News & Tall Tales. 1800s.
January 9, 1850, Alta California, San Francisco
The Right Sort of Woman for a New Country
By some curious and unaccountable mistake, quite a lot of letters were deposited in our office prior to the sailing of the last steamer, and their directions were of so blind a character, that we could not see very well how to dispose of them.
Accidently, of course, they were broken open, and the contents of most of were of such a character, that we deem it most advisable to give them publicity in our columns, from time to time, as we may have room.
Below, we give a somewhat poetical letter, written in a rather dashy sort of a style, from Mrs. Maria Jenkins, to a lady friend in New York. It would afford us much pleasure to know Mrs. J., and even Jenkins himself. From the character of her letter, she must be "a jewel of a woman," and "some pumpkins" at doggerel. There is both rhyme and reason in her epistle.
Mrs. Jenkins is the right sort of woman for a new country, and we trust to have a whole battalion of young Jenkins's in our midst. Our hopes are strong that Mr. J. may succeed in making his wife a lady in a year. But we are detaining our readers too long from the lady's effusion.
From Mrs. Maria June Jenkins
To Her Friend MRS. SOPHIA ANN WIGGINS, at New York, U. States.
San Francisco, August 1st, 1849
My Dear Sophia--
I know you'd admire
This climate, like Italy (southern)
Where all the year round you never need fire,
Except in your cook stove or oven.
My poor pen would fall very short
Of describing this curious land,
Or telling what first was my thought
When first I stepped foot in its sand.
On tenter-hooks long I had been
To see this dear, new, golden city,
But after it came to be seen
Twas a city of tents, what a pity!
The streets that we thought paved with gold,
Were covered with nothing but dust;
And the weather I thought very cold,
If to tell you the truth, dear, I must,
'Twas the middle, I think, of July,
But the wind, indeed, was quite raw,
And, I know you'll exclaim "dear, oh my,"
When I tell you I sported my boa
The houses were very few here,
I know you'll wish to ask "why?"
John says its because lumber's dear,
I myself know that board is quite high.
Why a bed was three dollars a night,
And neither of down nor of roses,
And I wasn't surprised the lest mite
That we both caught bad colds in our noses.
And for eating, alone, (don't you think)
It's a terrible, horrible sum
But as true as I'm born, dearest pink,
Of round dollars they charge twenty-one
We didn't see the first miner a digging,
Which we both, at first, thought very funny,
And I thought there'd been terrible fibbing,
Till we saw all with such heaps of money.
There's one thing that really does beat,
For may I never wear dresses with flounces,
If even the begger you meet
Doesn't say, "Oh, please give me some ounces!"
John has just brought us a tent --
It's the only thing, now, he can do;
And on being con-tent-ed I'm bent --
Tis the best way, I think, do not you?
The prices of every thing here
Are a hundred times dearer than home,
And yet, pray believe me, my dear,
We still are not sorry we came.
The country is still very new, --
In fact, as one might say, a baby;
But John says, for him it will 'do,
And in one year he'll make me a lady.
He's not going up to the mines,
Because there, he says, it is sickly;
And he thinks that he'll gather the dimes
By land speculation more quickly
He says he can buy some lots cheap,
Off of which he can make lots of money;
A rich harvest I hope he may reap,
And you, too, do you not, dearest honey?
But Sophy, there's times when I so lonesome feel,
As I think of the dear friends behind me,
That sometimes an hour I'll steal
And cry till my tears almost blind me.
But now Sophy, friend of my heart,
I must close this disjointed epistle,
And to the sad parting part,
For John, impatient, has set up a whistle.
To your husband, James, give my best love,
And kiss for me Jimmy and Tommy,
And Sally, the dear little dove,
Hitchable Jane, and young Johnny,
And tell grandma, I will not forget
The gold for the bows of her specs;
And, bless me, there's one person yet
Give my love to my dear Jenny Becks.
The Discovery of Jeanne Baret
A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe
In 1765, eminent botanist Philibert Commerson had been appointed to a grand new expedition: the first French circumnavigation of the world. As the ships’ official naturalist, Commerson would seek out resources—medicines, spices, timber, food—that could give the French an edge in the ever-accelerating race for empire.
Jeanne Baret, Commerson’s young mistress and collaborator disguised herself as a teenage boy and signed on as his assistant. The journey made the twenty-six-year-old, known to her shipmates as “Jean” rather than “Jeanne,” the first woman to ever sail around the globe.
When the ships made landfall, Baret carried heavy wooden field presses and bulky optical instruments over beaches and hills. She had spent months perfecting her masculine disguise in the streets and marketplaces of Paris. Expedition commander Louis-Antoine de Bougainville recorded in his journal that curious Tahitian natives exposed Baret as a woman, eighteen months into the voyage. But the true story, it turns out, is more complicated.