9 - Eleanor Dumont

Gambling halls and bordellos. These were some of the most lucrative businesses of the old west. And one of the best known proprietors of such an establishment was a woman called Eleanor Dumont, also known as Madame Moustache.

 

Eleanor began life as Simone Jules and hailed from either France or New Orleans. She was a petite and pretty woman who excelled at the game of 21, the precursor of American Blackjack.

 

After she was accused of card sharping in San Francisco in 1854, Simone emerged onto the booming mining scene in Nevada City, California, as Eleanor Dumont, where she opened her own gambling establishment. Her emporium was furnished with elegant style, and she often treated her guests to free champagne.  

 

Charming and pretty, Eleanor had no trouble attracting men to sit at her table while she dealt the cards and gracefully rolled her cigarettes. While she had many admirers, Eleanor had no known lovers at this time. She kept her admirers at bay telling them she was a lady.

 

When the gold was all played out in Nevada City, Eleanor got out of the business. With a great deal of money in her purse, she moved to Carson City, Nevada where she bought a ranch. Soon she met Jack McKnight, a supposed cattle buyer, and fell head over heels. Little did she know that Jack was a swindler. In less than a month he sold Eleanor’s ranch and disappeared with all of her money, leaving her with enormous debts. 

 

Eleanor tracked him down and shot him. She never claimed responsibility for the crime and was never charged. Years later, she allegedly confessed to killing him. 

 

With no money and no prospects, Eleanor moved to various mining camps across the western United States and finally ended up in Bodie, California. 

 

As the mining camps dried up, times were hard for Eleanor. Needing to support her establishment, she soon added prostitution to her business model. Now a true Madam, Eleanor changed in other ways as well. Where once she drank champagne in moderation and acted the lady in every way, she turned to whiskey, used rough language, and took up cigar smoking. She grew plump, and the once thin line of dark hair on her upper lip thickened earning her the name, Madame Moustache.

 

Life did not end happily for Madame Moustache. Strapped for cash, she borrowed $300 from a friend to open her table. Lady Luck abandoned her and she lost everything. Her body was found some time later with a suicide note. The coroner ruled cause of death as an overdose of morphine.

 

If you enjoyed this flash briefing, you might like some of my blog posts on my Empowered Women in History blog on my website at www.Karibovee.com, There, you will also see some information on my historical mystery novels featuring strong female amateur sleuths, like Annie Oakley.

 

8 - Kathleen Rockwell

What does the Pantages Theater and the Klondike Gold Rush have in common? An American dancer and vaudeville star named Kathleen Rockwell.

 

She came from a well-to-do family in Junction City, Kansas, but her homelife was unstable and often fraught with tension, resulting in Kathleen developing an independent and rebellious spirit.

 

When she was a teenager, her parents tried to quell this rebelliousness by sending her to boarding school. She spent more time trying to figure out how to break the rules than study, and was soon expelled. By this time, her mother’s second marriage was on the rocks, so the two of them moved to New York.

 

Kathleen took a job as a chorus girl, and performed in various vaudeville houses. She then followed a job offer with a variety theater in Spokane, Washington, but soon heard rumors of a Klondike Gold Rush. 

 

Rockwell settled in Dawson City, in 1900, where she joined the Savoy Theatrical Company. She developed the Flame Dance, an off-color number in which she wore a red sequined dress trailing 200 feet of chiffon that she twisted and turned into an illusion of flames. The act was a favorite of the miners and it launched her into Klondike fame. At the Savoy, she became known as Klondike Kate.

 

It was during this time she met Alexander Pantages, a struggling waiter and bartender. The love affair was intense and often tumultuous. They were crazy about each other, but fought over petty jealousies and money—mostly Kate’s money. Pantages borrowed considerable amounts of Kate’s cash to launch his career in Seattle as a theater manager. He thanked her by marrying someone else.

 

Rockwell headed to Brothers, Oregon with $3500 in cash, $3000 worth of jewelry, and trunks filled with dresses, gowns and hats to try her hand at homesteading 320 acres. She was one of a number of women who claimed their land by living on the claim for the required five years. This was shortly after women had earned the right to vote in Oregon. She was known to have worked the land, and her garden in vaudeville gowns and dance slippers.

 

While in Brothers, Kate would fall in love and marry twice. After the second marriage ended, she moved to Bend, Oregon where she would become a celebrity again, but this time, it was for her charity work. She worked hard to raise funds for her charitable causes and this time earned the nickname, Aunt Kate. She also trained young girls with their eye on Hollywood fame in voice and dance.

 

She ended up in Sweet Home, Oregon where she met and married William L. Van Duren, and lived out the rest of her days in a happy and loving relationship. She died in 1957.

 

I love to write about interesting women in history. You can find some of these women in my Annie Oakley Mystery Series and my Grace Michelle Mystery Series on Amazon, or on my Empowered Women in History blog on www.Karibovee.com.

 

7 - Queen Victoria

 

I don’t know about you, but I love the history of the British monarchs—from the mythical tales of King Arthur, to Henry VIII, to Elizabeth I, and beyond. Probably one of my most favorite monarchs is Queen Victoria. Up until the current reign of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria was the longest ruling monarch in Britain, reigning for 63 years. But not everyone wanted it that way. During her time as Queen, Victoria endured eight assassination attempts—eight because one of the would-be murderers tried to kill her twice.

 

The first attempt occurred in 1840, when Victoria was pregnant with her first child. Victoria and Albert were enjoying a carriage ride when a man by the name of Edward Oxford fired a pistol at the couple. Twice. And twice he missed. Unflustered, Victoria demanded the driver drive on, so they could continue their ride.

 

Two years later, a man named John Francis made an attempt on the Queen’s life while again, she and Albert were out in their carriage, but Francis either did not pull the trigger, or his gun didn’t fire. He then crossed the mall and ran into Green park. Victoria figured the best way to capture the man was to lure him out of hiding by yet another carriage ride the next day. But, this time, she ordered the carriage to ride faster. It probably saved their lives as Francis fired on them for real, this time.

 

There were five more attempts on Victoria’s life, but, unafraid, she never let it stop her from riding in an open air carriage, or attending outdoor events, to see and be seen by her adoring public. While such attempts are usually met with a death sentence, Victoria wouldn’t have it. None of her would be assassins suffered that fate—but they suffered another one, imprisonment for life.

 

The second book in my Annie Oakley mystery series titled Peccadillo at the Palace, incorporates my love of American History and British history as Annie and the Wild West Show set sail across the pond in 1887 to perform for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee—and wouldn’t you know, it soon becomes clear there is a plot to kill the Queen. Can Annie find the perpetrator before it’s too late? You can find out by ordering Peccadillo at the Palace on Amazon.