Clearly a dynamic character, Mother Shipton transforms from a hardened, self-centered female in a profession of "impropriety" to an altruistic, tender, and motherly woman.
Ironically named Mother Shipton as the apparent madam of a house of ill repute, this hardened woman has a colorful repertoire of "bad language" that she fluently expels as the town rids itself of the "improper people." Later, after the escort of the group of which the disreputable Mother Shipton is a member disappears from her view while returning to Poker Flat, her pent-up feelings find expression in some rather "bad language" as she eyes the reprobate Uncle Billy with "malevolence."
When they have only gone a short ways, another woman of ill-repute named Duchess dismounts from her horse and declares she will go no farther. The group stops their journey to the next town, Sandy Bar, although they have not yet covered half the trail. A snowfall comes in the night, and the group is snowed in the next day and cannot travel. Fortunately, a young couple has stopped on their way to Poker Flat, and they graciously share their provisions. The young man, who is acquainted with the gambler in the expelled group, entertains the company, and Mother Shipton relaxes "into amicability" as she listens.
The next morning, Mr. Oakhurst, the gambler, discovers Uncle Billy absconded with all the mules in the night. Fortuitously, however, they stored the provisions in the abandoned hut, so they have enough to last them for ten days. The young couple entertain that night, but the snow continues to fall. One clear day, Mother Shipton sees smoke coming from Poker Flat and utters "a final malediction." After this, Mother Shipton, "the strongest of the party," seems to weaken and become ill.
In the middle of the night on the tenth day, she summons Mr. Oakhurst and tells him,
I'm going. . . but don't say anything about it. Don't waken the kids. Take the bundle from under my head and open it.
After Oakhurst takes the bundle, Mother Shipton tells him, "Give 'em to the child." The bundle is full of Mother Sipton's rations, which she did not eat to increase Piney's chances of surviving. Turning her head away, she dies. In this act of unselfishness, Mother Shipton demonstrates what love is. She lay down her life so the innocent Piney can live. There is no more unselfish and loving act, and given the opportunity, Mother Shipton proves herself to be heroic.