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A Victorian Scrapbook

A Scrapbook of Newspaper Articles Compiled by George Burgess (1829-1905)

Victorian Politics and History

A California Wife

Wife of John Bigler (1805-1871) American lawyer, politition and diplomat.

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Transcript from original newspaper article: -


A California Wife…. A CALIFORNIA WIFE. We have been told that when John Bigler. Late Governor of the State of California, was a member of the State Legislature, Mrs. B., his wife, absolutely washed the clothes of some of the honorable gentlemen for so much a dozen. At the time of his election Bigler was very poor, and his per diem was hardly enough for himself and wife to live on in those prodigal times. To make both ends meet, and to save something against a rainy day, Madam Bigler put her shoulder to the wheel, as above related.

Now, won’t this be rather startling to the pale-faced, attenuated damsels of the East, who scream and faint at the sight of a wash-tub or a cob-web? Think of it! The wife of an ex-Governor, with her sleeves and gown tucked up, bending over the wash-tub, while her husband, with his clean dickey standing upright, chafing his ears, rose to a question of privilege – “Mr. Speaker! Mr. S-p-e-a-k-e-r!” And then think of the ex-washerwoman being feted, three years after, as the wife of the Governor of the State of California, worth a hundred and fifty thousand dollars! – enough of money to make the heads of universal snobdom duck and dive like an affrighted water-fowl in a thunder-storm!

Good for the Pennsylvania Dutch girl! Five hundred years hence, when the historian lifts the veil from the catacombs of the past, and writes the history of the unforgotten dead, he may, perhaps, happened this little episode to the history of one of the California’s Governor’s and the little ragged girls that then go down to dip water from the Rio Sacramento may think better of their mothers who have to labor, because a long time ago Mrs. John Bigler, the Governor’s wife, filled her wash-tub from the same noble river.

These are the pioneer women of California. There are many such, as strong-willed and as true, who quail not at their own footsteps in the woods, whose hearts swell with hope at

The banging of the hammer,
And the creaking of the crane.