Carson Valley author finds parallels between Alaska and Nevada pioneer women

Carson Valley resident Cherry Jones will appear at the Mark Twain Bookstore in Virginia City today in support of her book "More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Alaska Women."

The "More Than Petticoats" series is produced by Globe Pequot Press for each state in the union.

The author of Nevada's book, Arizona resident Jan Cleere was in Virginia City on Tuesday to promote "More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Nevada Women"

While Jones had a copy of the series entry from Texas, she was unaware it was a series until she was contacted by Cleere, who was working on the Nevada book.

"I portray Dr. Eliza Cook, and Jan contacted me for information about her," Jones said. "She and I became friends."

The 68-year-old author spends her summers in Alaska, where her daughter and grandchild live, so she contacted the publisher to find out if anyone had done Alaska yet.

The challenge to writing the book was that all the women had to be born in the 19th century.

"In Alaska, everything is so new," she said. "They consider pioneers to be people who arrived in the 1940s. Our house is in Homer, and all the women were born after 1900. Homer didn't even have a road until after the turn of the century. You had to get there by boat."

Jones' book runs 134 pages and contains biographies of a dozen Alaskan women.

She spent a year-and-a-half researching the book, using sources from the state archives, libraries of the universities in Fairbanks and Anchorage and information from several small museums in the state.

"I obviously couldn't drive all over Alaska," she said. "While here last winter, I got a lot of information, thanks to interlibrary loans. Mona Reno at the State Library and Archives was very persistent in tracking things down. Interlibrary loans are a wonderful invention."

Jones said she found a huge connection between Nevada and Alaska.

"Nellie Cashman was an independent woman in both Nevada and Alaska," Jones said.

"She was a miner in her own right and gave a lot of money to charity. There were a lot of stories about her."

Jones tells the tale of an Alaska woman who, when the mail was late, took her dogsled out and rescued the postman.

The pioneer then went back out into the cold to retrieve the mail and made sure it was delivered.

"Some of these stories have me feeling a little wimpish," she said. "I remember reading it and thinking, 'It's a little cool in here, think I'll turn up the heater.'"

She found the connection interesting.

"You used to know everybody in Nevada, same as in Alaska," she said. "Everybody who went up there was doing the same thing, and they had to travel immense distances to get anywhere."

Jones has lived in Carson Valley for more than nine years.

A Texan who spent most of her life in California, she was a parent-education preschool teacher and children's book tore owner in Palo Alto, Calif., for many years.

She and her husband, Fred, have been married 10 years.

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