Filter Press, LLC, 2011. ISBN 978-0-865-41107-4.
Reviewed by Doris Anne Roop-Benner
Posted on 09/07/2011
Elizabeth Nellis Bonduel McCourt (aka Baby Doe) was born and raised in Wisconsin in 1854 (or it may have been 1861 because as so often happened in the Victorian Era, women shaved years off their age). Even with her good looks and confidence, it was fortunate that she could not foresee the extreme highs and devastating lows that she would encounter in her lifetime.
At 22, Lizzie married Harvey Doe and her life became an adventure and a challenge. Many times she lived where there were few women and even fewer niceties. In 1877, they lived in Central City, Colorado and her days were filled with "women's chores" while waiting for "her man" to come home from the mines. They were soon broke, so Lizzie helped by working herself. Wearing men's clothes, she drove a team of horses to lift heavy ore buckets up mineshafts from deep underground. She was all of five-feet-two-inches tall, cute, bright, upbeat, and she won the hearts of the young men in town. Her husband called her Babe, so she was forever after known as Baby Doe.
I don't want to spoil the story for you, so I won't tell everything that happens next. Suffice to say that there is richer and poorer, better and worse, sickness and health, and many partings. She did it all in her 80 years (more or less) of living and died at her beloved Matchless Mine in Leadville, Colorado in 1935.
Lohse gives us a biography, with tidbits of history thrown in, that creates an interesting insight into the life of a woman who was always looking for the next great exploit. Baby Doe was a feminist at heart and reading her story made me applaud her spirit and fierce loyalty to those she loved.
A handwritten note found among her recipes read "Be kindly to everybody you meet, but don't make everybody your friend." She seemed to live by this rule.
Colorado author Joyce B. Lohse combines journalism, history, and genealogy to write all-ages biographies for Filter Press. Joyce has received three CIPA EVVY awards, a silver WILLA award, and 2010 Colorado Authors' League award for Best YA Nonfiction Book. She is in the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame, is administrator for Women Writing the West, writes magazine articles, and is a speaker. Learn more on her website.
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