This solution deals with Jack London's time. It also offers references for research material.
In terms of American events, you might want to look at London's participation in Coxey's army during the The Depression of 1893. In order to help promote the economy and also individual families, Coxey urged the creation of government jobs for unemployed men to improve national roads and build public works. This website chronicles this event: http://projects.vassar.edu/1896/depression.html
Since the 1890s produced desperate times of economic depression, bank and business failures, and unemployment for millions of men and women, the Gold Rush brought the potential for new jobs. According to http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/gold/teachers.html, "When gold was discovered in the frozen unsettled territory between Canada and Alaska, 100,000 people made the treacherous journey in search of riches." You might also write about his participation in 1897 in the Klondike Gold Rush.
While looking at gender, you ...
This solution overviews Jack London's era and times.