was soon in business in Dawson, selling dry goods, building cabins, and running 118 * ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + SPRING 2001 a restaurant. Later, Mulrooney helped establish a new town, Grand Forks, where the hotel and bar she built became the center of community life; here, she also acquired and worked on mining claims as well. As unusual as her business activities were for a single woman ofthis era, she was widely admired and respected as a prominent citizen in the Yukon. And, while Mulrooneywas quite accomplished in delegating her business activities to others and engaging in complicated partnerships , she also spent much of her time involved in the hands-on activities of running her hotels and restaurants, and the physically demanding labor of gold mining on her claims. In October 1 900, Belinda Mulrooney married a self-proclaimed French Count, Charles Carbonneau. Although the Carbonneaus lived in high style in both the Yukon and Europe over the next few years, the couple separated in 1904. Unfortunately , Charles Carbonneau turned out to be a sophisticated con artist; the marriage cost Mulrooney her first fortune, and left her with legal tangles regarding her Klondike business dealings that took years to settle. Mayerand DeArmand examine these legal challenges in depth, providing many insights into the complexities facing women at this time, particularly the legal ambiguities about the rights ofboth married and unmarried women in Canada and the United States. Mulrooney started over again in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1905, where she established a bank with a younger sister, Margaret, and began building her second fortune . In December of1906, she was granted a divorce from Charles Carbonneau. Mulrooney never remarried; she supported her parents and helped educate younger siblings and their families throughout the remainder ofher life, through times offinancial stability as well as loss. Most...


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