Friday, January 29, 2010

‘News Girl’ by Liza Ketchum

Book cover: News Girl by Liza Ketchum. A pair of children look over the edge of the basket of a hot air balloon above an 1800s cityscape
News Girl by Liza Ketchum is the story of a 12-year-old girl during the San Francisco gold rush.

Newsboys would hawk East Coast newspapers that had arrived by steamer ship. People would pay six times the printed cost of a three-month-old newspaper to get news from “back home.”

By selling these papers, at a dollar apiece, the newsboys could earn more money than their parents could earn in a day’s work: running a store or panning for gold. The heroine of Ketchum’s novel dresses up like a boy so that she can sell papers.

The story takes place in early 1851, three years after the initial discovery of gold in 1848. “The discovery changed the American West forever,” Ketchum writes in a historical note.

It was a very interesting time; in July 1848, a delegation of women met in Seneca Falls, N.Y. and affirmed the rights of women. It would take another 72 years for women to seize the right to vote, but in the meantime, California offered opportunities to women that were unavailable to them back east.

Disclosure of material connection: My taxes support my public library’s acquisition of this and other resources. I consider the access I enjoy to be a “priceless” return on my investment.

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