Nadia White, great-granddaughter of Elmer (Stroller) and Alice Josephine (Josie) Keys White is on a quest to find out all she can about the life of her great- grandmother.
Klondike newsman Stroller White is a fairly well known historical figure, having worked at the Skagway News during Soapy Smith’s heyday. He moved on to Dawson in 1899, where he became “The Stroller” for the Klondike Nugget, and wrote all manner of news for the next five years. Then he relocated to Whitehorse where he edited and eventually owned the Whitehorse Star until 1916. After that he moved back to Alaska, and was elected to the state’s House of Representatives.
“The stories of Stroller White’s Klondike news days were a part of the myth of my growing up, and I’m sure led to me being a journalist,” says Nadia White as she basks in some Klondike sunshine after paddling as part of the Yukon River Quest’s Skagnificent Six crew.
Her ancestor’s travels were traced when White was a teenager. She was fascinated even then, and found herself wanting to get off the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway and look around the corners.
Thirty years later, while visiting a friend in Ketchikan, she was challenged to pursue Josie’s story as a way of getting to follow all that up. That appealed to her, especially when she learned that Josie was something of an outdoorswoman herself.
“This was to finish Josie’s journey by river,” she says, explaining her participation in the River Quest.
“I have followed her in my imagination, followed her path in my way,” she said.
“I rode my bicycle from Oklahoma to Sumner, Washington. I paddled a kayak (solo) from Fort Townsend, Wash., to Juneau, Alaska, and then I took the ferry to Skagway.”
It was said of Josie in her obituary that she had climbed every worthwhile peak in southeastern Alaska. Nadia is a wanderer too, and has often wondered what made Josie wander. By retracing her journeys she hopes to find out.
Now a journalism professor at the University of Montana in Missoula, after an earlier career in journalism in the Rockies, her ambition is to write a biography of her great grandmother.
“My hope is to make the (story) meaningful by connecting it to her everyday life, which I’m not going to pretend is the adventurous life of some of the entrepreneurial women in the North. I think being a homemaker here during the Gold Rush was its own kind of adventure and I’d like to understand that.”
The final product will be a blend of her research and her experiences while doing that research.
“I want to combine those things in a way that will appeal to regular readers. Not just an adventure book or a biography, but two stories about lives that are intertwined. It’s a little exploration of gender and place as well.”