Ask The Author a Question

“Care to sit a spell?” asks Sandra, inviting her unexpected guest to share her story…

You’re my guest here, in my virtual living room. That’s my cat, Katy, ready to share her favorite chair. Perhaps you, too, like Julia, have a story to share, or  a comment or question concerning The Sutter Creek Chronicles or my books on gold-rush women.  Sit a spell, and let’s talk.



22 responses

  1. I am part of a women’s book group in Stockton. We meet once a month on a Saturday morning at the County Law Library (where I work). It usually lasts an hour +. For February we have chosen your book Unsettling the West. I bought my copy several months ago and have loaned it out to 2 people already — they both loved it. I am starting the read this weekend.

    We are wondering whether we can schedule a Saturday morning when you can come to Stockton and talk to our group. It does not need to be in February. We have been meeting for a couple of years and have already had several authors or others speak to our group about the book we are then reading.

  2. I am the director of San Francisco City Guides and would love to have you share your knowledge of western women and their many accomplishments with my guides. City Guides provides free historical walking tours of San Francisco to over 35,000 people each year and I feel my volunteer guides greatly benefit from your expertise in this area of Old West history.

    Michael Cushing

    Executive Director
    City Guides
    San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA 94102

    (415) 557 – 4266

    Celebrating 34 years of sharing the history, legends and lore of San Francisco

  3. Hi Jo Ann,
    I’ve been enjoying your recollections of the lives of Charles and Belle Cora. I would appreciate any guidance toward the most promising sources.

    All the best,

    • Jon, they are a fascinating pair, aren’t they? The best source I found on them was newspaper reporter Pauline Jacobson’s CITY OF THE GOLDEN ‘FIFTIES, an excellent popular history of San Francisco’s early days, published by UCPress in 1941.

      And all the best to you,

  4. Dear JoAnn,
    I am an assistant professor at Aix-Marseille University (France), specialized in 19th- century American women’s history. I have been interested in Eliza Farnham’s exceptional destiny since 2009 and published several articles on her. I was thrilled with your book Unsettling the West and would very much like to talk with you as you are the only specialist of E. Farnham. I have a special project and would need your advice. I would be very grateful if we could communicate via email (claire or

    Thank you very much for your precious time.
    Best wishes,
    Cliare Sorin, PhD

    • Claire, as Dr. W. David Lewis wrote me many years ago, “any friend of Eliza’s is a friend of mine.” I am delighted to hear from you and will be most happy to assist in any way I possibly can.


      • Thank you very much indeed. I will get in touch with you as soon as my teaching duties allow me to focus on my reasearch project. I am currently asking for a leave and will get back to you.

        Thank you again for your wonderful reply,

  5. I’d like to get in touch with the cover designer James Wildman as I am a descendant on the McGee side and spent many days with my grandparents in the Wildman house at 9 Main St in Sutter Creek.

    Can you help me contact him?

    Nancy McGee Henson

    • Nancy, how remarkable! Take a look at the first paragraph on page 5… I am the one with the maiden name Wildman! The cover designer is my nephew. I have known that there was a connection with the McGees and that they had a house on Main Street, and several years ago I did establish a connection to the Sutter Creek Wildman via a Wildman I contacted through I think it was fairly distant, a third cousin to my grandfather or something like that. What I didn’t know was that the house on Main Street was originally a Wildman residence, rather than McGee. Wonderful to know…thank you!


  6. Dear Jo Ann,
    I wrote about two months ago concerning a book project I have. I just received your book on women during the Gold Rush (They saw the Elephant); I am sure that it will be precious for the writing of a paper on Eliza Farnham’s experience of migration (due next month at the EAAS conference in the Hague).
    I am currently planning a research stay in the US (for the book on Eliza I wish to write). I am trying to decide at this stage which places/libraries I should visit first, and which collections I should begin with. Your bibliography in Unsettling the West mentions eastern and western sites. It seems she did not leave many personal papers (I saw no diary for example). I would also like to read the transcripts of the conferences she gave but I doubt there are any.
    Thank you very much for your precious help. I would be delighted to meet you.
    Best wishes,
    Claire Sorin

  7. Dear Jo Ann:

    I am the youngest son of George Morgan (Dick) Mott III who you listed prominently in Coldwell Bankers history, “Behind the Western Skyline.” I knew, or at least met, many of the individuals in this story and your telling brought them and the surrounding circumstances to life.

    There, of course, is a long back story to my contacting you after so many years but briefly:

    1) Thank you – great job not just in scope and detail but also in your covering the subtext of simmering personalities and circumstances. Extremely well handled.

    2) I’d be interested in knowing more of this untold story for my personal use only. With each rereading, this story’s depth of meaning grows. My dad was hard charging, unbending and determined. He was not universally appreciated or even liked by some partners, especially in the north, and there were factions, even in the south. As my understanding grows, it is ever more clear that many of my dad’s proteges had a large hand in molding this story, which as you say in the preface is only one version.

    3) My family’s California history goes back five generations starting in Nevada City, Grass Valley, and Sacramento, then on to Berkeley and throughout the state. We
    hope to have a family reunion (the first in nearly 40 years) and I wonder about your speaking fee and terms.

    Please accept my very late thanks, appreciation and congratulations on your presentation of CBC’s history. This book is extremely well written, fascinating, and filled with intrigue (at least from my perspective). Our family received one copy of this book in 1981. In recent years I have purchased over a dozen copies given as gifts to my siblings and other family members.

    I hope to read your other books about early California.

    Thank you and best regards,

    Peter George Mott

  8. Dear JoAnn,

    After I read Daughter of Joy, I was inspired to write a historical account of Ah Toy and her many adventures (legal, cultural, occupational, etc.) in San Francisco. I’d love to talk with you about this remarkable woman and hear more of your insights into her background and the period. Are you available to have a conversation at your convenience?

    Thank you for your time and consideration,

    Noel Cilker

    • Noel, this exceptional woman deserves all the attention she can get. I’m thrilled to have inspired your interest in her. Alas, all my research on her is with my papers at the California State Library. And it has been nearly 30 years since she consumed my attention. I’m afraid I long ago deleted from memory everything concerning her after moving on to other projects. If you have specific questions you think I might answer, I’d be glad to read them but I warn you I’m likely not to be of any help at all.

      • Hi JoAnn,

        Thank you for your response. I completely understand what you say about memory … I wrote my masters thesis in 2012 and now can’t remember much about it at all!

        Are your papers available to peruse at the California State Library? I imagine I’m already using a lot of the same sources you did, but I’d like to check to make sure I didn’t miss something crucial.

        Thanks again, and I’ll drop you a line if any questions come up about Ah Toy.


  9. Jo Ann,
    Reading your books has been such an inspiration! I am a fourth grade teacher, and the highlight of my year is when I teach our Gold Rush unit. I work at a Project Based Learning school, and so I have the opportunity to develop creative lessons for my students. In the past couple of years, my students have create iMovies about the Gold Rush, and also hosted a Live History Museum. I love to teach history through storytelling – it’s a wonderful way to capture my students’ attention, and draw them in! Your books have helped me with resources, especially for telling the stories of brave, independent women who chose to pursue their dream. What an important message to teach! Thank you for your wonderful storytelling. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for continuing my research, in the efforts to bring California history to life for my students. Also, do you participate in speaking engagements? I would love to attend if available.

  10. I have a story to share with you. I lived in the Twain Harte area in from 1947 to 1950. Then we lived a short time in Martell in the old white hotel. Went to school in Jackson. Moved to Sacramento in 1951. In Twain Harte I lived on the property of the Geraldine mine. I knew Gerry. No relative, but she was like a grandmother. Her life story should be written. Her father owned a dry good store in Chico, she went to Mills College, became a nurse and nursed people in a park in San Francisco after the quake. She taught me the love of books, took me to the Sonora library, taught me to embroider, I use to stay in the old miners cabin with her. I never saw the beautiful home in the meadow that her mother burnt down by tossing a wooden match away that she thought was out. All I saw was the two beautiful lilac bushes that remained and the open mine shaft that we were not allowed to play near. If we fell in that would have been the end of us. This story needs to be told and it’s not fiction. I have much more information.

    • Suzy, what a wonderful memory…I encourage you to write it; even a brief profile would be welcomed by the county historical society. My own work is now focused on another under-represented segment of California’s history, the native people whose culture was destroyed by white incursion. Stories from the past enrich our heritage, even the tragic ones.

  11. Dear JoAnn,

    Inspired by your book, They Saw the Elephant, I am writing about housekeeping in 19th century California. I want to use 2 photos that you included:

    page 102, Nevada City 1851; and page 175, “Needs No Comment.”

    They are both from the Eleanor McClatchy Collection, City of Sacramento Museum and History Division.

    I contacted the Sacramento Museum and History Division for permission and high resolution copies and was told that I need catalogue numbers or a more thorough citation.

    Might you have this in your files?

    Your book fills a very large gap in what we know about living a life on the pacific frontier.

    Thank you.

    Linda Day

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