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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Gold Rush Brides/10,000 Maniacs

Gold Rush Brides, from 10,000 Maniacs 1992 album Our Time in Eden, is drawn from Lillian Schlissel's 1982 book Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey. The book tells the story of the great westward expansion that occurred in the mid-1800s from the point of view of the women who took part in it, drawing heavily from diaries, letters, and other primary sources. In the song, the narrator is thinking about these women as she travels the same route: Who were the homestead wives? Who were the gold rush brides? Does anybody know? Do their works survive their yellow fever lives in the pages they wrote? The lyrics make plain the hardships they endured: In letters mailed back home her Eastern sisters they would moan as they would read accounts of madness, childbirth, loneliness and grief. When the band appeared on MTV Unplugged, Natalie Merchant read a passage from the book aloud as an introduction to their live performance of Gold Rush Brides.

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