Idah Meacham Strobridge deserves her identification as the "first woman of Nevada letters" for the vivid evocation of the Great Basin and its people in her books In Miners' Mirage-Land (1904), The Loom of the Desert (1907) and The Land of Purple Shadows (1909). And the facts of her personal life reveal a resourceful woman of strength and determination as well.
Born in 1855 on her parents' ranch in California, Meacham moved with her family in the 1860s to Nevada. They homesteaded ranchlands in Lassen Meadows, between the present Winnemucca and Lovelock. There her father built the Humboldt House hotel beside the newly opened Central Pacific Railroad. Thus Meacham was raised on a remote cattle range and beheld the passing of wagon trains and the iron horse as well as local Native Americans, and later, Mexican vaqueros, and Chinese placer miners. All of these caught her eye and provided subjects for her later writing.
In 1878, Meacham was sent to Mills Seminary in Oakland, California, for her higher education. She graduated in 1883. The following year she married Sam Strobridge, the adopted son of her father's gold rush mining partner. Strobridge was twenty-one and a construction manager for the Southern Pacific railroad. Together, the two took up ranching and mining on land given them by Meacham's father that was near his own.
Over the next four years, Meacham Strobridge bore three sons, but pneumonia and the terrible blizzards of 1888-89 soon took their lives and her husband's. Following that tragedy, she abandoned Nevada for Southern California.
There she fell in with Charles Fletcher Loomis' bohemians and expanded the bookbinding of her Artemesia Press in order to issue her own works. In Miners' Mirage-Land is an early collection of lost mine and buried treasure folktales. Interspersed with these are word-pictures of the sagebrush desert. The Loom of the Desert is devoted to short stories, long on plot and twists of fate, but, for the most part, short on character analyses. One success is the story "The Revolt of Martha Scott," Meacham Strobridge's sketch of a wife's desperate fling. Her last book, The Land of Purple Shadows, is her most miscellaneous, combining nature essays, early California romances, and legends like "Sui Seen Fah," the Chinese Lily.
Idah Mecham Strobridge's final years were given to Pasadena club life, genealogy, and retreats to her "Wikiup" on the San Pedro breakwater. She died in 1932.
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