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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Open Hearts...break the Law! ~Tanya Hanson

How can a woman living a lie open her heart to an honest lawman?...

Women in the 19th century faced obstacles we can’t imagine. Once married, a woman’s rights almost ceased to exist. Adult women were usually lumped along with children as needing a man to take care of them. 

And women who sought professional careers outside the home faced derision as well as tremendous challenges. Female physicians at least had a chance; women founded their own all-women medical schools and hospitals.

But if she wanted to be a lawyer, well. Courts, bar associations, law schools and firms were composed entirely of men.

The first woman to graduate from an American law school was Ada Kepley, in 1869, from Union College of Law in Chicago. (It merged into Northwestern University in 1891). But other colleges admitted women only by court order. After admitting its first woman in 1885, Yale Law went right back to excluding women. Harvard Law decreed it wasn’t proper or women to use the Law Library at the same time as men.

But women fought to enter the legal profession as hard as suffragettes demanded the vote. The challenge didn’t end there. Once admitted to a law school, a woman agonized over speaking out in the lecture hall, something men did freely...or sitting quietly as befit a proper lady. After achieving her degree, she had almost the same choice: an “undignified” public courtroom or a calm private office practice, out of sight and behind the scenes.

Prevailing attitudes--among both genders--debated whether a woman lawyer was physically and mentally equal to her male counterpart. What if she--gasp--wanted marriage and kids, too?

In the 19th century, women were almost completely sealed off from the legal profession. Even into the 1920’s, women accounted for only 1.4 per cent of all lawyers.

It was this ready-made conflict that sparked my story, Open Hearts, for the brand-new Valentine anthology, Hearts and Spurs, from Prairie Rose Publications. Since I had to condense my usual babbling into about 10,000 words, I have heroine and Union College alumna Barbara Audiss in disguise as a man, a judge, therefore making it difficult for her to give her heart to handsome sheriff Keith Rakestraw.

And when Keith does find out...what to do? “Badge” Audiss is a good judge. Should he reveal her true identity and therefore invalidate all her verdicts? Besides, he’s eager to give her his heart...but he is first and foremost a lawman, and she’s broken it. Colorado says no female lawyers or judges.

I hope you fall in love with Keith and Barbara as they “open their hearts” to all the possibilities, as well as our entire collection of Valentine romances!

To honor her brother Badge’s last request, Barbara Audiss takes on his identity, and letting loose her secret will get her arrested. But keeping it prevents her from giving her heart to handsome sheriff Keith Rakestraw.

Furious at “Judge Audiss’” latest verdict, Keith discovers she’s a fake and consequences seem easy: toss her in jail. But he finds himself eager to give her his heart.

Thanks to Women in the Criminal Justice System, by Clarice Feinman.


  1. Open Hearts is a terrific story, Tanya! Barbara Audiss is the perfect mixture of cigar-smoking judge and femininity. She sure gave Keith Rakestraw a run for his money. :)

    Women of the PNW had it a whole lot better than the rest of the country, but still--no lawyers. Idaho's emblem is the only one of the 50 states designed by a woman, and many women were prominent in business, but still--no lawyers. And no judges (although Wyoming appointed the first female justice of the peace, Esther Morris, in 1869).

  2. Loved the story, in fact enjoyed all the stories in this collection. A friend in CA wrote a novel about one of the first woman lawyers in IL For myself, I'm working on a non-fiction about the early women doctors in the Pikes Peak region. These women in the early days had to be strong, but womanly also. (Most of the early women doctors in this region were married and this was before 1900.) Love these history posts, especially when they are connected to such great stories. Doris

  3. Tanya, Keith and Barbara were a hoot in "Open Hearts." That affaire de coeur sure sneaked up on the sheriff, poor guy. :-D

    Women are so accustomed to doing and being whatever they desire these days that it's sometimes difficult to imagine a time when "the weaker sex" was the weaker sex by decree. I love the perspective on history you bring to your posts. :-)

  4. Loved this post, how interesting. We women have always had to work hard to be accepted haven't we? i did enjoy 'Open Hearts' I don't think I could have bound my breasts (too darn big for that!) or smoked strong cigars to prove my point though!! Looking forward to more.

  5. Tanya, you are so lucky to be able to travel to the places you write about and see everything firsthand. I loved your stories in both anthologies. This is a very interesting post--I had not realized just how "kept down" women were from so many professions for so long.

  6. Just finished "Hearts and Spurs." Loved your story Tanya!

  7. What a challenging story for you to write, Tanya. This is going to be a good one. I haven't had a chance to read the anthology yet, but I sure am looking forward to it.

  8. THANKS to everybody for commenting today. Some of you know I've been whining about a bout of flu...well, I finally headed to the doc this morning, I'm so miserable. It's actually strep. After today in bed, rest and the meds seem to be kicking in and I'm a bit better. Sorry to be late!

  9. It's so hard to imagine what those women went through back then. So glad I was born in this century! Open Hearts sounds great!
    Hope you feel better soon, Tanya. Strep? Ugh.

  10. Hi Dora, my dearest friend and rock! Thanks as always for your support. xoxox