Gold Rush Gal reincarnated, Andrea has a passion for history and activism as she shares stories of the women who forged their own paths in California history.
Sitting in Andrea's living room, you can see notes of inspiration resonating throughout her home from all of the time she has spent researching historical stories from the Gold Rush time period. Vintage couches, old board games and antique accents adorn the room, while a vinyl spins happy tunes from the past.
Andrea Anderson's podcast "Queens of the Mines" debuted in September 2019 after a year and a half of research centered on the lives of ten women from the Gold Rush era. While scouring the internet and sitting among historical records in libraries throughout the western states, Andrea made discoveries that blew her away. Ruthless deeds and dramatic events unfolded within the lives of women who many have never heard of, nor grasped the impact they had on our California history. These events lay buried in our own local historical records.
As Americans have learned over the years, Andrea saw for herself that there were stark contrasting differences between reality and the traditional portrayal of gold rush history. Women are largely absent. Even though there were a fraction of women who traveled to California at the time compared to the amount of men, there were still those who owned their own businesses, forged new paths or lived here prior to the Forty-Niners. Their stories deserve a place in history too and you'll soon see why.
With new information in hand, Andrea decided that she must pursue the retelling of these stories to show the world how forgotten, influential women shaped California history.
For most of her life, Andrea has been absolutely fascinated with the Gold Rush. Growing up in Gold Country, she pondered life in early California; where towns sprouted and died overnight in response to new discoveries of gold and all the terrible and wonderful things that occurred because of it. She was inspired by children's Gold Rush books, "from a young age I fantasized about being a Gold Rush gal. In the area and at that time, those were the fancy women. I loved them." As a writer at heart, it was inevitable that she would one day combine fascination with creative fulfillment and write about the gold rush.
In the initial research stage, Andrea's goal was to find contextual background information for writing fictional stories about women of the time. "There were fires in all the small towns, like Columbia. There were murders that no one could solve." Andrea had an idea, one that would live out her childhood wonders and answer burning questions that have plagued California's history. To fill the void for those who searched for answers, she would write fiction, based on historical events in the 19th century Gold Rush.
Andrea set out to write about women who were connected to these real events in history and how they haphazardly invoked the unsolved mischief and crimes that made it into history books. Along the way, "I realized the women in history were so much cooler than the women I wanted to write about," Andrea says, "You hear all the classic scenarios of western men with their guns drawn in the town square. I want to share factual stories of women who were there too," women of daring bravery from diverse cultural backgrounds. They too came upon California in search of riches, opportunity and adventure. Their imprints on the land had lasting effects.
History is a grand account told from few sides, likely being the prevailing successors of the time period. Queens of the Mines is the first publicly shared oral account of Gold Rush history told through the eyes of these women who lived and died for it all. The podcast has been growing in global popularity every day due to in-depth exposure of these engaging life stories.
At first, "I was going to do all of the women's stories together. I hadn't intended to break it up like I have." A friend of Andrea's wanted to write a pilot for the podcast and together they spoke with producers in southern California. Coming home from the trip, she felt that pursuing a partnership of the sort didn't feel right. She felt that allowing herself to put more time into the research and oversee every step of the process would ensure the foundational authenticity she intended to provide within the content.
"I want to humanize these woman and bring awareness to racial issues that aren't recognized or spoken about in this area," Andrea says of Tuolumne County and other similar areas in Gold Country. Elaborating on the reactions she has received from listeners she admits that while most have been quite positive in their remarks, outliers have very choice words for her work. "It has pissed people off. What I'm talking about happened. It's our history. In order to move forward and get better, we need to recognize that." We're still benefiting from all the remains of our foundations. From buildings to generational wealth, there are living remnants from the people spoken about in Queens of the Mines. To remember those people, and to recognize the mistakes of the past in order to grow as a collective group of people is what Andrea hopes to inspire in her listeners.
"For some, it's easier to identify with different cultures and people of color when you put a name and an identity to them," she says. For individuals born and raised in the Sierra Nevadas, in-depth exposure to other cultures may not be a regular occurrence. It may come as a shock to see how much diversity lies in the roots of our past. While it may not be the cookie-cutter textbook history lesson we're all used to, Queens of the Mines is complex and amazing for it's light-hearted exposure of serious issues.
Andrea weaves true stories together, using a bit of creative magic. While not all accounts are fluffed for leisurely reading in your local library, Andrea is able to take raw information and portray anecdotes to her audience with a sense of consistency and ease. Listeners find their imaginations in the center of old saloons and hotels. Some of these places are still standing today, abodes for the souls whose stories are told in Queens of the Mines. If you're looking for a spooky adventure, head over to the National Hotel in Jamestown, CA, take a seat in the dinning room and listen to the story of Flo, the residential ghost on site.
Prior to the beginnings of Queens of the Mines, Andrea spent 10 years traveling for burlesque shows around the world. "There wasn't a lot of purpose in it," she says. Between the work and her kids, she was way too busy and yearned for a calmer life. As she left one business and entered another, her health began to take a turn. She now deals with chronic ailments that make nine-to-five jobs impossible. "While bedridden at one point, I had to throw my mind and time into something creative. I've always been a fan of podcasts," Andrea adds, "I'm a real true crime nerd." Working on Queens of the Mines - researching, writing shows and recording - has allowed her to create and bring more purpose into her life and the lives of listeners around the world. She found a community of like-minded creatives and fans of the show in Tuolumne County. Supporting one-another provides a real sense of kinship and encouragement.
The first season of Queens of the Mines will be complete at the end of 2020 and Andrea already has big plans underway for season two! A local family with roots to a major historical event in California history wishes for Andrea to dedicate a whole season to the accurate telling of their relative. This woman came to California with her family and has been portrayed in many books, including the history books our students learn from today. Her lifelong home stood solid in Tuolumne County until very recently.
Andrea can't share too much information so early on, but season two will shed light on a huge historical controversy based on sources never before released to the public. Due to the care and dedication she has put into the creation of each show, this local family felt that Andrea could be trusted to share their relative's story with integrity and unwavering respect towards everyone involved. It's very exciting history in the making and we are here to watch it all unfold!
Listen to Queens of the Mines today to hear all about Madam Moustache, America's first professional blackjack dealer who graced card tables with her mustache and French accent. Learn about Luzena Stanley Wilson, a business woman who sold biscuits for a whopping $300 a piece! Jennie Carter was a black woman who wrote courageously about taboo topics such as women's suffrage, colorism and racism. Her work was published in local newspapers, a true feat for the era.
Looking forward, Andrea has plans to record a podcast adventure to guide listeners on an exuberant walking tour of Downtown Sonora. She is working on a similar project for San Francisco to share the story of the abandoned ships at Embarcadero on which part of the city was built. As in our Gold Rush history, Andrea's relatives have ties to these Bay Area events as well. The great-grandmother of her stepdad was a saloon owner, with her business situated on an abandoned ship in the San Francisco Bay.
To hear more about all of Andrea's work and keep up with new releases, support her through Patreon, listen to podcasts on any podcast streaming platform and follow Queens of the Mines on Facebook and Instagram. Andrea holds live recording events each month in Twain Harte, CA. Contact her to attend one of these events yourself!
The artwork on this page is created by Sarah Anne Graham. Sarah's work can be found on Instagram, Facebook and on her Website. Sarah is a fan of Queens of the Mines, and has dedicated a series to the women featured in the podcast! Some of her work from this series can be found for sale here on the art page of The BOP Shop.