Whore With a Heart of Gold

“A superficial look at women in the West did not reveal very much: the “whore with the heart of gold” (Julia Bulette in Virginia City, “Silverheels” in Montana, Mattie Silks in Colorado, Martha Camp in Panamint, etc.) and those women who attained their immortality because they could do masculine things and do them better than most men could: Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Belle Starr. But just beneath this surface are the stories and legends of a great many women-the martyred Narcissa Whitman, the sentimentalized “Baby Doe” Tabor, even Willa Cather, or the thousands of women whose names are not known to us but who commanded the “deference universally paid” them – and the roles women played in the history of the West were so varied and so full that it would be unfair to try and discuss them in a single chapter. The method of this book has been to construct composite narratives or to search for representative stories; either method would do a great injustice to women, especially if they were to be discussed only in a chapter on, say, “The Whore With The Heart of Gold.”