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Mollie Gortner — Claiming the High Ground for Women, Literally

My character of Daisy in A Lady in Defiance is based on a real person. Mollie Kathleen Gortner was the first woman to file a gold claim in the state of Colorado. As is so common, most of the facts around Mollie have morphed into legend, but I was intrigued when I read her story. She had grit, determination, and, arguably, the favor of God. Remember, there is no such thing as luck.

Mollie came to Cripple Creek, CO in 1891 to visit her son. Gold had just been discovered at the settlement and Perry Gortner had been dispatched to do some surveying. Mollie worried about her son living and working in a boom town and decided to visit. Rumors have always swirled that Mollie spent some time working as a prostitute. That might explain her fear for her son’s safety in a wild-and-wooly mining town. Either way, her visit was fortuitous, to say the least.

She and her son decided to see some sights. They rode into a canyon to have lunch and watch a herd of elk. Mollie dismounted from her horse and took a seat on a rock for a better view. She noticed an interesting rock formation next to her and broke off a piece. Sure enough, there was gold in them thar hills.

Mollie and her son went to file a claim but the clerk balked at handing the paperwork to a woman. Before either man could say another word, Mollie snatched up the forms and signed her name on the dotted line. Clearly, the clerk had a choice at that moment. He chose wisely.

The Mollie Kathleen mine is in operation to this day.

While I generally blog about women from the Revolutionary War, the fact is, they were merely the first wave of trail blazers. They established America and the ideals of liberty and freedom and self-determination. The women who followed not only held that ground but moved forward as well. I wonder if I do as much…

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