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Thursday, January 30, 2020

New Release — A Dangerous Liberty (Women of Destiny) by Mary Sheeran

World-renowned composer and pianist Elisabeth Winters returns to the United States from Europe only to discover her life is in terrible danger. Though she wants nothing but to perform her concerts, she finds herself embroiled in layers of political and personal turmoil that have intertwined through the years she’s been abroad. The stakes are high—her life is in certain jeopardy.
When she meets handsome William de la Cuesta under odd circumstances, she can’t deny her immediate feelings of trust. Yet, there is something that disturbs her about him, as well…a memory she can’t quite grasp. How can she trust someone she doesn’t know—someone like de la Cuesta, who could have everything to gain by her murder? Does she have a choice?
As Elisabeth invokes controversy on many levels, her world becomes even more chaotic with the treachery she discovers taking place in her own inner circle. As the daughter of a prominent senator who was murdered many years before, she takes up the causes he fought and died for—and discovers those powerful men who killed him are now out for her blood, as well.
In a post-Civil War America, can one woman fight to vanquish the same injustice her father battled? Elisabeth believes she can—for love of family, country, and William de la Cuesta—the love of her life— taking the risk of A DANGEROUS LIBERTY is worth everything!


     “Is this your night shirt, señor?” she asked.
     His smile narrowed, he cocked his head, and he reached up one long arm so that his hand could grab the back of his own neck. He looked sheepish.
     “My good clean one,” he said, looking back at her and grinning.
     She saw her clothes then, hanging over wooden chair backs near the fire. Her blue velvet riding habit was probably ruined, but her petticoats, stockings, and drawers would survive. How good of him to take care of her things.
     He had gone from sheepish to embarrassed, but when he looked up through tousled locks like a bad boy caught with a firecracker, his eyes gleamed with some amusement.
     “Señor,” she said, gravely, “did you undress me?”
     He shrugged. “Someone had to. You were soaked.”
     She regarded him for a moment, trying to guess what he was thinking. She wondered what she was thinking! Did she mind that this very handsome man had undressed her and rubbed her down without her even being conscious? She looked at his huge hands, placed palms down on his muscular legs.
     She mustered a nervous smile and stuck her hand out of the covers.
     “Señor, thank you for saving my life,” she said sweetly. “I am Elisabeth Winters.”


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Which is which? The medieval Succubus and Incubus

The beliefs surrounding incubi and succubi in the middle ages were complex. Both were held to be supernatural beings but of which sex? It seems these demons, who sought to tempt mankind by seducing women and men into having sex with them, could be male or female at will.

As a female sexual demon, a succubus, the creature would beguile a man into intercourse and so obtain the man's seed. (The word succubus derives from the Latin 'to lie under'.)

Then, appearing as a handsome male spirit, an incubus, the demon would make love to a woman and spread the seed in her. (The word incubus comes from the Latin verb 'to lie upon'.) In medieval times, the wizard Merlin was believed to have been born as a result of a demon-woman mating.

Taking these ideas, I made the incubus in my Dark Maiden deliberately androgynous - eerily beautiful but possibly of either gender.

Here's a brief excerpt:

Somewhere during their kissing her anger vanished.
      From inside the hut she heard a broken sobbing. Father William, she hoped, finally poleaxed with remorse.The rowans shook with a sudden wind and the rooks cawed. She kissed Geraint again. Sensing the chill air trembling around them, she turned.
      A sour-faced, beautiful being, neither male nor female, appeared immediately in front of them in the clearing beside the priest’s house.
      “I cannot stand against you both.” With this complaint, the incubus scowled and pouted, like a young virgin of either sex. The winter light shimmered on the demon’s flawless skin, lit hair that at times looked golden, at times black and revealed a lissome body clothed in a white robe. Or was the long, sweeping tunic red?

Read Chapter One

(The picture of Lilith is from a painting by John Collier.)

Lindsay Townsend

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Book review: One Snowy Knight by Deborah Macgillivray

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Beautiful Skena MacIain, Lady of Craigendan, is on the verge of losing everything she holds dear. With her husband killed at the battle of Dunbar, and the men of Craigendan slain or captured, her small holding is protected by only the women, young boys, and old men who are left. A neighboring chieftain has set his sights on Skena, and she fears that he’ll take Craigendan by force during this coming Yuletide season. Skena needs a miracle, a wish-come-true granted by Cailleach, the Lady of Winter…but things are never so easy as just making a wish…

When Skena’s young son and daughter find a wounded knight in a blinding snowstorm, she fights against the hope she begins to feel. They’ve wished for a protector—but can Noel de Servian be that man? As Skena nurses the handsome warrior back to health, even she begins to believe he might be the salvation for her little keep…and more, he might hold the key to her heart.  In a season of joy, Skena soon learns he carries a dark secret that could shake her home—and her heart—to the very core...

My review:

Give me a knight in battle-scarred armor with a dream he refuses to give up, and I'll be his damsel.

There is so much going on from the first pages of the story, you can feel the overwhelming burden that lays on Skena's shoulders and empathize with her struggles to keep hold of her dreams and desires.  However, just like any true warrior woman, despite the mounting struggles, she refused to give up and give in.  I adored her as a mother, and melted with her as she fell for her knight, and identified with her as a strong woman.

Noel de Servian survived years of war clinging to his humanity and future wishes, only to find his own weighty burden from the last battle may destroy all he clings to.  However, just like any true warrior, the moment he sees the opportunity presented before him, he goes above and beyond to lay claim to his reward of family and home and peace.  I loved his confidence in claiming Skena and her children, and his powerful desire to protect and provide for them... no matter the enemy.

So much was happening in the story with all the adventure, adversaries, worries, and intrigue, but through it all you could also clearly discern Noel and Skena's deep desire grow beyond their instant attraction and solidify into something strong and beautiful.  All the trials served their purpose, to meld the two together stronger than before.  Noel loving on Skena's children was also shown in a variety of ways that left little doubt just where he stood with them, and it's always heartmelting to see a big strong man be gentle with little ones. Another thing that stood out to me was the family bonds with the Challon men.  Brotherhood like theirs was something unique, and they cherished and nurtured it like the treasure it is.

I savored my time back in Scotland with the Dragons of Challon and I'm looking forward to discovering who's story is up next.  In the mean time, I have some novellas to check out.

Purchase links:
Kindle               Trade Paperback

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Voting in Colonial America

Not only is 2020 an election year, it is also the 100th anniversary U.S. women winning the right to vote. In recognition of this milestone, I will be writing a series of blogs on the history of the vote. This is the first one.

In 1607, the first permanent English colony in North America was founded at Jamestown, Virginia. From that time on, voting rights have been all over the map – literally.

As the colonies were established, common English beliefs about race, gender, judgement, wealth, religion, and property ownership influenced who was considered eligible to vote. There was much variability across time and place. These beliefs did not manifest as universal suffrage in any of the colonies. In some places, free blacks, Native Americans and/or women who owned property could vote, but these were the exceptions.

“Bacon’s Rebellion” resulted in far-reaching and long-lasting changes in the social order and enfranchisement. In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon led a group of disgruntled frontiersmen, indentured servants, free blacks and enslaved people in a revolt against the colonial governor, Sir William Berkeley. Bacon alleged that the governor was corrupt and protected the Indians for his own benefit 
NPS image

After chasing Berkley from Jamestown, and eventually burning the Virginia colonial capitol, forces sent from England ultimately suppressed the rebellion.

The government was put under stronger royal control. Property requirements for voting were restored. Indentured servitude was eliminated, while hardening the codes for African slavery and restricting the rights of free blacks. This was done in an effort to divide the races and prevent coalitions that could lead to future uprisings. Within a few decades, all colonies had enacted similar laws preventing enslaved persons and free blacks from voting.  

 Colonies with large Protestant majorities often denied the vote to Catholics and Jews. After 70 years of the Maryland Toleration Act requiring religious tolerance, Maryland barred Catholics from voting in 1718. Nearly three decades later, in 1737, the New York General Assembly disenfranchised Jews. At that time, four colonies prevented Jews and five prevented Catholics from voting.  

By 1732, each of the 13 colonies had imposed some type of restrictions requiring voters to be landowners, taxpayers, and/or men who owned a substantial amount of personal property.

Voters in colonial times often had to travel long distances to a courthouse or other polling place, which meant incurring expenses for food and lodging while losing time from earning their livings. Presumably, this discouraged turnout, especially of rural voters. However, election days became social occasions in many places. Amidst much eating and drinking, the qualified voters would gather and designate their preferences by standing or voice votes, making each person’s choices public. Some colonies published lists showing how each person had voted.

More formal voting procedures were enacted in some colonies. Charles S. Sydnor described Virginia’s practices in his book, Gentlemen Freeholders: Political Practices in Washington's Virginia, this way:
 As each freeholder came before the sheriff, his name was called out in a loud voice, and the sheriff inquired how he would vote. The freeholder replied by giving the name of his preference. The appropriate clerk then wrote down the voter's name, the sheriff announced it as enrolled, and often the candidate for whom he had voted arose, bowed, and publicly thanked him.

Initially only a few colonies used some form of ballot, but over time, secret paper ballots replaced public voting.

To be continued in my February blog.

Ann Markim

    Buy Links:      Paperback at Amazon    Amazon Kindle

Monday, January 20, 2020

Howe & Hummel: The Crookedest and Most Successful Lawyers of the Gilded Age

If you've read my novel Courting Anna, with its female lawyer protagonist, you'll suspect that I have a special interest in lawyers in history.  Whether it's 19th century women lawyers in America, like Belva Lockwood and Clara Shortridge Foltz, or the fictional lawyers who inhabit Victorian novels, like Dickens's Jaggers and Anthony Trollope's Mr. Chaffanbrass, I love to read about them.  One of the most fascinating pairs in 19th century legal history, though, is the notorious Howe & Hummel, who dominated a certain part of the legal landscape in Gilded Age New York -- the most crooked and the most sensational.

The partners were, in many ways, opposites.  William Howe, born in England but always a bit elusive about his past, was extremely tall and stout, and flashy, loving to wear diamonds.  Theatrical in the courtroom, he specialized in criminal cases, and was on retainer for many of the most notorious crooks of his time.  Abraham Hummel, on the other hand, was barely five feet tall, and much less dramatic in his self-presentation, but equally effective.  Specializing in civil cases, he also maintained a sideline in blackmail.  He began as a clerk in Howe's mailroom but within six years, and with apparently no formal legal education, he had risen to full partnership.

William Howe

Howe and Hummel believed in bluster -- and weren't terribly concerned with the truth.  Their clients ranged from famous fence "Marm" Mandelbaum, through whose warehouse many of the stolen goods in New York passed, notorious burglars like John "Red" Leary, and many of the leaders and followers involved in the Whyos and other "gangs of New York" of the day.  Pickpockets and corrupt Tammany politicians could be found side by side in their dingy waiting room located conveniently across the street from the criminal courts building.

But their clients weren't limited to the criminal classes by any means.   Wealthy men fearing blackmail over their extracurricular activities would hire them too -- assuming the blackmailers hadn't retained them first.  Evelyn Nesbit, the chorus girl over whom millionaire Harry K. Thaw shot celebrated architect Stanford White, was a client.  So were other figures of the stage of the day, like actresses Lily Langtry and Lillian Russell and actor Sir Henry Irving, as well as the dancer known as "Little Egypt," who introduced the "hoochee coochee" to the American stage. Mark Twain hired Hummel, as well -- as did respected organizations like the Actors' Fund and the French Society of Dramatists.   As for Howe, in a case perhaps of knowing your enemy, he was invited onto the team that revised the state penal code in 1882.

Abraham Hummel

When Howe died in 1902 he was eulogized as the "dean of the criminal bar," Hummel fell victim to the rising tides of reform.  William Travers Jerome, a cousin of Winston Churchill's on his mother's side, was determined to bring Hummel down, and in July 1906 he was suspended from the practice of law and permanently disbarred. The following year he was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the courts and was imprisoned in the notorious Blackwell's Island.  Released in 1908, he set sail for England, where he lived in luxury on Grosvenor Square, until his death in 1926.

For Howe and Hummel, crime certainly paid.   You can read more about them in Richard Rovere's Howe & Hummel: Their Scandalous History and Cait Murphy's Scoundrels in Law.  I myself am looking forward to reading The Confessions of Artemas Quibble, a satirical roman-a-clef about the pair written by Arthur Train, who as district attorney faced off against both of them.

Releasing later this month from Prairie Rose, make sure to look out for A Dangerous Liberty by Mary Sheeran!   My next month's post will be a Q&A with Mary.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Appalachian Trail

Even though a lot of the country is still in the grips of winter, it's never too early to begin making plans for your spring and summer family trips. If you live anywhere in the eastern part of the country, consider hiking some or all of the great Appalachian Trail. 

Stretching from Georgia to Maine, this 2,190-mile long trail has been developed in bits and pieces since 1921, when Benton MacKaye proposed joining existing trails together to form one long trail. You can imagine the coordination that state, local and federal governments had to navigate to accomplish this feat, but the trail was finally completed in 1937. President Johnson signed into law the National Trails Systems Act in 1968, and the Appalachian Trail became the first such trail in the system. It is now a scenic trail under the protection of the federal government, the last bit of the corridor finally added in 2014. The Appalachian Trail holds the distinction of being the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. 

Each year, thousand of hikers come to test their mettle against the trail. There are three approaches to the trail if you plan to become a thru-hiker and want to go the whole way in one season. You can start from either end or from the middle. Only about one in four make it the entire distance, the average number being around 2,700 each year. The trail is at times strenuous, beautiful, peaceful and challenging. Thru-hikers are not the only ones who enjoy the trail each year. Over 3 million people use a portion of the trail each year. There are thousands of volunteers who devote their time to keep the trail in shape. For its entire length, the trail is marked by a white 2 by 6 inch blaze on the trees. Side trails are marked with a blue blaze.

Beginning around mid-March, hikers begin the trek at Springer Mountain, GA. Spring arrives earlier in the south, making this a logical approach to take. Maine can be arrived at by September or October if all goes as planned. Usually this route gets clogged with hikers starting out and won’t winnow down until about May, so plan accordingly for sleeping accommodations and the like. In order to avoid the trudging masses, and the party atmosphere, it’s become more and more popular to start in the middle, somewhere around Harper’s Ferry, WV and go either north to Katahdin Mountain in Maine, or head south to Springer Mountain, GA. Maryland and Virginia are the easiest states to hike, with New Hampshire and Maine the most difficult. In addition to some of the best scenery on the east coast of the United States, you’ll also see a variety of wildlife, the American black bear being the largest. Snakes, deer, moose, elk, bobcat, coyote, fox, raccoon and other small species share the forest with the hikers.

In 1948, Earl Shaffer of York , PA claimed himself to be the first thru-hiker. His claim was later challenged, but it brought attention to the trail. He later claimed to be the first to hike the trail from the north to the south, the first to claim to have done the trail in both directions. When Shaffer was 80 years old, he hiked the trail once more. The first woman to complete the trip on her own was 67-year old Emma Gatewood, in 1955. She hiked from south to north in 146 days. In 2017, Dale Sanders became the oldest to complete the trail at age 82. 

If the thought of hiking the entire trail is on your bucket list but time and stamina are not, why not do the fourteen-state hike, and just touch down in each state for a short time? The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has selected convenient points of entry in each state and selected some of the best hikes each state has to offer. A 14-state challenge patch is available as well as each individual state patch, for inspiration and bragging rights.

Even if you can’t devote days, weeks or months to hiking the trail, take the family for a bite-sized trek this summer. You’ll see some country that will take your breath away. 

Becky Lower has stepped on the Appalachian Trail in three different states–Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. She had hoped at one time to traverse the whole thing, but could never get it together enough to do so. Once she heard about the 14 State Challenge, though, she’s now reconsidering how she can still mark it off her bucket list. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Rules for Wagon Trains

Likewise setting forth the Duties of Wagon Master, Assistant Wagon Master, Mounted Extra-Hand, Teamsters, Night Herders, Caviyard Driver, &c., &c.

The short pamphlet by the above name was first published in 1866. It was endorsed by fourteen gentlemen who knew Mr. Cranmer “to have had sufficient experience to render him capable of forming The Regulations…”

I found a reprint at the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence, Missouri. My dh and I happened upon the museum quite by accident. We were spending the weekend in Kansas City, and since we love to turn every opportunity into a research trip, we traveled to nearby Independence. A quick search showed a restored train depot, which we enjoyed. But as we were driving away, the Frontier Trails Museum caught our eye. And what a find!

Recreations of frontier settings, wagons, general stores, lists of supplies recommended for a family undertaking the journey west, a pictorial timeline of westward travel… It was a treasure trove of information. We even topped off our visit with a ride in a covered wagon, pulled by a pair of silky-eared mules.

This little pamphlet gave me the idea for Coming Home, the first story set in River’s Bend, Missouri. While I took the liberty of adding a security guard as one of the train’s company, Mr. Cranmer provides some amazing details for writers like me who love all this history.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Book review: The Snow Bride by Lindsay Townsend

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England, winter, 1131

Elfrida, spirited, caring and beautiful, is also alone. She is the witch of the woods and no man dares to ask for her hand in marriage until a beast comes stalking brides and steals away her sister. Desperate, the lovely Elfrida offers herself as a sacrifice, as bridal bait, and she is seized by a man with fearful scars. Is he the beast?

In the depths of a frozen midwinter, in the heart of the woodland, Sir Magnus, battle-hardened knight of the Crusades, searches ceaselessly for three missing brides, pitting his wits and weapons against a nameless stalker of the snowy forest. Disfigured and hideously scarred, Magnus has finished with love, he thinks, until he rescues a fourth 'bride', the beautiful, red-haired Elfrida, whose innocent touch ignites in him a fierce passion that satisfies his deepest yearnings and darkest desires.

My Review:

The Snow Bride delivers a thrilling tale of magic, adventure, and love.

I adored Magnus!!  I loved how he was not the flashy knight-in-shining-armor, but instead was battle-scarred and weary, was someone who's proved himself and could be counted on to keep fighting through any and every battle.  He desperately sought after a seemingly unattainable dream and watching him realize Elfrida was his dream come to life - what he wished for and then more - melted my heart.  The gentleness he showed Elfrida balanced wonderfully with his protectiveness that flared around her. 

Elfrida had a heart that overflowed with devotion and compassion, even as much as she struggled to truly find her place.  She had a special kind of wisdom and a stubborn tenacity that saw her through her journey, and afforded her the opportunity to learn that she wasn't on her own fighting battles anymore.

I enjoyed watching the two of them learn to compromise and trust each other - which was very much a challenge with their temperaments and instincts.  Their ability to communicate and make reparations quickly also showed strength and confidence.  Their strengths played well off the other, even if sometimes you were wanting to join the other in shaking someone... haha.

If you enjoy a adventure story filled with knightly brawn and magical good-vs-evil, this is a fantastic story to snuggle up with on the long, dark winter nights.

Purchase Links:


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Thomas Eakins, American realist painter of the late 19th century by Kaye Spencer #americanartists #oldwestpaintings #prairierosepubs

When I think of artists whose paintings and sculptures captured the essence of the American West, the names that come to mind are:

Charles Russell (1864-1926) His dramatic representations usually show men on horseback. He also sculpted.
Charles Russel - Bronc to Breakfast
 George Catlin (1796-1872) His work was predominantly concerned with the Native Americans.

George Catlin - Tipis
Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) His paintings leaned toward sweeping, romantic landscapes of the Old West.

Albert Bierstadt - Prong Horned Antelope
 Thomas Moran (1837-1926) His paintings focused on western landscapes like Albert Bierdstadt’s.

Thomas Moran - Green River, Wyoming
Frederic Remington (1861-1909) His artistic talents leaned toward paintings and sculptures involving cavalry officers, Native Americans, and horses. He provided illustrations of the American West for magazines.
Frederic Remington - Fight for the Waterhole
To this esteemed list, I would add the Philadelphia native, Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins (1844-1909). His works, while not strictly focused on the west, are a more well-rounded study of the human condition of the time, albeit, the ‘eastern’ time. 
Thomas Eakins - Self-portrait
 James Thomas Flexner - writer and 20th century scholar, biographer, researcher, art aficionado - said of Thomas Eakins, “His gift was to catch people at the moment when they lapsed into themselves.”1

Thomas Eakins' wife and his setter dog

Life in the American east and in Europe influenced the happenings in the west. The fashions, medicine and medical milestones, transportation, sports, leisure, and the day-to-day living “back east” had eventual impacts on life out west, and Thomas Eakins’ paintings show us those connections. For me, the ‘life’ he painted and preserved on canvas and his photography tell a broader story of what real life was like back then.

Thomas Eakins - Four-in-Hand - May Morning in the Park 1880

Thomas Eakins - Home Ranch

Eakins was a realist painter, photographer, photographer, sculptor, and fine arts educator. Other than trips abroad, he lived his life in his home town of Philadelphia, and the subjects of his art were the people around him. Eakins was a ‘colorful’ character for all of his 71 years, and he possessed a life-long passion for the human body as the ultimate art form. This information from Wikipedia sums up his work and his philosophy as a teacher:

He painted several hundred portraits, usually of friends, family members, or prominent people in the arts, sciences, medicine, and clergy. Taken en masse, the portraits offer an overview of the intellectual life of Philadelphia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; individually, they are incisive depictions of thinking persons.

He believed that women should "assume professional privileges" as would men. Life classes and dissection were segregated but women had access to male models (who were nude but for loincloths).

Thomas Eakins - The Courtship
Controversy shaped much of his career as a teacher and as an artist. He insisted on teaching men and women "the same", used nude male models in female classes and vice versa.

Thomas Eakins looking at his painting/portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross
of the Gross Clinic
Thomas Eakins - The Agnew Clinic
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2008 and view the Thomas Eakins exhibit. Yes, THAT museum with the “Rocky” stairs. For fun, here’s a picture of me and Rocky. Yes, I did run up the stairs...about ten of them...

Kaye Spencer and the Rocky statue
For more information about Thomas Eakins, I would direct you to the website devoted to his life and works — — and to this book, The Revenge of Thomas Eakins by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick.

Until next time,


Stay in contact with Kaye::

Amazon Author Page | BookBub | Blog | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook

Note: The images included in this post are in the Public Domain and can be found through the Google Art Project, which is an “online platform through which the public can access high-resolution images of artworks housed in the initiative's partner museums.” Some images are mine that I took while visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art in June 2008.

1. Kirkpatrick, Sidney D. “In Light and Shadow.” The Revenge of Thomas Eakins, Yale Univ. Press, 2006.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Dying for a Living - The Most Dangerous Jobs of the 19th Century for Children

Dying for a Living - The Most Dangerous Jobs of the 19th Century for Children

C.A. Asbrey

The average life expectancy in the mid 19th century was forty for men and 42 years for females. That was an average, though. There are many people who lived to a ripe old age. For instance, Margaret Ann Neve was born in 1792, three months before Marie Antoinette was executed, and while George Washington was president of the United States. She died in 1903, a month before her 111th birthday. She spoke of visiting the battlefield at Waterloo during 'Napoleon's troubled times' whilst on her honeymoon. Clearly, the idea of a romantic day out has changed over the years, but she did find the belt buckle of an Imperial Guard as a keepsake. But Neve was wealthy. She was a friend of Queen Victoria, and enjoyed a good diet, lifestyle, and the best medical care. The poor were not so fortunate. By 1900 the average life expectancy had risen to only forty five for men and 50 for women.
Margaret Ann Neve

One of the major problems was the danger from infections, either from minor injuries, or from childbirth. Another was the total lack of consideration for health and safety for people in the workplace. Children were not excepted from the harsh realities of work life either. Poor children were a burden, the least powerful, and unrepresented by any group. Homes couldn't wait to get rid of them, shifting responsibility for them to whoever took them on. The authorities cared little about their welfare, and even less about the working conditions they faced when taken on for gainful employment.

At the bottom of the list were those who rummaged through waste and garbage for anything recyclable. Remarkably little was wasted in the 19th century. Old cloth, bone, blood, urine, even animal waste; all had a value and would be sold on to make glue, fertilisers, paper, and in the use of tanning, dye making, or even in production of gunpowder. The housewife would scan the garbage bin to prevent servants being too wasteful, and wagons toured the streets looking for waste to purchase. Even ashes had a value. They were used in gritting paths in icy periods, any small bits of wood or coal were re-burned, and wood ashes were used as fertilizer. Bones were boiled until bleached white to make stock, and then sold on. Pig bins were common, and scraps were converted to pigswill or chicken food.

Mudlarks of London
What was left, was scavenged by children for any scraps worth using. Some children in London even paid to be allowed to scavenge below the waterline on the tidal Thames. They were called the mudlarks, and they not only could find flotsam and jetsam from the shipping, but they could hit lucky and find historic coins or valuables lost from bridges. If they were unlucky, they could get injured or get cut off by the ruthless tides and drown. They routinely found bodies; both human and animal.

Children were popular in any role which required squeezing into small spaces. Rat catchers would take children from workhouses and orphanages in much the same way as chimney sweeps would. These children would be used to go into sewers and tiny holes as rats were valued if caught alive, as they were used in sports (a dog would be put in a pit with a large number of rats, and bets would be taken on how long it took for the dog to kill them all. The children risked bites, disease, infection, and the inevitable danger of being jammed in a hole where they would suffocate in the dark. Their counterparts in the chimney sweeping world could suffer a similar fate. Children of both genders were sent up chimneys, some no more than nine inches in diameter. The worst thing to happen would be a slip. If they didn't fall all the way to the bottom and fracture bones, they could get themselves caught with their knees jammed up at their chests. That would restrict their breathing until they slowly smothered. Sometimes bricks had to be removed from the chimney to remove the child's body. If they survived to enjoy a career, they were prone to a squamous-cell carcinoma which was caused by soot particles irritating the skin, particularly on the scrotum.

Another job prospect for the poorest and least skilled children was to grab a shovel and broom and clean the streets. I'm not talking about the the kind of street cleaning you see today. I'm talking about cleaning up after the thousands of horses which bustled through the noisy streets. The average a horse will produce between 15 and 35 pounds of manure per day, and about two pints of urine. By 1894 there was an actual crisis as cities were literally drowning in the stuff, and the streets were poisoning the people. Someone had to clean it up, and the job often went to children. The manure attracted flies which spread typhus and other diseases. In wet weather it turned into a rancid, sloppy mush. In dry weather it turned to dust which blew in people's faces and covered their clothing. The job had various names; cross walker, crossing sweepers, gong collector, but children could earn gratuities for keeping a section of the road clear for people to cross. They could also sell collected manure for fertilizer. It was dangerous work for little money. Apart from the obvious risk of infection, many children were killed of maimed by vehicles while they worked on the road. 

Children in mines
We all know about children being employed underground in mining in the 19th century, and the crushing accidents, lung diseases, and gassing which they suffered. Children as young as five were sent underground until it gradually became illegal in the UK in the 1840s. The practice continued in the USA until the early 20th century.
Mule spinners were children who scampered beneath the huge mechanical looms to collect scraps of cotton and clear jams. The machines spun
cotton into thread and never stopped. Children crawled underneath enormous moving machines. There was barely room to raise their heads. There was no way of stopping them if something went wrong. It was dangerous work. Many lost children lost fingers, limbs, or were even crushed to death. If they were lucky enough to get too big for the role, they could move up the ladder within the mills. However, deafness was common due to the constant incessant noise, and Byssinosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling cotton fibres brought an early and unpleasant death.

I'm sure many of you will have heard the tale of The Little Match Girl, but making the matches was far more dangerous than trying to sell them. Phossy Jaw or more accurately, phosphorus necrosis of the jaw, caused the bones in the jaw to rot away. Most of those working with white phosphorous were young girls,  and they were forced to work without protection, and even ate at their workstations. Working conditions were terrible, with frequent beatings, and a culture of abuse. Things got so mad that the match girls went on strike in London in 1888 for better working conditions, including demanding that the companies use safer red phosphorus instead of white. It difficult to overstate how powerless and poor these girls were. They lived hand to mouth, and were one step from living on the streets. The fact that they went on strike is a measure of how desperate they were. They were destined for a horrible slow death, so had nothing to lose. They had to try to make their own futures safer. 

Children involved in glass making faced serious injuries and potential death every day. “Dog boys” or “blower’s dogs”—so-called because they were trained to follow the adult glass blower’s whistle—these boys handled and cleaned every piece of molten glass that the glass blower took from the furnace. They repeated this process hundreds of times in a single shift. As glassblowers were paid on piecework, they kept up a rapid pace, forcing the children working with red hot glass as speed to try to keep up. It was a recipe for disaster. Boys were blinded by bits of flying glass, and glass dust, known as 'blow-overs', caused excruciating pain if it got into the lungs or the eyes. Apart from the obvious burns, the boys often caught pneumonia in the winter, caused by the drastic temperature change from walking home after a day in front of a huge furnace.

Legislation eventually changed conditions for children in the developed world. As well see in the next blog post, life often didn't get much better when they grew up. 

In All Innocence



Almost everyone woke simultaneously, jolted by the sound of the brakes grinding, and the engine puffing and huffing in protest at an unscheduled stop. Jake’s hand reached for his gun even before he was fully conscious.

“No!” The cry came from Jeffrey, the younger steward, who staggered into the aisle in shock.

Nat strode out of the curtained area, fastening his trousers. “What’s wrong?”

“Mrs. Hunter,” Jeffrey stammered. “She’s dead.”

Nat dragged the curtain aside, revealing the tiny-framed woman lying in a pool of blood. He kneeled and scrutinized her. “Bring a lamp.” He reached out and touched her face. “She’s alive. She’s warm. Fetch Philpot. He’s a doctor.”

The Englishman wandered groggily forward. “I’m not a doctor. I’m a—”

“We don’t care what you are, Philpot,” Jake growled. “You’re the nearest thing we’ve got. You’ve got medical training. Get in there.”

Mrs. Hunter’s eyes flickered weakly open. “My moonstone. Miss Davies—she took it.” She fell back into insensibility.

Jake frowned and his keen blue eyes looked up and down the railway car at the passengers crowded in the aisle in various stages of undress. “Where is Miss Davies? Have you seen her, Abi? You’re bunkin’ with her.”

“No, she isn’t here.” Abigail frowned. “I haven’t seen her for ages. She wasn’t even in her bunk when I changed Ava.”

Malachi padded briskly up to the group, pushing various butlers out of his way as they milled around. “Oh, my goodness! The poor woman.”

Jake nodded. “Yeah, Philpot’s seein’ to her. She’s still alive. Why’ve we stopped? We ain’t at a station.”

Malachi quickly fastened a stray button. “I’m sorry, gentlemen. I have been informed that a rock fall has blocked the tracks. We will dig it out and be on our way as soon as possible.”

“A rock fall? So, how far to a station?” Nat asked. “We’re high in the mountains, miles from anywhere.”

There was another ominous rumble somewhere above them and the carriage shook. The roof thundered with the thumps and clattering of stones and gravel pounding the roof. Worried glances rose upward while Abigail hunched protectively over her baby. The noise gradually stopped, but for an occasional patter of settling gravel and stones shifting above them.

The head steward’s brow crinkled into a myriad of furrows. “I’d best go and check that out.”

Nat’s brows knotted into a frown. “We’re miles from anywhere? So where has Maud Davies gone?” 

“With the moonstone?” Jake strode over to the door and looked out at the huge feathery flakes drifting down from the heavy skies onto an expansive mountainous vista. “There’s nowhere to go.”