Mining has been a primary industry in the Antelope Valley since the area was first settled, with various natural resources being extracted such as gold, silver, copper, borax, and radium. Such mining exploits offered employment opportunities and economic endeavors to many local pioneers in the Antelope Valley’s early years.
Women may not always come to mind when one imagines a miner, but the Antelope Valley hosted several women that were heavily integrated into the mining industry, seeking out these advantageous opportunities.
Josephine “Josie” Stephens Bishop (1864 – 1951) arrived at the Antelope Valley in 1925, settling in Red Rock Canyon. Here she staked out 11 mining claims spanning across 170 acres of land. She became known locally as the “Radium Queen”, as well as “Mojave’s Madame Curie” and “America’s Number One Woman Desert Rat” after discovering one of her mining claims contained a radium-rich vein. Though she never formally studied geology, mineralogy, or chemistry, it is said that she could tell the full contents of rock just by looking at and feeling it.
Ella B. Kinton (1866 – 1944) is another successful Antelope Valley miner. Though she arrived at the Antelope Valley near death in 1884, she made a quick recovery. Soon after this recovery, Ella had an accident involving a mule-train and cranial trauma. Despite this, she made another recovery, going on to become Rosamond’s first female Postmaster, serving from 1903 – 1910. In addition to this, she also ran her family’s general store, hotel, and stable. She also owned her own gold mine, the E.B.K. gold mine.
Though she was not the owner of a mine, Donie B. Shumake (1891 – 1983) did work directly with the mining industry. Donie worked closely with the Burton Brothers, who owned and operated Rosamond’s Tropico Gold Mine, with the title of the chief clerk and office manager. She began this work in 1934, serving as California’s only female member of the Industrial Workers Mining and Milling Association at the time.