Sarah Pellet in California

In Gold Rush California, Miss Sarah Pellet was an item of interest, receiving considerable attention from the newspapers. The first notice of her arrival, in the Sacramento Daily Union of September 20, 1854, stated:

Miss Sarah Pellet, a graduate of Oberlin Seminary, active in her endeavors to promote the philanthropical movements of the day, is among the list of new-comers. We learn from the New York Tribune that she is on a visit to her two brothers, settled in California, and that she will avail herself of any opportunity to address the people of the Golden State upon Temperance, Anti-Slavery, or Woman’s Rights.

She began in San Francisco, and was not exactly a sensation. The Daily Alta California reported:

Miss Pellet’s Lecture on Political Reform. — The announcement that a lecture on  “Political Reform: the means of securing it,” would be delivered at Musical Hall last evening, by Miss Sarah Pellet, drew together not a very large, but a very intellectual audience, who appeared to have gone partly from curiosity and partly from an evident disposition to encourage the lecturer. About eight o’clock, Miss Pellet was introduced to the audience by A. Williams, Esq. She placed herself behind a pulpit looking arrangement which was placed on the stage, and which only permitted her head to be exhibited to the audience. She is a woman apparently about thirty years of age, small and neat-looking, and wearing spectacles.

We suppose that when a woman enters upon the arena of politics, and becomes a public lecturer, she expects to subject herself to the same criticism that would be called out by a lecture from one of the opposite sex. Throwing entirely aside the question of the propriety of women becoming public lecturers, we must say that Miss Pellet does not seem to possess any of the qualifications for an interesting lecturer. Her address was written, and, in reading it, she appeared to find great difficulty, until her constant repetitions and haltings became painful to the audience. Her voice is not pleasant, and her manner of delivery anything but agreeable.

The reporter concluded that her lecture was “very dull and very prosy,” and Miss Pellet would be better off pursuing her reforms by means of the pen, rather than on the lecture circuit.

Sarah Pellet persisted however. She lectured throughout the gold mining regions, from Sonora to Weaverville, and on up into Oregon. A correspondent in Placer County was kinder than the City reporter:

    Our citizens had the pleasure of listening to a temperance lecture last evening, in the new Town Hall, delivered by Miss Sarah Pellet. The audience was quite large and paid the most respectful attention to the fair lecturer. Miss Pellet is a tolerably fair speaker, her articulation very distinct, her points and illustrations quite apropos, and by her pleasing but modest style will doubtless effect much good for the cause of temperance reform in her peregrinations through the mines of California. It is a subject of the highest importance to the mass of our population. A lady lecturer can at any time attract a large crowd and make a more durable impression than a man, and I do hope that Miss Pellet will not cease in her work of temperance reform.

MDH18560805.2.8.2-a1-447wpelletShe left the state at the end of January 1856 and went by steamer to Nicaragua, where she observed with admiration the campaign of William Walker to seize control of that country. She was not done with California, however. She would return in 1857 to continue her endeavors to reform the morals and habits of the ’49ers.

In the meantime, her name had become synonymous with temperance reform in California, and was used to promote temperance beverages, as you can see in this advertisement from 1856.

I am not exactly sure what Cream of Nectar is, but I am sure that it is delicious. It may be the same as Cream Nectar, which (so Internet tells me) is a pink Southern concoction of almond and vanilla flavorings that is still popular in New Orleans for snow-cones.




About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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