Can you imagine what it was like for women in the west of the 19th century?
“A lot of women lived there lives as men in those days. You had three choices – wife/mommy, prostitute and if you had a little brains, you could teach,” says actress and author Karen Kondazian. She adds, “If you were really ugly, you could go out into the fields of the Civil War and be a nurse. That was it.”
Kondazian wrote a book about one of those women. It’s a true story about a woman Charley Parkhurst who lived as a man for 30 years in Northern California.
“It’s based on a true story of a woman who lived her life as a man in the old west. She was a famous stagecoach driver for Wells-Fargo. She was the first women to vote in America as a man, for General Grant.”
The Book is called The Whip because that’s what stagecoach drivers were called. KonDazian says Parkhurst was originally from Boston and was forced to leave.
“She fell in love with a black man pre-Civil War and there were some real problems. So she put on some men’s clothes and went out west from Boston to Califonia during the Gold Rush.”
Kondazian, who researched this book for about 6 years and says Parkhurst was considered one of the best Whips, or stagecoach drivers, in part because she was able to fend off robbers on the road.
Parkhurst was 67 years old when she died in 1879.