"'Gold Fever' The Transformation of Women's Lives, Health Care, and Medicine in the 19th-Century American West"
Major Theme(s): The focus of my dissertation project is on the American West - not as a geographical location - but rather as a place for the transformation of women’s lives and medicine in the 19th century.
I begin by illustrating the concept of the West as a “place” and discuss out how this concept relates to transformation and is negotiated as identity in ego-documents, or life writing, which include memoirs, autobiographies, travel accounts, private letters, as well as diaries and journal. The awareness of people heading West in the 19th century, that they were participating history and who felt that their participation should somehow be recorded, wrote down their experiences in diaries, journals, and letters home from the various trails and the deplorable hygienic situation(s) along the way which I describe before moving on to settling in the West and finally addressing the question of whether there were more opportunities for women in the West to enter the health care professions and how these women helped to transform medical care. Together, these are the central themes in my project in which I investigate the life writing of four female health care givers in the 19th century American West from a New Historicist perspective.