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Railroads Offer Women Opportunity to Prosper

As Ashland, Ore., became a railroad center after 1890, women seized on an unusual opportunity to prosper. Inexpensive vacant lots between the town and the railroad offered widows, divorcees and other single women a chance to buy property and rent out homes to itinerant railroad workers and their families.

A single woman by choice, Belle Anderson, received a rental home as a gift from her father, and the rental income supplemented her small salary at the Ashland Tidings.

Widowed in 1902 with four small children, Mattie Brown’s main income came from renting a small house her husband had built next to their home. She took in laundry, earning a dollar for every 24 pieces.  Her children sold fruit to the passengers on the train to help out. Eventually she bought another rental house.

Margaret Hicks built several rentals after her husband died in 1900. With the income of $10 per month per house, she put three children through college.

The Table Rock Sentinel newsletter published by the Southern Oregon Historical Society estimated that  between 1895 and 1910, nineteen women owned property in Ashland’s Railroad District.

Source: Waldron, Sue. "District Landladies." Table Rock Sentinel Mar. 1989: 10-14. Print.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.