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When “Happily Ever After” Isn’t Quite Enough — Guest Post & Giveaway by Kathleen Bailey

I’m so excited to welcome another fellow Pelican Book Group author and friend, Kathleen Bailey, back to Romancing History. Kathleen’s latest release, Settler’s Hope, is the second book in her Western Dreams series which follows a group of pioneers on the Oregon Trail. To learn more about the first book in the series, Westward Hope, click here.

Kathleen has graciously offered not one, but three giveaways so be sure to see the details below!


About the Book

Before Kathleen shares her some insights on “Happily Ever Afters,” here’s a little bit about Settler’s Hope.

After years of wandering, Pace Williams expects to find a home in the Oregon Country. He doesn’t expect is to fall in love with a fiery Irishwoman bent on returning home to avenge her people.

Oona Moriarty expects one thing: to exact revenge on the English overlords who took her home. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with a man who looks like he’s been carved from this Western landscape.

Together they vow to trust the unexpected and settle into a life, but when Pace’s ancient enemies threaten to destroy the life they’re building, Oona must choose between helping the man she loves and seeking the revenge she craves.

Available for purchase on Amazon and B&N

 


When “Happily Ever After” Isn’t Quite Enough

~By Kathleen D. Bailey

 

Romance writers are in the business of happy endings. Right? Where he gets her and she gets him and, if there are kids involved, they get a complete family. It’s what we do, why our hero and heroine go through whatever they have to go through to, ultimately, be together.

But life is funny. Sometimes we don’t get what we want. Sometimes we shouldn’t have it. And sometimes God does say “Not now.” I was recently pointed in this direction by two novels and a movie.

In “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” starring Julia Roberts, the heroine has been BFFs  with a college friend for most of their post-college lives. They’ve seen each other through crashed relationships, job debacles and more, while never recognizing their attraction to each other. When Dermot Muloney tells Roberts’ character that he has found The One, she begins to wonder if an early attraction to each other should have been, and should be fanned back into flame. The Julia character’s dawning realization of her feelings is thrown into relief when the Dermot character asks her to be his “best person” at his wedding to a very young Cameron Diaz. Things hit fans, Julia tries to sabotage the wedding and at one point steals a bread truck, and Dermot actually begins to wonder himself, even kissing her at one juncture. You’re rooting for the two best friends to get together, you can’t help it. But at the end of the day his future is with the Diaz character, and Julia backs off.

In Lynn Austin’s novel, Waves of Mercy, debutante Anna Nicholson has two men to choose from: her wealthy and exacting former fiance, William, and a young seminary student, Derk, whom she meets on a respite trip to Lake Michigan. Anna undergoes a voyage of discovery that summer, finding out exactly who she was when the Nicholsons adopted her, and cementing her faith in Christ. While William is mellowing and more than ready to give her a second chance, even accommodating her faith, she is drawn to gentle Derk, who has always accepted her for who she is. The reader is drawn to him too. At least this one was.  But Anna knows who she is now, and she goes back to Chicago to serve and learn more about her Lord. She’s still not certain of a life with William, and though she’s fond of Derk, she honestly doesn’t know if she’s cut out to be a pastor’s wife after a life of luxury. Can love overcome all? We don’t know. But at the end of this book, it hasn’t.

 In Debra Clopton’s Betting on Hope, the cowboy does get the girl, with quarter horse champion Tru Monahan and writer Maggie Hope overcoming their painful pasts for a life together serving God. Tru was rendered sterile by a series of childhood cancer treatments. A subplot features a very young unwed mother, Jenna, who desperately wants to keep her baby. Maggie and some townspeople create a plan to support her. But Jenna knows that even with help, she can never give her daughter what a solid adoptive family can. The reader is pulling for that family to be Maggie and Tru – but that doesn’t happen.

When people do the right thing, for their best friend, unborn child or for their own spiritual health, it hurts. It’s not always fun to be the grown-up. In fact, it hardly ever is.

Because there is something even better than “happiness.” It is joy.

The joy of doing the right thing.

There are doubts along the way, and none of the authors or screenwriters sugarcoat them.

  • From Betting on Hope

            “Maggie walked out of the hospital. Disbelief weighed heavy on her heart over Jenna’s decision. She told herself Jenna’s baby would grow up better than either of them had. That this child would be loved. And wasn’t that what was ultimately important? Not who was raising her. After all, she’d had two parents and both of them had tossed her by the wayside.

            But would Jenna ultimately grow to hate that she hadn’t kept her baby?”

            And finally there is the freedom of letting go. For what isn’t perfect, what can’t be on this earth, but what is right.

  • From Waves of Mercy

            “He pulls me into his arms and holds me tightly. I feel so comfortable there, and as I return his embrace I wish with all my heart that it could be different for us – but it can’t.

            ‘Derk, I truly believe that God brought you and me and Oma together this summer for a reason. All three of our lives have been changed. Now…now it’s just so very, very hard to say goodbye.’

            ‘Then we won’t,’ he says, still holding me tightly. ‘We’ll just say…until next time.’ We finally release each other and stand at the same time. ‘You’ll always be in my prayers, Anna, and I hope I will always be in yours.’

            Tears stick in my throat as I nod. I can’t reply. Derk bends to kiss my cheek, and I watch him turn and walk away. I think I understand how hard it was for Oma Geesje to say good-bye to Hendrik on that long ago day, to watch him walk away into the woods and out of her life forever.

Joy

When we give up what we want, in ourselves, for the Better that God has for us. In genre writing there are certain conventions—the mystery gets solved, the Hero and Heroine end up together—but sometimes it comes at a cost. We, and our characters, should be prepared to pay that.

Another cinematic example: “Casablanca.” Rick doesn’t get Ilsa, and it’s his own choice. The man who didn’t “stick his neck out for anybody” gave away the love of his life to a man who had stuck his neck out, and suffered for it. Rick did the right thing, and we know what it cost him.

But the ultimate example of the perfect ending is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He could have come down from that Cross at any time. Hugged his mother, gone to supper with his anxious pals. Forgone the physical pain and the shame of carrying our sins, opting instead for a Happy Ending. Done what made sense to everyone except Him.

He didn’t. Joy trumped happiness, and we are the better for it.

For future reading:

Betting on Hope, by Debra Clopton, Thomas Nelson 2015, ISBN 978-1-4016-9049-6

Waves of Mercy, Lynn Austin, Bethany House 2016, ISBN 978-0-7642-1761-6


About Kathleen

Kathleen Bailey is a journalist and novelist with 40 years’ experience in the nonfiction, newspaper and inspirational fields. Born in 1951, she was a child in the 50s, a teen in the 60s, a young adult in the 70s and a young mom in the 80s. It’s been a turbulent, colorful time to grow up, and she’s enjoyed every minute of it and written about most of it.

Bailey’s work includes both historical and contemporary fiction, with an underlying thread of men and women finding their way home, to Christ and each other. Her first Pelican book, ‘Westward Hope,” was published in September 2019. This was followed by a novella, “The Logger’s Christmas Bride,” in December 2019. Her second full-length novel, “Settler’s Hope,” was released July 17, 2020.

She lives in New Hampshire with her husband David. They have two grown daughters.

For more information, contact her at ampie86@comcast.net; or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn or visit her website.


Giveaway**

This giveaway has now ended!

Congratulations to our winners!!

Ebook Copy of Settler’s Hope: Annette

Paperback Copy of Westward Hope: Peggy Clayton

NE Gift Basket: Theresa Sissions

Kathleen has generously offered not one, but three giveaways to three separate lucky Romancing History readers–one eBook copy of Settler’s Hope, on paper copy of Westward Hope (U.S. Residents only), and one New England Gift Pack (U.S. Residents only). International winners will receive their choice of an eBook copy of one of Kathleen’s books.

To enter, please share with us a favorite book or movie that has a bittersweet ending.

**Giveaway ends midnight, August 5th, 2020.**

Book Review, Serving Up Love

About the Book


Title: Serving Up Love: A Four-in-One Harvey House Brides Collection
Author: Various, see below
Genre: Historical Romance

Book Info: (Bethany House Publisher, November 5, 2019, 384 pages)

Tag Line

On the Menu for These Ladies?
Adventure, Independence, and a Big Serving of Romance!

 


Blurb

A storied part of American history, Harvey Houses offered women a unique chance to gain independence and see amazing parts of this great country. Celebrated historical romance writers Tracie Peterson, Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, and Jen Turano offer four fun, romantic tales of Harvey girls whose western adventures lead to love.

Tracie Peterson – 
A Flood of Love
Returning home to New Mexico for the first time in years to fill in at the Harvey House, Gretchen Gottsacker is sure the past is behind her. But nothing can be that simple. When the man she loved long ago steps back into her life–with a daughter, no less–will she ever be the same?

Karen Witemeyer – More Than a Pretty Face
Rosalind Kemp becomes a Harvey Girl, clinging to the promise of one day transferring even farther west, someplace her youthful indiscretion won’t catch up to her. But the past is hard to escape, and when the worst occurs, will anyone stand up for her?

Regina Jennings – Intrigue a la Mode
When Willow Kentworth is warned that strange things are happening in the railyard after dark, she never intends to get involved. That is, until a handsome new employee at the Harvey House–who has secrets of his own–needs her assistance.

Jen Turano – 
A Grand Encounter
After her fiancé abandons her, Miss Myrtle Schermerhorn flees New York’s pity for a position at the El Tovar Hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon. She’s determined to hold fast to her life of independence–but a rugged, frequent guest of the hotel makes that vow difficult to uphold.


My Thoughts

I tend to be a bit  hard on novellas. Often times, the plots are too grand and the author is left to tie up all the loose ends too quickly for my satisfaction. Happily, that is not the case for Serving Up Love which earns five stars across the board. Each novella was filled with just the right amount of captivating characters and swoon-worthy heroes mixed with a dash of adventure to leave this historical romance junkie’s heart satiated.

Harvey Girl Uniform, photo courtesy of Jot Powers

Harvey Girl Uniform, Photo by Jot Powers

As a big history lovin’ nerd girl, I was tickled pink to learn of this novella collection centering around Harvey Girls. I’d first heard about Harvey Girls on a vacation through Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado a few years ago. Fred Harvey was an American entrepreneur who opened a series of cafes and restaurants aligned with railroad stations in the western United States. He provided high quality food in a timely manner. Train travelers new to expect great food and excellent service in any of his establishments. Harvey Girls were the women who provided that outstanding service. Each one had to be single and of impeccable character. Housing was provided above the restaurants for these women who were not allowed to fraternize with the customers, at least not in the cafes themselves. Once a woman was engaged, her employment would be terminated.

There was so much to love about each of these stories — the railway setting, life as a Harvey Girl, and handsome customers just to name a few. In Peterson’s A Flood of Love, spunky child character, Katieann, captures the readers heart from the get go and not long after, Gretchen’s as well. I’d never read Tracie Peterson before but she penned a delightful story and I’ll be seeking more by this author. I loved the humor weaved into Intrigue a la Mode and Grand Encounter. Regina Jennings developed an intriguing plot involving smugglers along the railroad that kept me turning the pages. Jen Turano doesn’t disappoint readers used to the hilarious shenanigan’s of her characters and the author’s quippy dialogue like “Mr. Tall, Dark, and –need I say Delicious is here again and sitting in your section.” I just about spit out my tea! But I’d have to say it was Witemeyer’s, More Than a Pretty Face, that stole my heart. Rosalind, the heroine, is running from a mistake in her past, something we can all relate to. When it blows up BIG in her face, her sweetheart, friends, and co-workers all rally behind her, and Witemeyer weaves in a beautiful lesson about the power of forgiveness and the desire we all have to create a future not defined by past transgressions.

This is a wonderfully charming novella collection from an amazing set of historical romance authors. You’ll not only be “served up love,” but plenty of faith, humor, and warm fuzzies on the side.

***I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House on behalf of the authors and was under no obligation to write a favorable review. All opinions are my own.


Links for purchase

Amazon   Barnes & Noble   CBD


About the Authors

A recipient of the ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award, Tracie Peterson is well-known for her numerous award-winning, bestselling historical romances. She lives near Missoula, Montana. Visit her at www.traciepeterson.com.

Karen Witemeyer is a winner of multiple Carol Awards and has been a finalist for the RITA Award and National Readers’ Choice Award. She lives in Abilene, Texas. Visit her at www.karenwitemeyer.com.

Regina Jennings
 is the acclaimed author of The Fort Reno Series. She lives outside Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with her husband and four children. Visit her at www.reginajennings.com.

Jen Turano
, the USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books, lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Visit her at www.jenturano.com.

 

My Fascination with the Oregon Trail & a Giveaway!

I’m pleased to welcome friend and fellow Pelican Book Group author, Kathleen Bailey, to Romancing History today. Kathleen’s debut novel, Westward Hope, released September 20, 2019. You can read my review here.


About the Book

 

Why him? Why here? Why now?

Caroline Pierce O’Leary expects to work hard to earn her passage to the Oregon Country. She doesn’t expect to find that the wagon train scout is a man with whom she shares a troubled past. Though Caroline is a Christian now, thanks to her late husband, she finds forgiving Michael to be the hardest part of her journey, harder even than the Trail.

Michael Moriarty thought he’d left his past behind in “green and hurting Ireland.” Seeing Caroline on his wagon train, brings his past to the forefront. With a price on his head, he doesn’t want her to get hurt, but he can’t deny what they were…and could still be.

Michael once betrayed Caroline in the worst possible way. Can she trust him to get her across the Oregon Trail? Can he trust himself to accept her forgiveness and God’s?

Westward Hope is available for purchase on Amazon

 


My Fascination with the Oregon Trail

Guest Post by Kathleen Bailey

 

It was the greatest mass migration the young country had ever seen. In 1843, more than 1,000 Americans packed or sold everything they owned, to travel to the storied West with nothing to protect them but a wooden farm wagon and a canvas roof. They endured searing heat, raging prairie storms, dangerous river crossings, hunger and thirst. Some were running away from something, some were running to something.

And every one of them had a story.

I’d been fascinated by the Oregon Trail era for a long time, and knew I had to write about it. As I pondered the phenomenon, two characters began to take shape. Caroline, a gently-bred, impoverished young widow staking her all on the Western journey, because she had nothing left. Michael, a silver-tongued Irishman, running from his “green and hurting” homeland and a crime he didn’t commit. I began to ask the writer’s questions, “What if?” and “Why not?”

Caroline (as portrayed by actress Olivia de Havilland) in my mind’s eye.

What if…the pair had a history, a history so monumental she had trouble forgiving him for it? What if…he’d left town to protect her, and hadn’t known the consequences of what they’d been to each other? What if…her first husband led her to the Lord, after she lost the Irishman’s baby, and she then lived life as a new creature in Christ? What if…the Irishman had never forgotten her, even as he criss-crossed the country as a wagon train scout, but he knew she’d be better off without him? And what if…they met again in a crowded hotel in St. Joseph, Missouri, and he was tasked with taking her West?

What if…they had to work together to combat the dangers of the Trail? And what if they knew they still loved each other, but she couldn’t be yoked to an unbeliever and he couldn’t get his mind around a God who loved him, no matter what?

Michael (as portrayed by actor Tom Selleck) in my mind’s eye.

Well, why not?

The Trail proved an excellent backdrop for this and more. It’s almost a third major character, as the emigrants threw themselves against a hostile environment every day for six months. Some people, especially women, went mad. Others formed cliques and bickered, like a small town on wheels.  Passions ran high, and people were lynched or almost lynched, if not for the wagon master. But still others found out what they were made of, found love forged in adversity, and found their God.

Oh, and the things they saw! Though rumors passed among the travelers that they would “see the elephant,” that fabled beast eluded them. But they viewed Chimney Rock, Castle Rock, and herds of buffalo thundering over the plains. They carved their names on Independence Rock. They saw strange plants, new animals as they pushed West. They courted and married and birthed. Some met Indians for the first time. And they kept journals, knowing that they were on the brink of something momentous.

I had trouble parting from Michael and Caroline, my characters in Westward Hope, and I rolled them over as supporting characters in the sequel, Settler’s Hope. But I had more trouble parting with the Trail itself, with the crates of research I’d amassed and the vastness of the undertaking. Are there other Trail stories to be written?

Well, why not?

“Westward Hope” is available from Pelican Book Group’s White Rose imprint. Visit www.pelicanbookgroup.com. Bailey is contracted for the second book in the “Western Dreams” series, and is at work on a sequel. A novella featuring two minor characters from “Settler’s Hope,” “The Logger’s Christmas Bride,” will be part of Pelican’s “Christmas Extravaganza” this holiday season.


About the Author

Kathleen Bailey is a journalist and novelist with 40 years’ experience in the nonfiction, newspaper and inspirational fields. Born in 1951, she was a child in the 50s, a teen in the 60s, a young adult in the 70s and a young mom in the 80s. It’s been a turbulent, colorful time to grow up, and she’s enjoyed every minute of it and written about most of it.

 

Authors enjoy connecting with readers. You can find Kathleen on Facebook and Twitter.

“Westward Hope” is available from Pelican Book Group’s White Rose imprint. Visit www.pelicanbookgroup.com. Bailey is contracted for the second book in the “Western Dreams” series, and is at work on a sequel. A novella featuring two minor characters from “Settler’s Hope,” “The Logger’s Christmas Bride,” will be part of Pelican’s “Christmas Extravaganza” this holiday season.


Giveaway**

This Giveaway is now CLOSED!

Congratulations to out winner Stacy Meyers!

Kathleen is generously offering an eBook copy of Westward Hope and a gift pack of New England products to one lucky Romancing History reader. To enter, tell me how adventurous you are in the comments below. If you lived in the mid-19th century, would you be willing to pack up and follow the Oregon Trail west and in search of a new life? Why or why not?

**Giveaway ends 12a.m. (midnight) EST, Thursday October 10, 2019.**

 

Semi-Trucks in the Nineteenth Century? Who knew!

I’m excited to welcome friend and fellow historical romance author, Cynthia Roemer, back to Romancing History. Cynthia’s new release, Under Moonlit Skies released this week and I persuaded her to come back and share some of the history behind her novel. Cynthia has also graciously offered an eBook copy of Under Moonlit Skies to one lucky commenter. See below for giveaway details.


First, here’s a little bit about her new release:

Under Moonlit Skies (Prairie Sky Series, Book 3)

Her life was planned out ~ until he rode in.

Illinois prairie ~ 1859

After four long years away, Esther Stanton returns to the prairie to care for her sister Charlotte’s family following the birth of her second child. The month-long stay seems much too short as Esther becomes acquainted with her brother-in-law’s new ranch hand, Stewart Brant. When obligations compel her to return to Cincinnati and to the man her overbearing mother intends her to wed, she loses hope of ever knowing true happiness.

Still reeling from a hurtful relationship, Stew is reluctant to open his heart to Esther. But when he faces a life-threatening injury with Esther tending him, their bond deepens. Heartbroken when she leaves, he sets out after her and inadvertently stumbles across an illegal slave-trade operation, the knowledge of which puts him, as well as Esther and her family, in jeopardy.

Under Moonlit Skies is available from these retailers:

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     BookBub

 


Semi-Trucks in the Nineteenth Century? Who knew!

One of my favorite aspects of writing historical novels is the research involved. I love learning about the past. While researching for my newest release, Under Moonlit Skies, I stumbled upon a bit of history in my own state that I wasn’t aware existed.

At the onset of Under Moonlit Skies, my heroine, Esther Stanton, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, was visiting her sister, Charlotte, in Illinois following the birth of her second child. I needed a viable route that she might have traveled between the two locations in 1859. I found the perfect solution when I discovered the First National Road (Cumberland Road) stagecoach route extended from Cumberland Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois!

To find out more, my husband and I took a day trip to Vandalia and visited the First National Road Interpretive Center. What a wealth of information we gleaned there. Two interesting tidbits of information in particular really stuck with me as I perused the exhibits. I had seen and heard of Conestoga wagons, but I had never heard them referred to as the semi-trucks of the nineteenth century!

Much like the semi-tractor trailers of today, it seems the Conestoga wagon’s sole purpose was to transport supplies. Filled to the brim with everything from household goods, to ammunition, to building materials, the hefty wagons—weighing more than a ton—were an invaluable aid in the westward expansion. They carried no passengers and had no place for even the driver to sit. Instead, he walked alongside or stood on a side board while guiding the team.

The other fun fact I enjoyed learning had to do with the story behind the saying, “I’ll be there with bells on.” It seems many a Conestoga wagon driver fitted a personalized string of bells across their horses’ harnesses. The bells served as decoration and alerted travelers the wagon was approaching. They were also useful in keeping track of horses after dark once they had been turned loose for the night.

But the most interesting reason for the bells came in the fact that when a breakdown occurred with the wagon—which was often the case—the driver generally offered one of his prized bells to a person who was kind enough to aid him on his way. If the journey was a difficult one, most, if not all, of his bells would be gone. It brought him great satisfaction, however, if he arrived at his destination with his bells intact. Thus the hopeful saying, “I’ll be there with bells on” was born.

If you’re interested in learning more, I invite you to visit my blog post: Discovering the First National Road (https://cynthiaroemer.com/discovering-the-first-national-road/)


About the Author

Cynthia Roemer is an award-winning inspirational author with a heart for scattering seeds of hope into the lives of readers. Raised in the cornfields of rural Illinois, Cynthia enjoys spinning tales set in the backdrop of the 1800s prairie. Her Prairie Sky Series consists of Amazon Best-Seller Under This Same Sky, Under Prairie Skies, and Under Moonlit Skies, releasing September 10, 2019. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and writes from her family farm in central Illinois where she resides with her husband of twenty-five years and two college-aged sons. Visit Cynthia online at: www.cynthiaroemer.com

Authors love to connect with readers. You can find Cynthia on Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads. Be the first to find out about new releases and other interesting tidbits regarding her writing journey by signing up for her newsletter here.


Giveaway

***THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED ***

Congratulations to Betsy T, the winner of Under Moonlit Skies!!

Cynthia has graciously offered to giveaway** an eBook copy of Under Moonlit Skies to one lucky commenter below. To enter the drawing, please share what you would miss the most if you lived in Illinois during the mid-nineteeth century.

**Giveaway ends at midnight, September 18, 2019.**

The History that Inspired A Love Restored (Part 1)

As a writer of historical romance, I’m often asked questions about how I research my stories. I thought today, I’d start a blog series that would give you some insight into how real-life history inspired many of the scenes in A Love Restored.

First, let me give you a little background on the story. A Love Restored is based on my real-life romance with my husband, Mike. I just set the story in the past because I’m a HUGE history nerd. If you’re one of my faithful readers, I’m sure you can relate.

I am blessed to live in northern Virginia, an area rich in our nation’s history. I knew if I set my story in post-Civil War Loudoun County, where I’ve lived since 1972, I would have plenty of historical details to give the reader that would draw them into the period and setting of my story. I decided to use my own home town of Purcellville at the time the Washington & Ohio Railroad arrived in the “sleepy little hamlet” so that my hero, Benjamin Coulter could be a surveyor planning the railroad’s route.

Negro Schoolhouse, Ashburn, Virginia

Since the story is based on my life, it was a natural choice to make my heroine, Ruth Ann Sutton, a teacher as well. While researching the post-Civil War history of my town and the county as a whole, I wandered off track down a historical rabbit trail so to speak and began reading about the life of the freed slaves in the area and the Freedmen’s Schools to educate them.

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandon Lands, commonly referred to as the The Freedmen’s Bureau, was established in 1865 to help provide for the hundreds of thousands of freed slaves in the aftermath of America’s Civil War.

While researching, I discovered that Fannie Wood, a white woman from Middleboro, Massachusetts, came to the area to teach in one of the newly authorized Freedmen’s Bureau schools in the nearby town of Warrenton. This was a common arrangement at the time. Many northern organizations, frequently organized by Quakers, funded Freedmen’s Bureau schools in the South and provided the teacher’s salary as well as their room and board with local families. The Richmond Times, an influential newspaper at the time, referred to such teachers as “pretty Yankee girls,” and “missionaries” in an effort to diminish their noble purpose.

But in Reconstruction Era Virginia, Miss Wood’s tenure would not be without opposition from those who did not want the freed slaves educated. A Warrenton newspaper, The True Index, printed the first paragraph of a threatening letter sent to Miss Wood:

“We the young men of this town think you are a disgrace to decent society and therefore wish you to leave this town before the first of March and if you don’t there will be violence used to make you comply to this request.”

 

At this point I knew that my heroine would now teach a Freedman’s School providing plenty of tension for my story. While Freedmen’s Schools existed in nearby Leesburg, Waterford and Lincoln, no school for African Americans existed in my town, Purcellville, until the 1890s. At this point I decided to change the name of Ruth Ann’s town to Catoctin Creek after the little stream that runs through Purcellville.

My research further discovered reports in The True Index that Wood had been “serenaded” by “songs and expressions not intended for ears polite.” Federal troops, used to enforce the Bureau’s efforts to educate the freed slaves, were sent to Warrenton to prevent any escalation of hostilities. This calmed the tension for a while but after the soldiers left, her classroom was pelted with stones. Union Lieutenant, William Augustus McNulty, who was the head of the Freedman’s Bureau for the Warrenton area, continued protecting Miss Wood. In fact, he and his wife, Abbie, eventually helped her teach the adult students in the evening.

Can you just imagine the sight of a white Federal officer teaching freed slaves in post-Civil War Virginia?

I knew immediately that I wanted to capture this scene in A Love Restored. When Benjamin discovers the threatening letters Ruth Ann had been receiving, letters she took great pains to hide from him, Benjamin seeks the aid of Federal officers assigned to protect the Freedmen’s Schools in the area. My secondary story line really came to life now birthing the character of Union Army Captain John Reynolds who would aid Benjamin in the protection of Ruth Ann and her students.

In A Love Restored, the danger escalates to a dramatic raid on the Freedmen’s School by hooded-vigilantes. Although inspired by many real-life accounts of violence against Freedmen’s Schools throughout the South, nothing of that magnitude happened in my county.

Thank you for joining me on this little excursion through one of history’s interesting paths. You never know what you might discover when following a rabbit trail. For me, I found the glue that tied so many smaller plot lines together as well as a way to add historical depth to my story.

This post first appeared on Connie’s History Classroom  (July 10, 2018)

Your Turn: What interesting historical fact have you learned roaming the internet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Little Known Facts About the Civil War

The Civil War remains the defining moment in America’s history. While the Revolution gave birth to the United States, the Civil War  determined what kind of nation it would be.

According to the Library of Congress, over 70,000 books have been written on the civil war and that doesn’t include books that may contain Civil War related material but are catalogued separately.

Here are 5 little known, yet interesting facts about the Civil War that you may not be aware of:

1. One-third of the soldiers who fought for the Union Army were immigrants
I was surprised to learn the number of immigrants among the ranks of Civil War soldiers was that high. As it turns out, the Union Army was a diverse, multicultural fighting force. We often hear about Irish soldiers (7.5 percent of the army), but the Union’s ranks included even more Germans (10 percent), who marched off in regiments such as the Steuben Guard. Other immigrant soldiers were French, Italian, Polish, English and Scottish. In fact, one in four regiments contained a majority of foreigners.

At right is a recruitment broadside aimed at  New York’s German immigrants to fight for “your country”: Bürger, Euer Land ist in Gefahr! Zu den Waffen! Zu den Waffen! (Citizens, your country is in danger! To arms! To arms!)

 

Sketch of the John Adams, which carried Tubman, firing upon the Combahee Ferry

2. Harriet Tubman led a raid to free slaves during the Civil War
Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave who led others to freedom on the Underground Railroad before the war, arrived at the Union camp at Port Royal, South Carolina, in the spring of 1862 to support the Union cause. On the night of June 2nd three federal gunboats set sail from Beaufort, South Carolina up the Combahee River. Tubman had gained vital information about the location of Rebel torpedoes planted along the river from slaves who were willing to trade information for freedom.

Because of this information Tubman was able to steer the Union ships away from any danger. She led the ships to specific spots along the shore where fugitive slaves were hiding and waiting to be rescued. More than 720 slaves were shuttled to freedom during the mission reminding Tubman of  “the children of Israel coming out of Egypt.” On the ferry mission, Tubman liberated ten times the number of slaves she had freed in ten years operating the Underground Railroad.

3. More men died from disease than bullets during the Civil War
Approximately 625,000 men died in the Civil War, more Americans than in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. Although rifles were by far the war’s deadliest weapons, deadlier still was disease. For every three soldiers killed in battle, five more died from disease. In 1861, as armies massed, men once protected from disease by isolation now lived, marched and fought side by side in close proximity to one another. Camps became breeding grounds for childhood diseases such as mumps, chicken pox and measles. Soldiers on both sides contracted malaria and dysentery, and epidemics were common.

Image Courtesy Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

4. Some bullets fired during the Civil War actually fused together
The two Minie balls pictured at left collided in midair on “Bloody Hill” during the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, August 10, 1861. One is .69 caliber, the other .58 caliber; they were recovered in the early 1950s. Two bullets colliding in midair is a relatively rare occurrence, and bears witness to the heavy fighting that took place on “Bloody Hill.” Sergeant George W. Hutt, of the 1st Kansas Infantry, described the fight as “a perfect hurricane of bullets.”

 

 

Photo taken on November 17, 1865, depicting Company E, 4th US Colored Troops at Fort Lincoln, North Dakota

5. The Emancipation Proclamation did not ban slavery
Prior to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 obligated non-slave states to return escaped slaves back to their owners. Lincoln’s Proclamation was meant to punish the Confederate States, not make slavery illegal. Since Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri didn’t rebel against the Union, they were allowed to keep their slaves. Slaves who managed to escape the Confederate States into Union territory could join the military in return for a salary, but could not become Union citizens. Black soldiers eventually made up one-tenth of the Union Army. Some historians believe that this influx helped to turn the tide of the war in favor of the Union.

What interesting facts do you know about the Civil War? Please share in the comments below.

 

 

The Civil War’s Biggest Debacle You Probably Never Heard Of

Baker’s Crossing at Ball’s Bluff

As a lover of history, I’m blessed to make my home in the northwestern corner of Virginia anywhere from a few miles to a few hours drive from many of our nation’s richest historical treasures. Places like Jamestown, Monticello, Mount Vernon, Gettysburg, Antietam, Yorktown, Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, Harper’s Ferry, Fort McHenry and of course, our nation’s capital, just to name a few.

Nestled behind a residential neighborhood in Leesburg, Virginia, the small town where I grew up, is the site where one of the first major debacles of the Civil War took place–the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. Compared to places like Gettysburg, Franklin and Antietam, Ball’s Bluff is merely a skirmish in the opening days of our nation’s Civil War. Like most civil war battlefields, quiet cannons inform visitors that this hidden spot at the end of a gravel road once roared with the sound of artillery shells, the whistle of minie balls and most likely the deafening sound of the rebel yell.

Today, you can hike down the footpath past a national cemetery and eventually come to a precipice about 120 feet above the Potomac River. A ridge that proved quite deadly for Union forces on October 21, 1861.

Potomac overlook at Ball’s Bluff National Military Cemetery

The Potomac was not only a vital waterway for the transportation of troops and supplies but it held significant symbolism as the boundary between northern and southern states. “As soon as secession happened, the Potomac became the most important river in the Civil War,” said Jonathan Earle, an associate professor of history at the University of Kansas. “The Potomac was a psychological border as well as a physical one.”

In the fall of 1861, with Confederate troops camped in Manassas, Virginia, only 25 miles from the U.S. capital, control of the river was imperative for Federal troops. General McClellan, commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, didn’t want to cede control of the upper Potomac and lose access to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at Point of Rocks, Maryland and Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). Learning that Rebels were positioned at the bluff in Leesburg, McClellan wired General Charles P. Stone, stationed in Poolesville, Maryland, across the Potomac from Leesburg, suggesting that “perhaps a slight demonstration on your part would have the effect to move them.”

High ground claimed by Confederate forces at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff

General Stone sent three regiments across the river, one at Ball’s Bluff and two at Edwards Ferry a few miles downriver. There wasn’t a bridge anywhere along that stretch of the river, and it was too deep to ford, so they had to rely on boats. Only three were available at Harrison’s Island, a two-mile strip of land occupying a bend in the Potomac facing Ball’s Bluff. Stone informed McClellan, “We are a little short of boats.”

They were also short on military strategy. The man who quickly took command of the operation was the U.S. Senator from Oregon, Colonel Edward Baker. Baker was an advocate of “bold and determined” action and a close friend of President Lincoln’s. Although gifted in oratory, the colonel was deficient in military strategy allowing Union forces to be cornered against a bluff overlooking the river, with only a few skiffs available if retreat became necessary.

It was the perfect recipe for a military tragedy: sketchy information, a river too deep to ford, not enough boats and soldiers who couldn’t swim.

Confederate and Union fores engage in hand-to-hand combat as federal forces attempt to rescue the body of Colonel Edward Baker.

Unbeknownst to Baker, the Confederate commander, General Nathan G. “Shanks” Evans, had sent his men from Edwards Ferry to Ball’s Bluff. The rebels had superior position in the woods, picking off Baker’s men as they struggled to ascend the ridge. Baker himself began working artillery pieces. The rebels charged, whooping, and the fighting turned hand to hand.

The New York World reported what happened next: “One huge red-haired ruffian drew a revolver, came close to Baker, and fired four balls at the general’s head, every one of which took effect, and a glorious soul fled through their ghastly openings.” The Battle of Ball’s Bluff still remains the only military engagement where a sitting U.S. senator was killed in action.

Hundreds of Union soldiers scrambled and stumbled down the steep bluff. So many boarded a flatboat that it foundered. Soon all three skiffs had sunk. Rebels stood atop the bluff and fired at the men below. It was, the rebels would say later, like a “turkey shoot.” Whom the bullets didn’t kill, the water did. Dozens of men drowned burdened by wool uniforms, boots and heavy weapons.

Retreating Union soldiers weigh down a skiff in the Potomac River

No one could claim the Federals lacked courage however a case could be made for incompetent leadership. Ball’s Bluff inspired Congress to create the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. It’s first victim was Gen. Charles P. Stone, accused unjustly and irrationally of treason and thrown without formal charges into a prison cell in New York harbor. Stone was eventually released and returned to the Union cause, but his reputation never fully recovered from the Ball’s Bluff calamity.

The Battle of Ball’s Bluff taught the Union an important lesson about the importance of military principles, of logistics, of avenues of retreat. Coming after the Union defeat in Manassas, Ball’s Bluff foreshadowed what history has taught us–the suppression of the Confederacy would be a long and bloody endeavor. Anyone in Washington who remained unclear about the challenge facing the Union needed merely to visit the banks of the Potomac where the bodies of Union soldiers were washing up as far down river as Mount Vernon.

This modern image of the Potomac River below Ball’s Bluff National Cemetery is serene now compared to the day she swallowed so many Union soldiers in 1861.

I’m curious how many readers have heard of this tragic encounter at Ball’s Bluff before reading today’s post.

 

 

Take a Peek Inside a 19th Century Physician’s Kit

Are you familiar with the 1960s TV game show, Let’s Make a Deal? The host, Monty Hall, would ask costumed contestants, known as trades, for an item and if they could divulge it, they had they had the  opportunity to trade it for hidden prizes. Requested items could range from a safety pin to a plunger or yardstick. Contestants would bring everything they could think of, including the kitchen sink because they new knew what Monty might ask them to produce.

19th century medical bag, photo courtesy of Melnick Medical Museum

During the 19th century, rural doctors were general practitioners by necessity. They delivered babies, set broken limbs, pulled teeth, and tended to all sorts of wounds and diseases. Except in large metropolitan areas, few doctors had medical specialties. Similar to contestants on Let’s Make a Deal, rural physicians needed a variety of tools to be prepared for any situation.

Doctors traveled long distances on foot, on horseback, in wagons, buggies, ferries, canoes and boats. Traveling to a settlement might be a cross country journey on nothing more than an unmarked trail. The doctor’s bag was designed to carry the tools of the trade and withstand travel in all sorts of weather. Bags of durable oiled canvas or leather stood up to extended travel, whatever the season and terrain.

What might you find in the 19th century doctor’s bag?

Midwifery Kit, United Kingdom, 1866-1900, courtesy of sciencemuseum.org.uk

A variety of tools for everything from pulling teeth to delivering a baby to amputate a limb might be found inside. A basic medical kit would include scalpels, tweezers, razors, and scissors. They would have carried catgut for suturing and gauze bandaging as well. If they were desperate, human or horse hair, or even fiddle strings would suffice when stitching up an injured patient.

Bullet probes and extractors were very important items. They looked like bent tongs or forceps. They came in various lengths to extract a bullet, depending where it was located in the body.

Other items in the bag might include a stethoscope, glass thermometer (3 inch mercury ones started around 1867; up until then they were longer at 6 inches, sometimes 12), splints for broken bones, vaginal specula, forceps for labor and delivery, and bloodletting instruments.

 

A frontier doctor would have also needed tools for general surgical procedures of the time.

19th century general surgical kit

This would include items such as tourniquets, knives and scalpels, and saws for amputation.

The use of antiseptics would not have been on the mind of these pioneer doctors. Although Louis Pasteur’s research provided solid evidence in support of the germ theory of disease, American physician’s clung to the older view that germs were spontaneously generated. The American Medical community also opposed Joseph Lister’s research indicating that the use of carbolic acid to clean medical and surgical instruments significantly decreased the  rate of infection and mortality from surgery. Therefore American doctors took no care to clean their instruments, wear gloves, or fully seal wounds. In fact, drainage of “laudable pus” and inflammation were considered signs that a wound was healing properly.

Because the antiseptic technique was slow to be adopted in American hospitals, medical instruments continued to be manufactured with decorative etching, wooden or grooved handles, and velvet cases, like those pictured above, reflecting that hesitancy.

19th century chloroform inhaler

Doctors would have had a variety of painkillers at their disposal including laudanum, morphine and cocaine. For more on 19th century painkillers, see my post “Got Anything for the Pain, Doc?”

By 1850, most frontier doctors carried some basic anesthetics for use in extreme cases. Nitrous oxide, called Laughing Gas because of its euphoria inducing qualities, was first used as a dental anesthetic in 1844. Ether was used for general anesthesia starting in 1846, and chloroform in 1847. Chloroform anesthesia became very popular after it was administered to Queen Victoria in 1853 for childbirth.

Keeping up with the latest medical procedures would have been a high priority for rural doctors as well. The American Medical Association began in Philadelphia in 1847. Members received a quarterly newsletter announcing new methods of surgery, recent research, advice from prominent physicians on the East Coast or Europe.

Because of their dedication to their patients, frontier doctors were often the most well-known and most valued members of their communities. They likely delivered every child in the community and sat with the dying as they drew their last breath. They saw people into and out of this world, and in the meantime tried to keep them alive and healthy. Their selfless devotion to their patients and and creative ingenuity have left a legacy that continues to capture the imagination of the American people.

 

 

Letters from History: An Ex-slave Writes His Former Master

Long before God put a dream in my heart to be a writer, I loved the written word. The ability to skillfully craft your thoughts and manipulate the words to convey the exact meaning you desire is a benefit that oral communication often lacks. As a lover of history, diaries and letters from generations gone by provide glimpses into a culture and way of life that is often hard for us to understand in the 21st century. The vocabulary can tell us if the writer was educated and the tone can give insight into the character of the person who penned it.

One such letter recently caught my attention. In “A Letter from a Freedman to His Old Master,” Jourdan Anderson responds to his former master’s request that he return to the family’s plantation and help restore the farm to it’s pre-Civil War . In his letter, Jourdan’s satirical wit shines and is often compared to the dry humor of American novelist, Mart Twain.

Jourdan Anderson

Who was Jordan Anderson?

Not much is known about the former slave other than he was born “somewhere” in Tennessee in 1825.  He was later sold as a young boy of 7 or 8 years to General Paulding Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee. The General gifted Jourdan to his son Patrick who often went by his middle name, Henry. Jourdan went on to become one of the most skilled workers on the Anderson’s plantation. In 1848, her married Amanda McGregor on the Anderson’s plantation and together they had 11 children.

Similar to most slaves, the outbreak of the civil war changed Jourdan’s life very life little. However in 1864, a group of Union soldiers stumbled upon Jourdan toiling on the property and granted him, his wife and children their freedom, making the act official with papers from the Provost Marshal General of Nashville. Documents Jordan would treasure for the rest of his life.

With his new emancipation papers in hand, Jourdan and his family promptly left the plantation. An act that angered Henry so greatly he shot at his former slave repeatedly as he fled with his family, only ceasing to fire when a neighbor grabbed Henry’s pistol.

Jourdan and his family eventually made their way to Dayton, Ohio where a local abolitionist, Valentine Winters, helped him and his wife secure employment. While there, the couple’s children were enrolled in school, something the illiterate Jourdan was never allowed to do.

Now this is where the story gets really interesting.

It was here in 1865, that Jourdan received a letter from his former master, Henry Anderson. Unable to read, Jourdan took the letter to Winters and asked him to read it aloud. As it turns out, the letter audaciously invited Jourdan and his family to to return to the Big Spring plantation which had fallen into disrepair. Deeply in debt and desperate to save himself from financial ruin, Henry implored his former slave, a man he knew had the skills to save the plantation, to not only return himself but to convince other freed slaves to come with him. In the letter, Anderson promises to pay any laborers for their work and to treat them as any other freed man.

Jourdan’s original letter reprinted in the Salt Lake Tribune, August 1865.

Some people would have had a good laugh then ball up the letter and throw it away, taking delight in his former master’s change of circumstances. But Jourdan had another idea. After several days of pondering Henry’s offer, Jourdan invited Winters to his home and requested that he write a letter in response that Jourdan would dictate. At Jourdan’s request, Winters sent the following letter to the man who had enslaved his family that Jourdan himself titled, “A Letter from a Freedman to His Old Master.”

 

“A Letter from a Freedman to His Old Master”

Dayton, Ohio,
August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,
Jourdon Anderson.

From Former Slave to Media Sensation

As fate would have it, if Jourdan had crumpled up that tempting offer of employment from his former owner and gone on with his peaceful life in Ohio, we wouldn’t be talking about him today. You see, Jourdan’s friend, Valentine Winters later had the letter published in the Cincinnati Commercial under the same title. The satirical eloquence with which Jourdan politely told his boss where he could shove his offer of employment made the letter immensely popular. Eventually the letter was reprinted in papers across the country and even in Europe, making Jourdan a media sensation by today’s standards and his former master a laughing stock.

To no one’s surprise, Henry never took Jordan up on his offer to pay him 50 years of past wages up front and Jourdan’s highly publicized response likely prevented any of the family’s other slaves from being tempted back to the family’s Tennessee plantation. As a result, the crops that year were never harvested. Henry, deeply in debt, had to sell the plantation for a fraction of its worth and he died penniless and destitute a few years later at age 44.

As for Jordan, he lived and worked in Dayton for the rest of his life, dying in 1907 at the age of 81. His beloved wife, Mandy, died six years later and is buried alongside him.

What is your reaction to Jourdan’s letter? If you had been in his shoes, would you have feared any retribution?

 

The First Crack in the Presidential Glass Ceiling

victoria-woohullLong before Hilary Clinton’s 2008 run for President of the United States, Victoria Claflin Woodhull put the first crack in the presidential glass ceiling with her ground breaking run for the White House in 1872, nearly fifty years before women would even receive the right to vote. Ahead of her time, Woodhull also tried her hand at stockbroking, newspaper publishing, lobbying, public speaking, clairvoyance and philanthropy.

Although she is not especially well-known today, this 19th century iconoclast, whose unconventional lifestyle and radical political views earned her powerful enemies, attracted more media attention than a Donald Trump press conference. On April 2, 1870, she made national news when she sent a letter the New York Herald stating her declaration to run for president. In the note, she wrote:

“I am quite well aware that in assuming this position I shall evoke more ridicule than enthusiasm at the outset. But this is an epoch of sudden changes and startling surprises. What may appear absurd today will assume a serious aspect to-morrow.”

woodhull-douglass-electionTwo years later, Woodhull was officially nominated to be the presidential candidate for the Equal Rights Party, a political group she helped organize. She faced tough opposition against incumbent Republican Ulysses S. Grant and Democrat Horace Greeley. Woodhull selected Frederick Douglass, the famed ex-slave turned abolitionist as her running mate. Douglass, however,  never agreed to run with Woodhull and never participated in the campaign, choosing instead to give stump speeches for Grant.

At the time, Woodhull was criticized for what were considered to be radical beliefs by many Americans. The heart and soul of her platform was a society free a government that makes laws which interfere with the rights of any individual, man or woman, black or white, “to pursue happiness as they may choose.” In particular, she was singled out for her staunch support for free love, which at that time meant believing that women should have the freedom to choose who they wanted to marry and have the right to divorce their husbands.

Thomas Nast Cartoon, "Get Thee Behind Me, (Mrs.) Satan!" appeared February 12, 1872 in Harper's Weekly.

Thomas Nast’s Cartoon, “Get Thee Behind Me, (Mrs.) Satan!” appeared February 12, 1872 in Harper’s Weekly.

Newspapers across the country disparaged her reputation, notably by newspaper cartoonist Thomas Nast, who literally depicted her as the devil in a Harper’s Weekly illustration. All that bad publicity resulted in Woodhull being evicted from her home and many New York landlords were unwilling to rent to her. Meanwhile, Zula, Woodhull’s 11-year-old daughter, was forced to switch schools as other parents didn’t want Zula to be bad influence on their children.

As the national press tore her apart, Woodhull lashed out at allies who she believed let her down. The last straw came when she called out a former friend, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, who she claimed had had dozens of affairs. When she published these allegations in her newspaper, she was arrested for violating morality laws and spent Election Day in a jail cell.

But this is only part of the story. Woodhull’s eccentricity didn’t begin with her historic run for the presidency–it began the moment she was born. Victoria Claflin was born on September 23, 1838, to an illiterate mother and a petty criminal father. She attended school for three years off and on before dropping out. Victoria was forced by her father to travel in his painted wagon and work as a revivalist child preacher, fortune teller, faith healer, and clairvoyant who communicated with the dead.

Victoria married three times, the first, at age 15, to Canning Woodhull, a philanderer, drunk and morphine addict. Eventually, Victoria, who had two children with Canning, one of whom suffered brain damage which she blamed that on her husband’s drinking. Despite the social stigma of divorce at that time, Victoria left him and filed for divorce but kept his name for the sake of her children.

Victoria and Tennessee reveled in publicity.

Victoria and Tennessee reveled in publicity.

In 1866, Victoria married Col. James Blood, a civil war hero. Blood was a political and social radical who encouraged Victoria’s self-education and interest in women’s rights. He moved the family to New York City where Victoria was joined by her sister, Tennessee. Now reunited, the sisters worked as spiritualists, reviving the lessons learned from their childhood days as clairvoyants.  The two took the city by storm and attracted the attention of railroad and shipping millionaire, Cornelius Vanderbilt, who had an overwhelming desire to communicate with his long-dead mother. So pleased was Vanderbilt with the two women’s abilities that he set them up in business. Woodhull and Claflin opened on Broad Street in 1870 making the sisters not only the first women stockbrokers but the first women to found and run a Wall Street brokerage company. Dressed in matching outfits complete with skirts touching the tops of their boots, considered scandalously short for the times, newspapers dubbed them “the queens of finance” and “bewitching brokers.”

woodhullthweeklypaperUsing money they made in the brokerage business, in 1870 the sisters founded a radical newspaper,  Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly. By the next year, Victoria had taken a leadership role in the Karl Marx International Workingmen’s Association. The Weekly, which operated for six years, published the first English version of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’  Communist Manifesto.

The next year, Victoria became the first woman to testify before a congressional committee, addressing the House Judiciary Committee on the subject of women’s suffrage. Her argument was that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments already guaranteed a woman’s right to vote. All that was needed, she said, was for Congress to pass an act guaranteeing those rights. Susan B. Anthony was so taken with Woodhull’s argument that she asked her to repeat it at the National Woman Suffrage Association Convention later that afternoon.

As a conservative leaning person, I sure don’t agree with most of Victoria Claflin Woodhull’s political views but I do recognize that she was a brave woman who risked her name, reputation and livelihood for what she believed in. I will always be grateful for women like Woodhull who put those first few cracks in the glass ceiling.

What about you? Do you find inspiration in the life of this woman history forgot?

 

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