Many questions have been asked about Panamint Annie. A woman prospector in the Bullfrog Mining District. A woman that chose to live life on her terms, and left behind a legend Bigger Than Life.... Many thanks to Claudia Reidhead for the article she wrote and shared with us.

photograph courtesy of Pam Montgomery
Written by Claudia Reidhead
Panamint Annie was a woman prospector who preferred the desserts and mountains to the town life. Who raised her children on the desert, in the mining camps and prospecting camps of Death Valley. living the life she preferred until her youngest son came to school age. The older ones had gone to school, by living with family in So. California, when the youngest reached school age and there was no one to take them, she decided they would settle down. They moved into a hodge podge shack on the edge of the desert in the town of Beatty, Nev.. The kids went to school and Annie eked out a living for them selling homemade jelly and crocheted hats, and jewelry that she designed, and car repair jobs that she could get (Annie was an excellent mechanic.). This let the kids go to school and get the education they needed to survive in the modern world.

Summers were spent in the mountains and hills of the Mojave desert around the edges of Death Valley looking for gold and finding the peace of the desert. Mary Elizabeth White, a.k.a. Panamint Annie, was the thoroughly modern woman thirty years before the modern woman climbed out of the kitchen and went to work in a factory.

Annie with her colorful vocabulary and independent ways had often scandalized the staid prisses of the era. Her wild Bohemian ways of freedom from societies mores would send the lounges wagging, but she didn't care about the wagging tongues. She did care for family and friends with a passion few could match. Annie was well educated for a woman of her time, and taught her children both the ways of nature and the ways of the book. Scrupulously honest, in all ways, Annie was respected for her habit of calling a spade a spade, and for her way of repaying every thing that she owed from a bar for a beer, to the people who grubstaked her. If she did not find mineral on a given trip, she would work for and with the person til her grubstake was repaid.

Often feeding her children on rattlesnake or rabbit stew (snake or rabbit and various edible plants) when times were hard, as they often were. Annie never once thought of returning to the family she had left in the East. When she arrived here in the desert, Annie was severely ill with TB, not expecting to live long, she went out into the desert and learned to prospect and find mineral from a group of three old time prospectors, who were very protective of her and later of her children. Annie's lungs were slow to heal, but clean, dry air and hard work healed them.

Throughout the years Annie did find a few good mines, that would pay her well and the family would live good for awhile, but like most mines here they would often fail after a short time. Annie passed away from cancer, and was buried in Rhyolite cemetery, in 1979. Annie had lived her life independent and free, and lived by her own code. Equality for women? She always thought they were, she worked as hard as a man, lived free as a man, and never asked anyone to do for her when she could do for herself. She was strong physically and emotionally, and carried her roughed edged life with an honesty and grace that few have matched.

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