________________ CM . . . . Volume III Number 5 . . . . November 1, 1996

cover Martha Black: Gold Rush Pioneer.

Carol Martin.
Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1996. 96 pp., softcover, $8.95.
ISBN 1-55054-245-1.

Subject Headings:
Black, Martha Louise, 1866-1957.
Klondike River Valley (Yukon)-Gold discoveries.
Women pioneers-Yukon Territory-Biography.

Grades 2 - 8 / Ages 7 - 13.
Review by Marsha Kaiserman.

**1/2 /4

It seems strange that a society woman like Martha would make plans to head for the remote and wild Yukon. But a kind of madness had seized the world, especially the United States, when the gold was discovered. The most unlikely people, knowing little about the country they were heading for or the problems they would encounter along the way, made plans to join the stampede.
Martha Munger Black is another Canadian heroine who few people know about. She was born into a well-off Chicago family, married Will Purdy, who had a good future, and was the darling of Chicago high society. Why would she give it up for the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896?

space Carol Martin doesn't answer that question, but what she does do is tell an exciting story about Martha's trip to the Klondike. Through a combination of pictures, sidebars and text, we travel with Martha from Chicago to Seattle, where we board a steamer to Skagway, Alaska. From Skagway, we travel over the Chilkoot Pass on foot and on to Dawson. We find out that Martha made this trip while pregnant and we rejoice in the chivalry of the men of the camps.

space After this trip, Martha went home but quickly returned and, in 1901, Martha moved back permanently. Later, she met and married George Black, who became Commissioner of the Territory and Member of Parliament for the Yukon and Speaker of the House. Martha, too, had a successful life. She became a noted collector of Yukon and British Columbia wildflowers. In 1935, she became a Member of Parliament for the Yukon, occupying her husband's seat after he suffered a nervous breakdown. She was a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and, in 1949, received the Order of the British Empire. Martha Munger Black died in 1957.

space In Martha Munger Black, Carol Martin has the perfect subject to inspire young women. Unfortunately, she doesn't do it. Writing in the now all too common "Sesame Street Style" - derived from the television show where interest is rarely sustained longer than a few minutes, and continuity is non-existent - Martin cannot maintain any continuity in the story line.

space I would recommend Martha Black's autobiography instead of this biography. If you want a reason to read it, however, the photographs by E.A. Hegg, especially of the Chilkoot Pass and the trail of people climbing to the summit, are worthwhile. Then again, you might want to visit the National Archives and see these pictures there.

space This book is recommended for those people, including children, interested in learning more about their history and, especially, about a woman's perspective on the Yukon.

Recommended with reservations.

Marsha Kaiserman is Head of Conferences Cataloguing at Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) in Ottawa.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364