The Shirley Letters from California Mines in 1851-52; Being a Series of Twenty-Three Letters from Dame Shirley (Mrs. Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe) to Her Sister in Massachusetts, with Dame Shirley, the Writer of These Letters. "An Appreciation"; Being a Paper Prepared by Mrs. Mary Viola Tingley Lawrence to Be Read Before a San Francisco Literary Society.
Educated in Amherst, Massachusetts, Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe (1819-1906) accompanied her physician-husband to California in 1849. The Shirley Letters (1922) is the book edition of a series of letters written by Mrs. Clappe to her sister in 1851 and 1852. They were first published under the pseudonym of Dame Shirley in the Pioneer magazine, 1854-55. In these letters, Louise Clappe writes of life in San Francisco and the Feather River mining communities of Rich Bar and Indian Bar. She focuses on the experiences of women and children, the perils of miners' work, crime and punishment, and relations with native Hispanic residents and Native Americans.
Bret Harte is said to have based two of his stories on the letters (from The Library of Congress).
"Of all the writers drawn to California between 1845 and the mid-1860s, [Clappe] speaks with the most original voice. Her only real competition, in my view, is Mark Twain." (James D. Houston, author, Californians: Searching for the Golden State)