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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Discovering a Side of my Dad I Never Knew


(With Memorial Day coming up, I thought I’d share this personal story about my father, who was a veteran. Let’s take a few minutes to think of those currently in our military branches and all of the veterans, who through the years have served to preserve, protect and defend our country and our democracy.)

    My father served in the Army during World War II. He was stationed in Europe, was wounded, and received a Purple Heart.

     He never spoke of his service. He died in 2009. And that’s all we ever knew about it.

    Until now.

    In sorting through our parents’ attic, my sister and I discovered a small box filled with mementos related to his experiences as a soldier

    He was drafted into the Army and assigned to the 4th Infantry. We found his draft card.

                      
            
                             Dog tags                                                    Wallet

But the most interesting find was a yearbook-style history of the Word War II experiences of the 4th Infantry. I never knew these accounts were compiled and published, let alone that my father had one.

     
   

There are photos and accounts of the experiences of the 4th Infantry. In the margins at several points, my father had penciled notes of his personal experiences.

           




And in the back of the book are pages and pages of photographs of the men who fought in the various companies. Many of them look like young kids. And the sheer numbers in just the 4th Infantry begin to bring home a sense of the unimaginable numbers of service people who fought in World War II.



                    

Tucked inside the book, was one clipping:



My dad and I were never close. Finding these mementos, which were important enough for him to keep all these years, has given me an intimate look at a side of him I never knew. I wish he could have shared recollections of his war experiences with me.

 In a way, I guess, he has. 

Have you discovered a side of a parent you didn’t know about when you were growing up?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The National Road by Becky Lower

Today, a road stretches from east to west across this vast land we call America.  It has been called, since its inception, the National Road.

Today, it’s called Route 40 and is nicely paved, with rest stops along the way, signs directing a driver to points of interest along the way. It wasn’t always so civilized. It was once a vast forest that needed to be hacked out, and the actual road which stretches west from Maryland to Indiana was not accessible until well into the early 1800s. However, it was the road used by millions who were making the trek from the original eastern states to the west.  About 620 miles long, it was begun in 1754. First major highway funded by the Federal Government. Construction began in 1811 at Cumberland, MD, over the Allegheny Mountains, through southwestern PA and on to Wheeling, WV.

Plans were to continue the road as far as St. Louis, MO, but Federal funding ran dry, and construction was halted at Vandalia, IL. Today, the full road, from east in Baltimore to west in St. Louis, was designated “The Historic National Road” in 2002.


Before the road, though, people were using waterways to traverse the area. The Ohio River was a main conduit. Lewis and Clarke set off on their Corps of Discovery expedition began on the Monongahela River, which merges with the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers at Pittsburgh.  So technically, their voyage did not set out from St. Louis, as is claimed. It starts much farther east. 

Let me take you back to the year 1754 for a moment. The Ohio River Valley was a vast wilderness and was considered the western frontier of the United States. The country was divided up between the English, the French and the Spanish. Settlers on the east coast wanted more land to settle, and wished to move west. But the land was harsh and lawless. A young major named George Washington was sent on a diplomatic mission by the governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie. The French, with whom he was meeting, politely told Major Washington they were not giving up their territory, which spread from the Great Lakes to New Orleans.  Dinwiddie needed to put boots on the ground, and quickly, if Americans had any hope of expansion beyond the east coast.  In March, 1754, A fort was erected in The Forks,  which is better known today as Pittsburgh. In April of that year, Dinwiddie sent George Washington out with orders to make the fort secure, and to build up supplies. As part of his mission, he was charged with building a road that could handle heavy wagon traffic and artillery. 


The road did not come easily, however. The terrain was rough, mountainous and covered in woods and brush. The men building the road quickly exhausted from the strenuous labor and short rations.  It took them six weeks to advance the road sixty miles, to the site of the Great Meadows, near present day Uniontown, PA. While they were camped out there, Washington got word the French were advancing upon his crew.  Lt. Colonel Washington decided to take the battle to the French, and met their commander, Joseph Coulon de Villieers de Jumonville, after a long night of trekking with forty of his men through the dark treacherous forest. Ten French soldiers were killed, 21 were captured. Only one man under Washington’s command was killed in the encounter. At least one French soldier escaped, compromising the mission. So, without reinforcements, Washington could not attack The Forks. The French were deeply entrenched in the Ohio Valley and had the assistance of the native Indians. He needed to finish the road. 

This skirmish between George Washington and Ensign Jumonville was the precursor to the French and Indian War.  Washington retreated to Great Meadows and set about building a fort, which he called Fort Necessity.  When the rest of the Virginia militia arrived, along with British troops from South Carolina, George once again turned his attention to the road. Most of June was spent opening a road from Fort Necessity to Gist’s Plantation, in the direction of The Forks.  However, a large contingent of French advancing on Fort Necessity forced Washington to move back to the fort, where he ultimately surrendered to the French after days of heavy fighting and casualties. The French burned Fort Necessity and Washington returned back east. This was his first taste of military battle, and was good training for the upcoming Revolutionary War.

In 1755, General Edward Braddock, joined by Washington’s Virginia militia and native American Indian scouts, returned to the road, chopping their way to Fort Pitt. Their mission was to take Fort Duquesne from the French.  The fort was strategically placed at the confluence of the Ohio River with the Allegheny and the Monongahela. The going was rough, however, and the French got wind of the project. They attacked the road workers and mortally wounded General Braddock. 

Work on the road west continued during the seven-year long French and Indian War. This first-funded Federal road was partly responsible for the Revolutionary War, as the British tried to recoup some of their spent money by increasing the taxes on goods coming into the country. Following the Revolutionary War, work on the road continued, sanctioned by our nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson. By 1818, the road stretched from Cumberland, MD to Wheeling, WV. In 1820, Congress authorized a continuation of the road to St. Louis, MO. This road eventually became the first leg of the long journey west through St. Louis and St. Joseph, MO and on to Oregon and California.

As an aside, to celebrate my birthday month, I am offering my novella, An Unconventional Courtship, for free to anyone who wants to find out how Charlotte and George Fitzpatrick met and feel in love. You can download your copy here: https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/wPvUwkuJ


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Writing Tips


By Kristy McCaffrey



As a writer, I always appreciate advice from other authors. But when I’m asked for my own writing tips, I glance over my shoulder, because surely there’s a famous author standing behind me. Still, there are a few bits of advice I can offer.

Surround yourself with people better than you.
This is how you’ll improve. And you can always improve.

Network
Friends make the world a sweeter place. Friends can give you endless ideas about how to move forward in your career. And, finally, to get support, you must give support. Read your friend’s books. You’ll learn much.

Trust your instincts and intuition.
Follow your creative impulses—they’ll always be right and true. But be more business-like and discerning during the editing process and the subsequent marketing of a book. Don’t crumble at the first sign of criticism.

Learn the craft.
This will be an ongoing process that never ends. You’ll make mistakes. Learn from them and move on.

The 80% Rule
If a story is 80% good enough, I send it off to the editor. With good editing, I strive to bring it up to 95%. It’s impossible to reach perfection, so stop tweaking and release your creation to the world.

Be authentic.
As an author, as a writer, and as a person. You are your writing. At the same time, your job is to be as invisible as possible within the work itself. Dig into your characters and plot. Embrace research.

Follow your own path.
Your journey won’t look like anyone else’s, so don’t compare yourself to another author.

Have fun.
If playing with words and stories wasn’t buried deep in your bones, you wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. There are no limitations, really, so don’t place any on yourself.

Be humble. Be curious. Be grateful.



Connect with Kristy





Monday, May 13, 2019

FINDING RESEARCH GEMS IN ODD PLACES


Previously published in 2017.

I love history. That’s no surprise, of course, to anyone who knows me. I not only enjoy writing about the past but researching those bits and pieces that make the historical story I’m writing realistic, interesting and accurate.

Research comes in many forms. I can spend hours in a library, hunting through books. Or online, looking for one particular fact. But my favorite type of research is the kind I didn’t plan.

You’ve probably had the same experience. You stop to grab lunch at a restaurant off the freeway and discover the nearby town has, for more than a hundred years, hosted a festival in celebration of prickly pears. Or that there is a fully restored Civil War-era mental hospital only a few blocks away.

In my trips to research a story, I’ve come across some fun facts. Did you know there was a salt war in Texas? Neither did I was researching for this blog. Bonus: I discovered the Texas Historic Sites Atlas while looking for a picture of the marker.

Were you aware there was a Revolutionary War battle in St. Louis, Missouri? That’s right, halfway up the mighty Mississippi. The Battle of Fort San Carlos was fought when British-led Sioux, Sac, Fox and Winnebago warriors attacked a newly built French entrenchment in May of 1780. That historical fact came from a local newspaper article my mother forwarded to me.

Or that the first major Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi was The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, just south of Springfield, MO. I learned that when I drove by the exit sign off the interstate. Though the north “won”, they were exhausted and low on ammunition, so they retreated to Springfield, giving the Confederates control of southwestern Missouri for the duration of the War.

Ever heard of Crash, Texas? It’s a town that was built for the express purpose of allowing spectators to witness a train crash up close and personal. A friend sent me that news story.

Then there’s the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race, begun in 1848 and revived in 1977. I found out about it when researching the coach stops along the Santa Fe Trail after visiting the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri.

I love running across obscure information while I’m researching something else. And you can find some of the most interesting—and mostly useless—tidbits in some unlikely places. ebay® is one place that surprised me. I found some cool info on china and crystal and Texas artifacts there while researching my release, Wild Texas Hearts.


Now, please excuse me. There’s a museum website I want to peruse.

What’s the most unusual fact you discovered in the most unlikely place?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Book Review: A Knight's Choice and Other Romances by Lindsay Townsend

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Blurb:

Six wonderfully sweet medieval short romances in a single anthology. Perfect feel-good reading!

A Knight’s Choice—Morwenna must marry to satisfy her family’s ambitions. Her choice is one of two brothers, but which?

Midsummer Maid—The romance and magic of Midsummer works for everyone—including a beautiful dairymaid and a less-than-handsome woodsman.

The Philosopher and the Herbalist—A light-hearted Not-Beauty and Not-Beast tale, with a romantic twist.

The Bridal House—Alis is reluctant to marry. Her betrothed presents her a beautiful bridal house that might help her see matters in a happier light.

The Seal of Odin—A dark tale of romance set during the age of the Vikings and early Christianity. Sometimes, love is found where we least expect it.

Ugly Meg—Once pretty, now scarred, Meg lives and works in seclusion in Bath—but other jealous guild members are plotting against her. Will fellow carpenter Matthew Warden come to her aid? If so, what will be his price?

My Reviews:

A Knight’s Choice
What's a "seed-pot" woman to do when faced with a future with one of two brothers and not much of a voice in which one she gets (ah, daddy's ambitions!)? Travel with both of them back to their home and quietly watch, observe... and discover who they truly are. And maybe find a way to make the choice for herself. Swoony cute story!

Midsummers Maid
Clare and Haakon have a mix of a beauty and the beast and a damsel in distress story that is charmingly cute. Both outsiders in their own ways, things happen on a midsummers night that allows fate to step in and entwine the two together. She's got a chance to show her grace and courage and acceptance, gifting him with exactly what he needs, and he's got a chance to be provider, protector, and leader, gifting her with exactly what she needs. Love feeling their connection and see their love blossom.

The Philosopher and the Herbalist
Super short story but with a huge gut-catching message I don't want to spoil. Definitely a beautiful truth we all need a reminder of, both sides of the coin....

The Bridal House
This is a quick glance at Alis discovering her hea. Short and sweet.
And I want her house. (sojealousnotjealous)

The Seal of Odin
A twisted story with a gentle lesson in forgiveness and faith. I wasn't sure what to expect, but didn't guess what happened!

Ugly Meg
Whew!! What a way to end this little anthology of stories. Meg had a beautiful life, and then it was taken away from her... or so she thought, until someone found his way past her fears and hurts.
This was another story that had a few surprises in it (I was not expecting the "special items" haha) and delivered a sucker-punch of a beautiful lesson - seeing deeper beyond skin deep and finding the beauty there that shines through. Definitely a story to remember and take the truths deeper inside.

What I truly loved with this whole group of stories is the common thread weaved through each of them in some design. Seeing past skin deep or other's judgement and pursuing what's truly valuable and worthy. This is a great set of stories to enjoy and absorb truths from.

Purchase Links:
     


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

McGuffey Readers – Student textbooks of the 19th Century by Kaye Spencer #PrairieRosePubs #OldWest #Education


Long before Fun with Dick and Jane and Run Spot Run, there were McGuffey Readers. 

McGuffey Readers—these two words immediately bring to mind the ubiquitous Old West one-room schoolhouse. Well, for me, anyway. I have a set of these Readers. While they aren't first editions, they are true-to-the-original reprints. (enlarge the images to clarify the small print)



So what, exactly, are McGuffey Readers? They are a set of six student textbooks leveled for grades first through sixth. The set also includes a spelling book and a Primer (for the emerging reader). These textbooks were popular in America from the mid-19th century through the mid-20th century. McGuffey Readers and the 18th century textbooks, the New England Primer, provided the educational foundation for countless numbers of students. The McGuffey Readers were so successful that they sold more than 120 million copies between 1836 and 1960.¹



The man who created the Readers was William Holmes McGuffey. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1800 to Scottish emigrant parents, and he died in 1873. His mother was his first teacher, and he was an intelligent and curious learner.

William Holmes McGuffey - Image credit below


While he was still quite young, opportunity came his way, and a benevolent preacher took William McGuffey into his home. McGuffey was now in a city where he was able to study surveying, mathematics, and Latin. This gave him the necessary knowledge to enter college, which he eventually did, but his finances were poor, and it took him some time to earn his degrees.

Now, backing up a bit, McGuffey took a job as a teacher in a one-room school house when he was fourteen. He faced the challenge, as did all one-room schoolhouse teachers, of having students ranging in ages from six to twenty-one. He had few resources. The Bible was the primary reading material, since textbooks were not common.

Over the years, and in between his teaching jobs, he attended two colleges, earned his degrees, and eventually gained a position as a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He taught at other universities during his lifetime, too. He was married to Harriet Spining, a judge’s daughter, and they had five children. He was a philanthropist of great generosity. After Harriet died in 1850, he remarried.

McGuffey was a professor at Miami University when he began working on the first four Readers. The content included his “own writings, clippings from periodicals, and selections from standard works”².

Standing on the little portico at the north door, McGuffey assembled the children of the neighborhood for regular reading classes. In his dining room he tested his original theories about teaching children. He noted the pieces they liked best and carefully watched their pronunciation. He seemed to love and understand children.²

McGuffey Reader - Primer level - example pages

William McGuffey put together the first four books, and his brother Alexander completed the fifth and sixth books. The books were designed to become increasingly challenging as the student advanced through the levels. Slate work enhanced the readings. Family lore has it that Mrs. McGuffey authored the Primer, but she kept this a secret out of modesty and delicacy².

The Readers were first published in 1836-1837 and the next edition came out in 1879. This was when they underwent revisions in content and approach to stay current with the mores and societal beliefs of the time. For instance, the original editions reflected McGuffey’s strong Calvinist values with the themes of righteousness and piety written throughout, whereas the 1879 editions reflected a more secularized slant on morality and values. It is interesting to note that by 1879, the Readers still carried McGuffey’s name, but he didn’t approve the content and he didn’t contribute to the revisions.

McGuffey Reader - Spelling book - example pages


Two contributing reasons for the decline in popularity of the McGuffey Readers was schools needed textbooks of less overtly religious content, and the rise of consumable workbooks caught on. However, McGuffey Readers didn’t disappear completely. They still have a following in the private school setting and homeschooling environment.






McGuffey Reader - Second level - example pages


McGuffey Reader - Sixth level - example pages
Hamlet's Soliloquy is on the right-hand side.
  
My maternal grandmother (b. 1907) used McGuffey Readers during her first years of teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in northeastern Colorado (c. 1925). Once she moved to the 'city' (Fort Morgan, Colorado), the 'Dick and Jane' books were the books she taught from. I have many of those books, too.

Are you familiar with McGuffey Readers? I’d love to hear your stories.

As I don't send a newsletter, you might consider following me here:
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Until next time,

Kaye Spencer




References:

¹Lynch, Matthew. “The Story of American Education and the McGuffey Readers.” The Advocate. 2 September 2018. Web. 14 May 2018. http://www.theedadvocate.org/story-american-education-mcguffey-readers/

²Smith, William E. “W. H. McGuffey.”  Miami University, miamioh.edu/cca/mcguffey-museum/. 1973. Web. 14 May 2018.


Library of Congress. Rare Book & Special Collections Reading Room, Selected Special Collections, McGuffey Reader Collection. 15 November 2006. Web. 14 May 2018. https://www.loc.gov/rr/rarebook/coll/152.html.


“McGuffey Readers”. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 27 March 2018. Web. 14 May 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McGuffey_Readers.


Images:
McGuffey Readers: Kaye Spencer’s personal collection

William Homes McGuffey - Unknown (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Holmes_McGuffey.jpg), „William Holmes McGuffey“, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:PD-1923





Tuesday, May 7, 2019

19th Century Mourning Rituals and Customs


C.A. Asbrey


In the 19th century the average life expectancy was much shorter than it is today. That was not to say that everyone pegged out in their fifties, but rather that the high rate of infant mortality dragged down the average age by a considerable margin. As did infection, childbirth, and a lack of access to modern medicine. If you lived in a major city, you could expect to see funeral most days, The Victorians lived with death in a way their ancestors would recognise, and most of the rituals and traditions came directly from their own past. True to form though, they added their own twist as modern inventions allowed them to immortalize their loved one with photographs, trains allowed corpses to be transported over long distances, and sewing machines gave people more access to the clothing required to dress according the rigid strictures of the day.

In a less secular society, many were convinced of their place in heaven, and were therefore more afraid of not being properly mourned than of death itself. Not being mourned meant that not only were you not loved, it spoke of a lack of social position, and told the world that your life didn't matter. The romanticism of the time congealed into a morbid ritualism. A show of exaggerated grief was a mark of gentility, and the new middle classes embraced it with enthusiasm. 

The rules for who wore what, and for how long, were complicated, and were outlined in popular journals or household manuals. They gave copious instructions about appropriate mourning etiquette. If your second cousin died, and you wanted to know what sort of mourning clothes you should wear and for how long, you consulted The Queen or Cassell’s or other popular manuals. Not all deaths required the same length of mourning. It was important to get it right.

During the American Civil War the unprecedented loss of life meant that many soldiers went unidentified, and were buried at the site of the battle. The prohibitive cost of transporting the bodies home were also beyond the reach of many families. One Connecticut father remarked to a local newspaper that transporting his son’s remains from Washington, DC, to Winsted cost $125.00—almost $2,000 in today’s money—and the trip was not possible without “the personal attendance of some friend, and every step is attended by some incidental expense.” This meant that those who were being repatriated were treated as a kind of surrogate target for mourning. Crowds flocked to the trains, at every stage of the journey, to pay their respects to the men they never knew in an outpouring of public grief which marked their own personal loss - a loss they couldn't mark with the burial of their own loved one, as he was lost in some distant battlefield.      
Corpse preserver 
Women were seen as vessels for grief, and the restrictions on their dress and behavior were greater than they were for men. For men a dark suit would do, and they were able to back to their normal clothes in a very short period of time. The black applique to the lapels, which is still seen today as a fashion item, first came to prominence during the French Revolution among mourning Aristocrats in England. This could be worn either with, or without, the addition of a black crepe armband. The armband first came into use in England in the 18th century when regiments began wearing a fixed uniform for the first time. Before the 18th century not all servants or soldiers wore a standardized dress, and many soldiers only shared a common type of coat or headgear. The armband should be worn on the top of the left arm, and should be worn for a period of a year. Some army regiments and sportsmen wear them on the right so as not to cover insignia, or to be confused with a leader's armband. The use of an armband was a handy way for soldiers, servants, and the poor to signal their mourning, without the cost of replacing their uniforms or normal clothing. A black diamond of fabric could also serve the same function.  Children were not expected to wear mourning clothes beyond the day of funeral itself, and girls often wore white dresses on the day. 
Women were not so lucky.

It's a popular misconception that everyone wore black to the funeral. In fact, that would have been considered very rude. Muted shades were suitable, but deep black was reserved for the family only. When attending a funeral, men would wear a black armband, and women would wear a black cockade on their left arm. 
Note the black cockades on the women and the armbands on the men

Black was their shield from society at a time of grief. It gave them space and time to come to terms with their loss. Widows were not even expected to shop for the basics, with relatives and neighbors stepping in to assist. The house was kept quiet, clocks were stopped at the time of death in the room where the deceased was laid out for visiting. Mirrors were covered in black crepe, blinds were drawn, doors were dressed with a wreath and more black crepe, stationary had a black border, and door bells were muted. It was even known for the street outside to be strewn with reeds to mute the sound of traffic as it traveled by the home of the bereaved. The Victorian street was a very, very noisy place - probably more so than the modern version, and the mourning family had to be relieved of the stress of the cacophony. Visitors would bring flowers and cards trimmed with a black border. Some may even sign a book of condolence.     

'The whole rhythm of dress conventions could be disturbed by funerals which did not obey the dictates of the calendar. 'The finer shades of mourning', we learn, 'were the test of the Perfect Lady.' Even at weddings, where only brides worse veils, many wedding dresses were grey or lavender coloured, not white, as a sign of half mourning.' [Briggs, 1988: 265]      

Businesses were quick to capitalize on the need for a full mourning wardrobe, making much of the fact that it was considered bad luck to keep mourning clothes. It made sure there was repeat business. Many older women followed Queen Victoria's lead and stayed in deep mourning for the rest of their lives. That in itself could create a problem, as black crepe tended to rust, before the invention of aniline dyes. Not only that, but the old black dye was based on arsenic and wore off on the wearer. The most dangerous dyes were green, red, blue and black.    

Writing to a correspondent in 1880, the paper had informed a young reader: 'Very little children are not "put into mourning" as it is termed ...'. In 1888 'a lady dressmaker' informed readers that widows need not wear a mourning cap and veil after the first six months but a large muslin collar should be worn for a year.' [Dixon, 1989: 145 giving extracts from the Girl's Own Paper ]

Mourning pertaining to women was in three stages: deep mourning, second mourning, and half mourning.

Mourning a spouse generally would last one to 2 ½ years

For a parent: 6 months to a year - Six months in crepe trimmings, three in plain black, and three in half-mourning.” Additionally, society activities would be given up for at least three months, although it was more likely they would be given up for nine months. 

For children over 10 yrs old: 6 months to a year

For children under 10 yrs: 3 to 6 months

Infants: 6 weeks and up

For siblings: 6 to 8 months Crepe for three months, plain black for two months, and half mourning for one month. Additionally, society activities would be given up for three months.

For aunts and uncles: 3 to 6 months - No crepe, but plain black fabric with jet ornaments. 

For cousins: 6 weeks to 3 months

For aunts or uncles related by marriage: 6 weeks to 3 months - Mourning was conducted without crepe, as it was for great aunts and uncles. 

Grandparents: 6 months - The first mourning (crepe) was worn for three months; second mourning, black without crepe, also worn for three months; and half-mourning for three more months. Additionally, society activities would be given up for three months.

For more distant relatives and friends: 3 weeks and up

In deep mourning, women were to wear black, and it had to be a dull hue, and not a lively black. Full veils allowed women not to worry about tears, mottled complexions, or other concerns such as hollowed out eyes through lack of sleep. Widow's bonnets had a long veil at the back and a shorter one at the front to cover the face. Crepe, should never be worn “by ladies or gentlemen just above the elbow, on the sleeve of ulsters and greatcoats. To do so would be very vulgar.”    

Jewelry was very dark, made of stones such as jet, or garnets. Alternatively, the hair of the deceased could be woven into intricate designs or chains, and silhouettes or other likenesses were acceptable. Mother of pearl was another popular material.
Jet mourning jewelry

By the second mourning, duller black silk fabrics were permitted and widows were allowed to divest their dress of some of their crepe, although not all, in order not to appear to have recovered too quickly. Crepe could be restricted to trimming dresses, capes and bonnets.
Half mourning was the last period, and it was characterized by the lightening of mourning clothes with white, gray, or lavender. Other colors were permitted in half mourning, such as dark blue, dark purple, gray, and lavender, gradually becoming lighter in shade as the period went on. The end of the period was called 'slighting mourning' and meant a return to normal clothing.   

In some ways ritualized mourning was as good as it was bad. Women, in particular were forced to constrain their enjoyment of life by social mores, instead of following their own instincts as to when they should return to normality. In others, it gave people space, and the visibility, for people to be understanding of their grief. It has to be said that most of this was the preserve of the rich. The poor could afford almost none of this, and certainly didn't have the luxury of not carrying on as normal.       

WW1 saw the end of many of these traditions and rituals. In the UK there wasn't a single family who did not lose a young man in the war, and other countries were also hit hard. Then the flu pandemic of 1918 killed even more - some estimates make the loss up to 100 million people. The obscene loss of life, coupled with the need to keep the country functioning meant that people simply didn't have the time to shut themselves away from the world. Life had to go on, and people moved on to a much simpler regime. We can be sure of one thing though. In the 19th century nobody would avoid a bereaved person, or wonder why they were finding it difficult to move on. There are still things we can learn from the Victorians.       



   
Innocent Bystander EXCERPT
A vacant-looking man with prominent yellow teeth walked into her field of vision, striding beyond the blinding sun and dragged her roughly from the horse. She had expected to be searched and had ruthlessly bound her body with bandages to try to flatten and conceal her breasts, but the man merely patted down her sides before turning his attentions to her jacket. He pulled out the pistol which had been loosely placed in her pocket and slapped his way down her legs. She was instantly glad she had foregone the Derringer she usually wore at her ankle. A concealed weapon was too risky.
“He’s clean.”
“Well, boy. It seems like you’re gonna get your wish, but if you’ve been messin’ with us and you ain’t Quinn’s kin, you’re gonna regret it. He don’t like to be messed with.”
Abigail felt her arms grabbed as she was roughly turned around and her carefully dirtied hands were bound behind her back, the rope biting deeply into her skin as it was pulled tight. They must have seen her wince as it provoked a chorus of laughter which rang in her ears.
“Looks like this life’s a bit too rough for you, sonny.”
 A thick, smelly bag was thrust over her head, obliterating the world, before she was lifted back onto her little colt and she felt herself led off to face the rest of the gang.