BLOGWORD – 16 January 2017 – NEW WEEK NEW FACE – HEATHER BLANTON
NEW WEEK NEW FACE – HEATHER BLANTON
Freedom. A true lady in Defiance cries out for it. Refuses to live without it. Pursues it at any cost. Society, propriety—even commonsense won’t stop her from wrapping her slender fingers around it. In the end, she may only have her memories of it, but at least she tasted it. For a time, she lived free.
And it is that refusal to live without living that draws me to writing strong female leads in my books. Now, I write Christian fiction, but I study history with passion and have stumbled upon some fearless women. Though I have pity that they did not in most cases know the Lord, I have to admit to a scandalous admiration for their lust for life.
One of my favorite ladies was one they called Queen of the Klondike.
Kathleen Eloise Rockwell (1873, give or take, to1957) came from an unstable home, growing up in at least four different states. Perhaps the shifting sand beneath her feet contributed to her headstrong ways and desire for adventure. Dubbed a tomboy by the neighborhood kids, Katie played better with the boys than with the frilly little girls. She was a bit sassy and, arguably, incorrigible—at least according to the boarding school that kicked her out.
In the early1890’s, Kate’s mother divorced her father and the two girls wound up in New York City. The young girl got involved with the theater scene and learned to sing and dance, but eventually even the Big Apple wasn’t big enough for the free spirit. The siren call of the Alaska Gold Rush reached her ears and Kate headed off for Alaska.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, however, denied her entry. Because she was a woman. Alone. On the frontier. Think, McFly. Think.
Can’t you hear the wheels turning in her head? Kate lived to circumvent rules and create her life on her terms.
So she dressed up like a boy and waltzed right into the Klondike. (Well, actually she took a boat.) I can see her waving at the RCMP as she sailed by.
Now, it’s one thing to try to make it on the Great White Way. Lots of competition and all that. Kate had a suspicion that in Alaska she could be a big fish in a little pond. I mean, really, how many pretty girls could there be willing to face the wild frontier? Sub-zero temperatures, knee-deep spring mud, lawless towns. Sounded like her kind of party. Kate just wanted to sing and dance. It didn’t matter if the audience was comprised of desperately hungry, cold, mud-encrusted miners who hadn’t seen a woman, much less a pretty one, in months.
She intended to mesmerize them and had a grand plan. For her “Flame Dance” she came on stage wearing an elaborate gown covered in red sequins and trailing an enormous cape. She took off the cape to reveal a cane that was attached to more than 200 yards of red chiffon. Kate leaped and twirled with the shimmering, floating fabric, spellbinding the hapless men. At the end she would dramatically drop to the floor, as did the men’s jaws.
Yeah. She was a big hit. For three years, she was the belle of the ball. Parisian gowns, gold jewelry, men falling at her feet. They called her Klondike Kate and Queen of the Yukon.
But the gold eventually petered out and Kate drifted around, with a few different husbands. She owned some theaters in the Pacific Northwest, swindled some miners, got swindled by a husband. She made some special appearances in the 1930’s, and even coached starlets in the 40’s. She homesteaded in Oregon and kept the place till her death. Early on, she was often spotted working the place in her sparkling evening gowns. I suspect that was because she didn’t own any work clothes, not because she was showy. She was also recovering from a broken relationship so maybe the glitz and glam had worn off and she didn’t give a fig about her designer-dresses-straight from-Paris.
Either way, in the little town of Bend, Oregon Kate became a valued, appreciated member of the community due to her generous, civic-minded heart and undying audacious spirit. In her later years, she earned the nickname Aunt Kate. Doesn’t quite have the ring of Klondike Kate, but I don’t think she minded.
Time and age catch us all, though. Kate slowed down then finally finished the ride in Oregon in 1957.
By no means an angel, Kate was a woman who defied conventionality, shook her fist at the lack of social mobility for women, and cut her own path through life. You have to kind of admire that. She didn’t let life happen to her. She happened to it! With a vengeance.
While she was a tad over the top, I appreciate her character arc. She went from young and hungry for success at any cost to redefining her idea of success. I know it reads like a sweet romance, but she found happiness in a small town. Even better, she married a miner who had fallen in love with her back when she was still Klondike Kate. It took her a long time to come round to him. But better late than never.
A former journalist, Heather is an avid researcher and skillfully weaves truth in among fictional story lines. She loves exploring the American West, especially ghost towns and museums. She has walked parts of the Oregon Trail, ridden horses through the Rockies, climbed to the top of Independence Rock, and even held an outlaw’s note in her hand. You can learn more about her and her work at https://ladiesindefiance.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/heatherfreyblanton. Sign up for Heather’s email newsletter to receive the latest book release updates, as well as info about contests and giveaways
She writes Westerns because she grew up on a steady diet of Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and John Wayne movies. Her most fond childhood memory is of sitting next to her father, munching on popcorn, and watching Lucas McCain unload that Winchester!
She can be reached several different ways:
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