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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Into the Storm

     As the twentieth century dawned, women had full suffrage in only four states – Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho and Utah. Women failed to win full voting rights in any additional states until the dam broke in 1910,  when the state of Washington granted women’s suffrage.

Alice Paul
     That same year, Alice Paul returned to the United States from London, where she had been studying and working as a case worker in a settlement house. While in England, she became involved in the struggle for women’s rights. Through her experiences with arrests, imprisonments, hunger strikes, and forced feedings, she learned how to generate publicity for the cause and how to capitalize on that publicity from the British leaders of the movement. Paul returned to the University of Pennsylvania to continue her studies and began participating in National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) activities, including speaking at the national convention.
     Finally, in the culmination of a long struggle, California women won the right to vote in 1911.
     In 1912, the Progressive Party, led by Theodore Roosevelt, included voting rights for women in their platform. That same year, women won the right to vote in Oregon, Arizona, and Kansas. But eastern states continued to stand in staunch opposition to the cause.

     After earning her Ph.D. in sociology in 1912, Paul dedicated herself to American suffrage efforts. She strongly supported a federal suffrage, which ran contrary to the entrenched state-by-state plan of the NASWA. She and Lucy Burns, who had also been involved in England’s women’s rights movement, joined forces. Paul asked to be assigned to the association’s Congressional Committee.
     One of her first major efforts on the committee was to plan and execute a parade in Washington, D.C. to bring national attention to the suffrage movement and to put pressure on newly elected President Woodrow Wilson. The event was scheduled the day before his inauguration in in March 1913.

     She recruited approximately 8000 marchers from around the country and organized floats, bands and chariots to intersperse with the suffragists. A contingent of men who supported women’s suffrage made up one unit. To placate the southern marchers, the black women were asked to march at the end of the procession.

     Many participants carried banners or wore sashes demanding votes for women. The parade was led by notable labor lawyer Inez Milholland, dressed in white and riding a white horse,  and by a huge banner proclaiming, "We Demand an Amendment to the United States Constitution Enfranchising the Women of the Country."

     The police force was insufficient to keep the peace. More than half-a-million people turned out to view the parade, including large numbers of men in town for the inauguration. When the crowd pushed into the streets, creating chaos and preventing the procession from passing, many of the policemen did nothing to protect the marchers. Approximately 100 women sustained injuries and were hospitalized. Ultimately, national guardsmen were called in to restore order. A Senate hearing was called later in the week to review the  performance of the police. Many women recounted the inaction of the police and one Senator testified to the badge numbers of police officers he had seen standing idly by rather than coming to the aid of the marchers.
     The parade succeeded in bringing national attention to the movement. That same year, the Alaska Territory granted full suffrage to women.
      Paul's methods and her emphasis on the goal of a federal amendment created tension with Anna Shaw, president of NAWSA, and other leaders of the organization. They thought Paul was moving too aggressively in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere and were unhappy that she didn’t support their state-by-state approach. Disagreements about strategy and methods led to a break with NAWSA.

      By the beginning of 1914, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns had formed the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage to campaign for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing suffrage for women throughout the United States of America.
     The fight was on.

Ann Markim

Monday, August 24, 2020

Flowers and Romance and how I use them in my writing.

Flowers and Romance – Excerpts. Plus how I use them in my writing.


I often use flowers and seasons, and the folklore and symbols attached to these, as ways to point out contrasts in my stories. So in “The Snow Bride” I have the harshness of winter set against my heroine and hero’s dreams of summer – a clue to their developing feelings and relationship. The Green Man, too, is an old figure in folk lore and a powerful symbol of rebirth and renewal - a sign of Magnus' own changing circumstances.

They plodded another mile, then Magnus admitted they should stop. Even on the old west road, which they had stumbled onto at midnight, going was onerous. The horses were weary, heads down, stumbling, their hooves covered in snow. When the snow turned to a biting sleet, everyone had endured enough.
          Before him Elfrida was silent, uncomplaining, though God knew she must be chilled and weary. It was she who noticed the forester's hut, set back from the road behind a holly tree. She tapped his arm to alert him and he called orders to the others, his voice cracking in the cold.
          The forester, whoever he had been, had abandoned the hut, but it was just big enough for them all. Magnus knocked out a panel of wattle to enlarge the door and they brought the horses in.
          While he made a fire just inside the doorway Elfrida slipped off into the darkness. When she returned the men had bedded down and were chewing whatever rations they had with them. Magnus patted a lump in the floor beside him, close to the fire, and she lay down without a sound.
          Magnus rose and put what remained of the door back across the threshold as a barrier and wind-break. Checking it was secure, he knocked the snow off his cloak and stretched out again beside Elfrida. As soon as he closed his eyes he slept, and dreamed.

          It was summer and he was in a pleasure garden. Protected by a stout stone wall, it was bordered by fruit trees and ripening vines and filled with small sparkling fountains, the like of which he had not seen since his return from Outremer. One fountain played over a turf seat studded with marigolds and daises. Magnus ran his fingers through the damp flowers and he heard a woman sigh with contentment, a welcome sound.

          Elfrida always knew when she was dreaming and this time was no different. It was midsummer and she strolled in an orchard filled with fragrant apple blossom. She carried a twig of mistletoe, its waxy berries still in impossibly fresh bloom. Above her head finches darted and sang and bees buzzed in lazy contentment, dusky with pollen. There was a hay stack beneath an oak tree and a green man smiling at her though the heavy white-green pomanders of a guelder rose. 

          "You have a gentle, courteous touch, Sir Magnus."
          Elfrida sighed again and stretched out on the turf seat. Where she lay down roses sprouted and burst into flower, their petals as soft and flawless as her skin. She smiled, and in the wonder of the moment Magnus could not tell if she was clothed or not. From a blower of white and pink rose petals, she held out her hands to him and smiled a second time, trusting and warm, her bright eyes filled with admiration. "Come."

          The green man sprang down from the branches of the guelder rose and became Magnus. He bowed to her, a warm breeze ruffling his black hair curls. "My Lady."


In the sequel to "The Snow Bride", I use medieval beliefs to explore how flowers could be used in magic and for more sinister purposes than courtship. 

In"A Summer Bewitchment", Elfrida explains to Magnus about valerian.

Outside in the warm, still evening they walked arm in arm, both carrying panniers, and Elfrida shared what she knew of the stranger with Magnus. He in turn told her what he had learned of Rowena from the priest. It was, she thought, strangely companionable, but she wished they were speaking of less dark, mysterious matters.
“Valerian is a magic plant,” she explained, skirting carefully around a flowering elder bush. “It has many uses. One is as a lure. To seduce.”
“And the hare’s foot?” Magnus nodded to the elder bush as he stalked by, a grudging acknowledgement. “The rosemary I know from you is a guardian against evil spirits, so is that good?”
“Because he protects himself from demons and the like does not mean he is not evil himself.”
“Well spoken! The stranger’s mention of a Holy Mother?”
“The hare protects him from all danger. It is a creature of magic. The mother he reveres may be the Virgin, but he worships her in older ways.”
Magnus raised his black brows in silent inquiry.                              

“The wreath he leaves in thanks and sacrifice, of valerian and elder blossom, marigold, wild thyme and daisy, is made of flowers pleasing to the older gods. I have seen such posies left at ancient standing stones and statues, at rock carvings of the horned god.”

As flowers are often seen as decorative and signs of peace, healing, love and respect, I wished to show a scene where my heroine Elfrida also uses them as instruments of revenge. She and Magnus have been deliberately insulted at a noble's house by Elfrida being offered a gown to dress in that is little more than a rag. She uses flowers gathered from the common land to transform it.


“These are beautiful.” Elfrida meanwhile was lifting up stems of corncockle, of oxeye daisies, of lilies and white roses. She gave him a look warm with gratitude. “Truly beautiful living jewels.”
He smiled, to prove he was not aggrieved with her, and watched in burning indulgence. Flowers flashed under and through her nimble fingers, a cascade of whites and purples, shot through with gold. Elfrida was charming them, using her magic to pin and fasten the blooms to the dull brown gown. In moments, as he leaned against the door, ignoring another careful knock, she threaded flowers into sleeves and made a belt of lilies worthy of Solomon. Her face glittering with concentration, she stripped the roses of their thorns and fashioned them into a crown.
“My lord.” A plea beyond the door.
“Hold!” Magnus ordered, his cheek against the wood.
When he twisted round again Elfrida was robed in her gown and plaiting her long hair. “Splendor
Wild Rose
 in…” The oath died on his lips. At times his wife’s beauty was almost unearthly, utterly peerless. How? He wanted to ask, but it was Elfrida herself and what she could do.
The brown dress was transformed, enchanted by the woman wearing it and her flowers. She was a living tapestry, her face that of an angel’s, her unveiled hair brighter than a dragon’s flame and crowned by white and pink roses. Sleeved with oxeye daisies and corncockle, belted by lilies and garlanded with golden marigolds, the sweet fragrance as she moved was rich as the summer itself.
There were even flowers for him, Magnus realized, as she secured a spray of oxeye daisies across his chest.
“Hey!” he half-protested, but she wagged a busy finger. “Today, you are my lord of flowers. These are your banner.”


 Lindsay Townsend 

Opening a Can of Beans or How to Feed Your Characters

by Patti Sherry-Crews
A brief history of the can opener might not be the most romantic topic for a blog post to be written by a romance writer, but as a writer of historical fiction stopping my narrative to ask questions such as "how did people in the old west get their food out of the can?" is part of my process.

When I sit down to craft a story I probably spend as much time researching as I do writing—if not more. Especially if I'm working on an historical novel. I might start a line of dialog and then wonder if a certain word or phrase was in use at the time, so I have to open a new tab on my laptop to look up the etymology of said word or phrase.

Likewise, dropping in historically accurate details requires research. The minutiae of my characters' lives is what brings depth and texture to the story. They don't just sit down to eat, they have to eat something and it better be something available during that time period.
So, I spend a good amount of time looking up details about clothing, food, medicine, etc.

When I wrote my first historical western, Margarita and the Hired Gun, the two main characters spend most of the book out on the trail—for weeks on horseback. They had to eat, and though they did live off the land to some extent, they mainly had to rely on food they carried with them. This presented a problem for me because how would they keep food from spoiling on their long journey?

In researching this question, I was surprised to find how early canned food became available. Canned food has been around since 1810. It would have been one of the foodstuffs Michael and Margarita carried with them in their saddlebags in the late 19th century.

While working on my most recent project, I once again put my characters out on the trail. In one chapter they sit down together to share a can of beans....but, do they open that can of beans? I never thought about that before.
 Hero and heroine stare mutely at one another across the campfire holding a can of beans aloft and wondering how to open it. Author, help us out here, their bewildered eyes seem to say.
* the author opens a new tab.

I quickly looked up when the first can opener was made to see what this handy tool would have looked like. In 1858, Ezra J. Warner designed the first can opener. Warner's design consisted of a pointed blade with a guard made to puncture the can. Then a second, curved blade would be worked around the top of the can in a sawing motion.

But, pay attention: Peter Durand got a patent from King George III for his canned food process in 1810. Notice that? Canned food was out there 50 years before anyone could figure out how to get the food out of the can!

That's like building a garage around a car before envisioning the need for a door the width of a car to drive out of the garage. So how did folks open a can of peaches before 1858?

 Briefly, let's look at canned food, the need for which was a by-product of war. Needing to move troops great distances for long periods of time, Napoleon offered a reward to anyone who could solve the problem of feeding an army on the move. In 1809 Nicolas Appert first preserved foods by putting them in hermetically sealed and heat sterilized containers. Unfortunately these early containers were made of glass, which is not the ideal for rough travel.

The first cans (short for "canisters") made by Durand were of wrought iron with a tin lining. In order to open them, the use of a chisel and hammer was recommended. As you can imagine canned food did not immediately take off like it was the best thing since sliced bread. 

Then came the American Civil War and canned foods once again kept moving armies fed. Canned foods like oysters, meats, fruit, and vegetables made their way from the battlefield to the general stores at this time. 

But early can openers were not user-friendly. The threat from the sharp blade and the jagged edges left on the open can frightened the customers, so store clerks would perform the service of opening cans for them during purchase.

Now, back to our romantic campfire dinner now completed and recently published story, His Unexpected Companion. Since Kit and Olivia are traveling after 1858, I was able to provide them with a Warner can opener.

They worked together around the campfire. He kept a deliberate distance from her all the while. He levered open the can of beans with a firm grip on the wooden handle of the can opener, slicing the curved blade through the metal. Because it was so new, the blade was very sharp.
“Watch your fingers.” Her voice so close to his ear startled him, causing him to
jerk his hand. 
He took in a sharp breath. He could have easily sliced his hand open. It was a narrow miss.
“You might want to give a warning before a man picks up a sharp object. Not while he’s using it.” He finished opening the can of beans and dumped it into the skillet with the bacon already cooking and filling the air with its fragrance.
She clicked her tongue. “Kind of jumpy aren’t you?” her sights fixed on him as he cleaned off the can opener with his kerchief. “I see you got one of those fancy openers.”
“I bought it in town. No sense in wrestling with a can. How do you open them?”
“With my knife.”

You can see the can opener plays a small part in the story. It gets mentioned a couple more times, and the reader probably doesn’t think anything of it. But from the author’s point of view, a lot of behind-the-scenes work went into this simple passage. The exchange also tells us something about the hero and heroine.

Authors, have you come across any interesting facts while doing research? How much time do you spend researching versus writing? Do you have any go-to places to search out your facts? Readers, do anachronism stop you dead in your tracks while you’re into a book?

About His Unexpected Companion:

Olivia Darling is her own woman—self-sufficient, intelligent, and wise to the ways of the world. She’s also beautiful enough to rile other women and garner unwanted attention from men, which could bring more danger down on her than living the outlaw life she’s taken to. Headed home to Colorado, she’s ready to put her past behind her—but what kind of reception will she get?
Kit Traver is headed home to Colorado, giving up his law practice back East to return to the place he loves—and the woman he intends to marry. His life neatly planned, this journey will give him the time he needs to be alone with nature before he takes on the responsibilities of practicing law again and being a married man. 
When Kit and Olivia meet in Denver, it’s not the best first impression—for either of them. But, they are traveling the same trail, so it’s only natural they ride along together. It’s obvious to Kit that Olivia needs his protection—if only from herself!
But traveling together ignites a fire between them that can’t be ignored, especially once they arrive, only to discover that everything has changed while they’ve been away. With her father mysteriously murdered, Olivia has her hands full trying to keep the big ranchers from pushing her off her family’s small spread. Can Olivia and Kit make a home together? Will Kit walk away from his socialite family for the love of HIS UNEXPECTED COMPANION?

To see more books by Patti Sherry-Crews visit her website

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Book review: A Cat in Jackboots by Deborah Macgillivray


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He is a hunter...despite being a scion of one of the most respected families of the ton, he enjoys solving the mysteries that life a price. And he is hot on the trail of a burglar robbing the titled members of London society.

She is saddled with a scatterbrained, matchmaking Grandmother and a retired battman for a butler...and a black cat named Romeo...and carries a world of secrets. One slip and it will cost her everything.

Neither is seeking romance...only sometimes love happens when you least expect it....

My review:

(just gotta throw in here.... doesn't that blurb just give you the feel-good anticipation shivers?  Gotta say, it totally delivered and then some!)

Mighty stories can be found in small packages, and A Cat in Jackboots is a perfect example of this!  If you want a shorter story you can absorb in one setting, but yet close the last page feeling like you're walking away from a full-length story that lingers, this is one to pick up!

I adored everything about this story - from the bit of intrigue and the games played, to from the sparks that flew and the surprises that had perfect timing, to the laughter and the happy sighs, they all weaved together into a delightfully easy and engrossing story - which is just perfect for life lately.  

It's been a long, long time since I've read a regency-era story, and just like with her medieval tales, Deborah Macgillivray delivered an amazing story that I fell hard into and didn't want to leave.  

Purchase link:

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Long History of the Hedge Maze

 If you thought the hedge maze, or the more American version, especially in the fall, the corn maze, was an English tradition, you’d be sadly mistaken. The first such maze was invented more than 2000 years ago, in ancient Greece. It was a labyrinth and was created for Grecians to use when embarking on a spiritual journey. There was only one circuitous route to follow, so it was serene and enlightening. In Germany, the labyrinth was even used as a rite of passage for young men as they passed from childhood to adult. Nordic fishermen walked through labyrinths before setting sail to ensure a bountiful outing and a safe return. 

A maze is different for a labyrinth, since it branches in all directions, with many dead-ends and routes that lead one back to the same point. The hedges used in the creation of the maze are taller than most visitors who dare enter, making sight cues impossible. The word “maze” itself dates back to the 13th century and is derived from the word “delirium.” Webster defines the word as such: “A confusing, intricate network of winding pathways; specifically with one or more blind alleys.” Mazes were constructed in Europe in the 16th century to entertain royalty. One such hedge maze, on the grounds at Hampton Court Palace in England, occupies a quarter acre of space and was used as the design of the first maze assembled to study the movement of rats and to judge their ability to learn and remember. England’s long fascination with hedge mazes has ensured them as a fixture in the countryside. Today, there are over 125 mazes open to the public. 


King Louis XIV had an extensive labyrinth created at the gardens of Versailles. As part of the layout, there were 39 topiaries formed in the shape of the fables of Aesop, with water dripping from the mouths of each to represent speech. 

In the 1970s and 1980s, mazes found their way into every person’s realm, first as puzzle books and then as video games. No longer was it necessary to devote acres of land and a horde of workers to maintain a hedge of boxwoods for the entertainment of the wealthy. But such mazes do still exist, to the delight of those who have a sense of adventure. The longest maze is now in Wahiawa, Hawaii, on the grounds of the Dole Pineapple Company, and is comprised of more than 14,000 tropical plants and has 2.5 miles of paths. It is one of only a few permanent botanical mazes in America and has eight secret stations that offer clues to a mystery for the hardy souls who venture in to solve. 

The largest corn maze on record was in Dixon, CA and spanned sixty acres. It made the Guinness book of records in 2014. Several people had to call for help after being lost in the maze for hours. 

Since most simple mazes have walls connecting to the outer boundary, if you trail your right hand along this hedge and follow it, you’ll find your way out again. If you have an idea to build your own maze, the rules are quite simple. You need at least one path between the entrance and the exit. If you build in blind alleys and dead ends, make certain they’re long enough to not be easily discernable. And it might be a good idea to equip your participants with a cell phone, just in case.

Becky Lower writes mostly American historical romances, but occasionally crosses the pond to Regency England. In addition to History Imagined, she has a weekly blog at

While doing research for a new Regency series, she investigated the history of the maze and weaved it into her story line. Becky only entered a maze one time and spent hours trying to find her way out before vowing to never again set foot in them. 

Click here to find out more about Becky’s books:


Monday, August 17, 2020

Unconventional Heroines and Women of Destiny, Part Two

 This is a continuation of last month’s post, talking with Prairie Rose authors C. A. Asbrey, Mary Sheeran, and myself about our unconventional heroines.

 Have you had to explain to readers or potential readers either that your character’s situation was possible in her time or unusual?  In other words, what kinds of assumptions might your readers have had? 

 Christine:  Definitely. I’ve had people tell me time and time again that there were no female Pinkertons in the 19th century, or tell me that there was only one – Kate Warne. On the whole though, readers have been very positive about finding out that these women not only existed, but were skilled and brave. I have to be realistic about the fact that I deliberately chose a role most people didn’t know existed at that time though, or that Abigail’s success was predicated on the element of surprise.  Once the readers accept the idea that female Pinkertons existed, most of the disbelief centers around the fact that they were disbanded as soon as Alan Pinkerton died, despite being very successful. That single piece of information speaks to the sexism of the time far more that surprise at their existence at all. 

One thing I think has surprised people is the forensics of the time, and that the detectives had to perform their own tests. Many readers have commented on enjoying the characters’ hands-on approach to the investigation, and the details of the tests themselves.  I also enjoy introducing readers to the spy techniques, and gadgets used in the 19th century, especially those which were invented much earlier than people think. Many of the readers have no idea about this early technology, and it’s novel to them to see it in use. Readers tell me that they enjoy seeing the nuts and bolts of the investigative techniques, and that there were more skills around in the 19th century than they were previously aware of.          

Cate:  Yes, I always have to explain that there actually were women lawyers in the United States in the 19th century, which is much earlier than people generally imagine.  Arabella Mansfield of Iowa was admitted to the bar in 1869, and over the next three decades, there was a cascade effect throughout the various states and territories.   I used to show my students the concurrence from the 1872 U.S. Supreme Court case, Bradwell v. Illinois, in which Mrs. Myra Bradwell was denied admission to her state bar on the “separate spheres” argument that women belonged in the home.  Illinois changed its law a few years later, to specifically allow women attorneys.  Also, Mrs. Bradwell’s sponsor for bar admission was her husband, who clearly wasn’t buying the whole separate spheres thing.

Mary:  I haven't had to explain anything to readers - I haven't been able to meet with any! There are reviews up from people I don't know, and from what they've written, they like her as a pioneer in her field and for being a strong woman. They give her more credit for her independence than I think I do.

 For all three of us, our heroines have something in common with us professionally:  I used to be a lawyer, Mary was (and still is) a musician, and Christine was in law enforcement.  How were you able to draw on your own experience for your character?  How did the time period make it different?

Cate: Anna and I have some things in common – she reads many of the books I read over the course of my PhD in 19th century literature – but we’re very different.  I went to law school out of a misguided sense of practicality, and hated it.  I graduated in 1988 and lasted in practice for three years, then started planning to return to graduate school.  My law school class was about half women, but there were still barriers in the profession.  At least in the larger big city law firms, women are hired in significant numbers, but make partner far less frequently than men do.

Anna, on the other hand, loves being a lawyer.  Perhaps writing her is wish fulfillment, or it’s working through my own personal shortcomings?  She’s willing to put in the hours, she has no problem with balancing courtroom aggression with a ladylike demeanor, and she never backs down.  Maybe not even when she should.  Working with her father, she learned how honorable the profession could be, but also its problems.  Anna learned how to make hard choices, which serves her in good stead over the course of the story.  And her chief rival, Nick Powell, has taught her to hone her verbal sparring skills.  Because she practices in a small town where she knows everyone, many of her cases are very personal to her, and she thinks of what she does as helping people.  She puts her idealism into action, especially in representing people who wouldn’t be able to afford her, but whose situations seem important to her.  Her work with several of the Native nations is important to her, as well.  But she takes on commercial clients, as well, in order to pay the bills.

Mary:  Aside from studying piano for two years with Miss Winkler? I keep intending to study piano again. When the quarantine started, I bought a keyboard and I've played around on it a bit, but mostly, it's gathering dust.

I have mostly lived in the 19th century's music. I took some time with 20th century music with some recitals, and I was doing cabaret shows with the Great American Songbook, but I've mostly sung 19th century music - operas, recitals, music hall tunes - and listened to 19th century music almost all the time. I started listening to the piano repertory years ago when I was working on my first book, Who Have the Power. Here's the thing. I sing. Why don't my heroines sing? I love listening to the piano and sing along, maybe that's it?

I think I do carry my singing into my approach to Elisabeth's playing. I have to absorb the music to understand how she feels about it and what her approach would be. I listen to pianists - I watch them on Youtube - what a great tool that is. I look at scores and read about keyboard music - approaches to different composers. And there's a lovely book by a young woman who in the 1870s went to Europe to study with Liszt and others - the very charming Amy Fay. That contemporary historian of 19th century pianists wrote condescendingly about her, and one doesn't know if she was good or no, but from what I can read between the lines in her memoir, she was quite good and also lots of fun. Unlike Elisabeth, no one was out to kill Amy Fay, though, so she could have plenty of fun. 

Christine:  I’m not the first to write a female Pinkerton Detective by a long way, but I am the first, as far as I know, to have done a similar job, and to be one of the first generation of women to do exactly the same job as the men, and for the same rate of pay. Prior to the Equal Pay act in the UK, female officers did not perform the same job, or work the same shifts as the men. They were used in family matters, sexual offences, and in dealing with female offenders. The move to full equality caused pushback, and sexism, at all levels, and that gave me a personal insight into how these women must have been received, not to mention personal experience of the mindset required to persevere in that atmosphere, and I bring that to the characters I write.

I think the time period must have heightened that kickback, and research from the time does reveal complaints from male agents, as well as from the wives of agents. There is no question that the female agents would have been exposed to that. Victorian society was very unforgiving to women who stepped outside their expected roles. The women did not just drift in to look pretty and act as a courier to help a love-interest/family member as I had seen them represented. Their zeal for the work was vocational in its own right, and they were determined to justify the faith placed in them.   I was unable to find any documentation on how they handled that. However, I was able to bring my personal experience to bear, and some of the most sexist moments in the books are based on things which actually happened to me. There isn’t much and I didn’t want to dwell on that, but to concentrate on the plot.

I did do research into the S.O.E. agents, the female spies who went undercover into occupied Europe during WW2, as theirs was also an example of historical undercover work. They echoed the Pinkerton women in many ways. They also capitalized on the sexism of their opponents who underestimated the abilities of women. It challenged traditional images of the protectors and the protected, in the same way as the female Pinkertons did. Their dedication, and willingness to work alone, was observed in the same way as Pinkerton had almost eighty years before, and made the male and female agents equals in the field. They also owned, and used, their femininity as an advantage in their role – something which was not permitted in the social norms of the 19th century, or by working women in the 20th century.  

Unsurprisingly, I found a lot of parallels between the way a woman’s character, or perceived lack of it, impacted on her more than their male counterparts. Female agents, and early female police officers, were expected to be above, whilst simultaneously tolerating, bawdy, risqué, and crude behavior in a way which men were not. There was more speculation on their sex lives, or lack of it, than on any of the men.

I think a first-hand understanding of a world very similar to theirs has allowed to me to capture the line they negotiated every day, and the personality-type who can live there. And, yes, I think that the observation on their dedication was correct, as they had to work harder, overcome more obstacles, and be better qualified than their male counterparts just to get there at all. 

If you haven't yet read Courting Anna, A Dangerous Liberty, or The Innocents Mystery Series, there's no time like the present!  I've love to continue the conversation with other Prairie Rose authors about their unconventional heroines -- leave a comment below and let's talk.     


Connect with Cate:

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Twitter: @CateSimon3


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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

North to Alaska by Kaye Spencer #prairierosepubs #goldrush #Alaska #classicmovies


On or about August 16, 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of the Yukon, which is in northwestern Canada. When word of this discovery reached Seattle and San Francisco, prospectors swarmed to the area between 1896 and 1899.


IMAGE: Klondike Map - Citation below 

This gold rush has several names: Yukon Gold Rush, Alaska Gold Rush, Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush, and Last Great Gold Rush. It’s estimated that 100,000 prospectors tried their hand as diggers and panners. This wasn't the last great gold rush in Alaska, however. In 1899, the Klondike area was all but abandoned for the new gold field in Nome.¹  The Nome Gold Rush lasted from 1899 to 1909-ish.

Chilcoot Pass prospectors

IMAGE: Prospective prospectors on Chilkoot Pass near Skagway, Alaska - Citation below.


But I’m not here for an Alaskan gold rush history lesson.

I’m interested in a song that introduced a movie by the same title and that both tell a story about the Nome gold rush.

Coming up on August 22nd, Johnny Horton’s song North to Alaska will have its 60th anniversary.


Right around the corner on November 13th, the movie North to Alaska will celebrate its 60th anniversary.


The movie is a comedy-western (of sorts) starring John Wayne, Capucine, Ernie Kovacs, Stewart Granger, and Fabian.  The movie was based on a 1939 three-act play, Birthday Gift, by the Hungarian novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Ladislas Fodor aka Laszlo Fodor (1898-1978). It is set during the Nome gold rush.

Johnny Horton’s song introduced the movie as a set-up to the storyline. The song topped Billboard magazine’s Country Singles chart. Horton co-wrote the song. Sadly, he died in a car wreck on November 5, 1960. He was 35.

Side note: His second wife was Hank Williams’ widow, Billie Jean Jones. In one of those weird coincidences in life, Johnny Horton’s and Hank Williams’ last public performances were at Austin’s Skyline Club—Horton on November 4, 1960 and Williams on December 19, 1952, AND they were married to Billie Jean Jones at the time.² (Williams died January 1, 1953 near Oak Hill, West Virginia and Horton died November 5, 1960 after leaving the Skyline Club near Milano, Texas.)

For your listening and viewing pleasure, here is Johnny Horton singing North to Alaska over scenes from the movie. It’s great fun.


Until next time,
Kaye Spencer


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1. Nome Gold Field information HERE
2. Horton and Williams - Last performances: HERE and HERE
North to Alaska MOVIE
North to Alaska SONG
Klondike Map: created by en:User:ish ishwar in 2005, Tlingit-map-modify, CC BY 2.0
Chilcoot Pass: Cantwell, George G., ChilkootPass steps, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons