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Extra resources for Comstock women: the making of a mining community
The earliest period of the Comstock differs in one important way from that of the California Gold Rush. The latter featured a growing population scattered over a large territory with little infrastructure to support itself. Historian JoAnn Levy, for example, documents that women at the time frequently became successful entrepreneurs. They cooked, cleaned, and managed boardinghouses, often charging exorbitant rates in response to the scarcity of the commodities offered. 12 The Comstock, on the other hand, relied on a concentrated ore body, discouraging far-flung settlements.
2 Historians have frequently celebrated the technological and industrial aspects of the Comstock, paying less attention to the families that built the place into a community. Ironically, one of the most discussed episodes of Virginia City history affected everyone, women as well as men: on October 26, 1875, the core of Virginia City burned to the ground. This "Great Fire," as it is called, is a pivotal event in Comstock history, and yet of far more significance was the rebuilding. Within months the community rose from the ashes, a phoenix grander than before.
Grundy talks about it," suggests the anonymity emerging in large eastern urban centers more than the tight-knit social words of small, interior, agricultural western towns. 18 Those women who were followers of mining booms, like their male companions, lived lives of uncommon mobility. Attracted to Virginia City by the lure of its riches, they were perpetually vulnerable to rumors of bigger workings somewhere else. In each new community they encountered a suspension of traditional social circumstances and expectations that could be disquieting or exhilarating, depending on individual perspective.