Valley of Gold (and also Death Valley)

During the gold rush, the world of dating was very different from today. For one, it didn’t really exist, since people got married much quicker and much earlier than they do today. As a result, this post is focused more on interactions between the genders in a romantic context rather than the dating featured in my Silicon Valley post. Also, to explore beyond the content of this post, “They saw the Elephant” is an excellent chronicle of women in the California gold rush and is an excellent resource to learn more about this subject.

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Despite the time dividing them from women today, women in the California gold rush of the mid-1800’s shared some roles and characteristics with their modern counterparts in Silicon Valley. For one, the potential to strike it rich and make obscene amounts of money is something the gold rush and the tech era share, and women have and are taking part in the hunt for more money.

But that doesn’t really have much to do with women themselves. The real parallel between the two groups of past and present comes from the fact that both the gold rush and the tech industry were and have been male-dominated, respectively. However, the rapidly expanding and profitable industries have in both cases resulted in women taking on more roles. This article details some of the careers women succeeded in during the gold rush.

My article on the Silicon Valley dating scene focused mainly on the difficulty many men in the tech industry have with dating, and how this makes the scene very problematic for both genders. That article contained yelp reviews of dates and showed that what women were looking for was not necessarily what they found in partners. This ad from “They Saw the Elephant” is a great example of a woman looking for a partner with standards that are reminiscent of Victoria’s dating profile in “Virtual Love“, where it is remarked that she comes across as “I haven’t met you, but I already hate you.”

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While this advert focuses more on positive aspects of the woman posting it, there is a considerable amount that goes on about the sort of man who need not apply. In both eras, women were/are the minority (although this was a bit more exaggerated during the gold rush). It would appear that in both eras, the undesirable has been a problem for women looking for partners.

Since the gold rush was such a different environment from the tech industry when it comes to the actual work that was being done, we can assume that the problems that arise from men staring at a computer screen for too many hours without real human interaction were not really an issue during the gold rush. However, we can draw parallels between a small population of women choosing partners from a significantly larger population of men, and if the advert above gives any indication, most of their choices were not ideal.

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Life was much harder during the gold rush era. People’s lives involved a great deal of physical, manual labor, and they got married much sooner. Women didn’t put their love lives on hold in favor of work and a career the way they can today. Silicon valley may have it’s parallels to the gold rush, but the world we live in today is very different. Women are finding more and more roles in a male dominated field, but today women are actually more likely to be hired for jobs in tech. Still, the stats on the number of women working in tech-related fields continues to show that they are underrepresented in the field, and women are scarcer in executive and management positions, indicating that they are less likely to be promoted higher up in companies.

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The current state of women in the tech industry is a complicated issue, and not really the focus of this blog post. However, there is still plenty of room to advance female roles in a field that is mostly male and full of the potential to strike it rich, and the gold rush allowed for the same paradigm.

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