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Kathleen Morris
Nellie Cashman was a woman ahead of her time – independent, resourceful and adventurous, flinging away the restricting conventions of her day. Still, all who met her became intrigued by this determined petite Irishwoman who became known as the Angel of the Cassiar, the Miner’s Angel, the Saint of the Klondike, and few ever forgot their encounters with her. Fueled by gold fever, she traveled the West, and her reputation grew with every restaurant, boardinghouse and store she established to support herself while she hunted the elusive yellow mineral, all while raising her beloved sister’s five children. From San Francisco to Tombstone, Mexico and British Columbia, her notoriety grew, finally taking her to the place she loved best – the farthest reaches of Alaska Territory. She never grew rich from her endeavors, because she gave most of her money away to build hospitals, schools and churches everywhere she went, always taking care of anyone who needed a helping hand. “Golddigger” is a testament to Nellie – bringing to life this woman who gave life and hope to so many others. Including never before seen photographs and documents from Nellie’s family, Kathleen Morris paints a definitive and honest portrait of Nellie Cashman – philanthropist, adventurer, and a woman of substance like no other.
Morris’s fictionalized autobiography of an intrepid historical figure will prove resonant to contemporary readers who relish celebrations of resilient women. In 1868, plucky young Irish woman Nellie Cashman boards a train from San Francisco to Reno in pursuit of adventure. “I had a bad case of gold fever,” she admits, and, like many a daring pioneer, Nellie can’t settle in one place for long. When her beloved sister dies, Nellie adopts her children and must learn to balance their needs with her own compulsion to discover new sights. Known as “The Angel of the Cassiar” after achieving fame for saving miners stranded in frigid conditions, this Nellie catalogs her travels between her family and ungovernable, often nearly inaccessible regions like the Southwest and the Klondike as she mines for gold or silver and operates prosperous businesses.

Morris (The Transformation of Chastity James) often pens tales of women facing challenges in the Wild West. Nellie’s first-person narration gives readers a convincing, up-close view from an independent woman’s perspective as Nellie faces the strict societal rules of an era that seldom permitted unmarried ladies financial power. The frontier, by contrast, offered Nellie remarkable freedom. Over five decades, she runs boarding houses and miners’ supply stores, raises funds for hospitals and churches, encounters notorious figures such as the Earp brothers and Butch Cassidy, and endures life-threatening climates. Her Catholicism is prominent though there’s no proselytizing, and highwaymen and a foray into romance add a dash of spice.

“I always yearn for those places yet to be explored…white untouched snow and mountains no one’s ever seen,” she explains, in Morris’s lyric, engaging prose. With phenomenal detail, a bygone way of life becomes vivid. Morris rounds out the story with photographs of characters, their locales, and a sampling of Nellie’s letters. Nellie’s indomitable spirit and kindness truly deserve legend status, making this an inspiration for the adventurer in all of us.

Takeaway: Wild West readers and lovers of tales of pioneering women will relish the life of Nellie Cashman.

Great for fans of: Cynthia Hickey’s They Call Her Mrs. Sheriff, A.T. Butler’s Westward Courage

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A