Category: Awards

The Only Female Recipient of the Medal of Honor

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

One of the writer-related questions I get most often is where do my ideas come from. The answer is a bit complex. As a writer, I see stories everywhere – in snippets of conversation, in song lyrics, in throwaway scenes from movies and TV shows and just from everyday life. But story ideas are also very fragile – they can disappear like mist when the sun beats down or like dream fragments once you’re fully awake.

So, whenever I get an idea for a new story, even if it’s just for a character or scene, I’ll set up a document in my Ideas folder to capture it before it gets away. From time to time I’ll go back in and add to one or more of the files, depending on what snags my interest at the time. And eventually one of these ideas will tell me it’s ready to be turned into a full blown book.

All of the above is backdrop to explain that one of these idea files contained a snippet of a story set in the late 19th century with a female doctor in the lead role. Of course a story like this requires a lot of research – questions such as what educational options were available for women and where could these be found, how well received were female doctors, what difficulties would they have faced due to their gender and just in general what medical treatments and a medical practice looked like during that time period.

And as often happens, while I was happily ensconced in researching some of this, I stumbled upon an unexpected and totally intriguing story about a fascinating woman.  Her name was Mary Walker. She was born in 1832, in upstate New York to parents who encouraged all of their children to pursue formal education. Mary took full advantage of her parents’  ideals and at the age of 25 graduated from Syracuse Medical School  with a doctor of medicine degree – she was the only woman in her class.  She then went into private practice and eventually married another physician, Dr. Albert Miller. However, in an action that was typical of her fierce independent spirit, she retained her maiden name. Eventually, she and Miller divorced due to his alleged infidelity.

When the Civil War broke out, Mary wanted to serve in the army as a surgeon, but because she was a woman she was unable to do so. Not willing to give up, she worked for free in a temporary hospital in Washington D.C.   From there she moved on to Virginia, treating the wounded at numerous field hospitals throughout the area.  Finally, in 1863, her medical credentials were acknowledged and she was appointed as a War Department surgeon. A year later she was captured by the Confederate Army and remained their prisoner for about four months.

 

 

In 1865, Dr. Walker became the first woman to ever be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, an acknowledgement for her services during the Civil War.

Mary’s unconventional life extended past her service during the war.  She was an active and vigorous proponent of women’s rights.  She became an author and a lecturer, focusing on issues such as temperance, health care and dress reform.  And putting action to her words, she could often be seen garbed in bloomers or even men’s trousers and  a top hat. Dr. Walker was a member of the Woman’s Suffrage Bureau in Washington D.C. and testified before committees in the US House of Representatives on woman’s suffrage issues.

In 1917 her name, along with 910 others, was stricken from the list of Medal of Honor recipients. The reason given was that none of these had ever officially served in the military. However, despite orders to return her medal, Mary refused and continued to wear it for the remainder of her life. She passed away in 1919 at the age of 86.

But that’s not the end of Dr. Walker’s story.  In 1977, thanks to efforts made by her family who pushed for a Congressional reappraisal of her accomplishments, President Jimmy Carter restored her medal posthumously. She is one of only six people to have this honor restored after it was rescinded. And to date she is still the only female to ever have this medal awarded to her.

So what do you think of this very unorthodox woman? Is there something about her life that particularly intrigued you?  Comment on this post for a chance to win an advance copy of my upcoming December release Once Upon A Texas Christmas.

ONCE UPON A TEXAS CHRISTMAS

Partners for the Holidays 

Abigail Fulton is determined to find independence in Turnabout, Texas—and becoming manager of the local hotel could be the solution. But first, she must work with Seth Reynolds to renovate the property by Christmas—and convince him she’s perfect for the job. If only he hadn’t already promised the position to someone else… 

Ever since his troubled childhood, Seth yearns to prove himself. And this hotel is his best chance. But what does someone like Abigail know about decor and furnishings? Yet the closer the holiday deadline gets, the more he appreciates her abilities and her kindness. His business ambitions require denying Abigail’s dearest wish, but can they put old dreams aside for a greater gift—love and family?

 

 

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Peacemakers Didn’t Win the West Alone

Kathleen Rice Adams header

1873 Colt .45 Single Action Army, the Peacemaker

1873 Colt .45 Single Action Army, the Peacemaker

When you think (or write or read or watch a movie about) the Old West, what’s the first weapon that comes to mind? If Peacemaker isn’t the first, it’s likely near the top of your list. Thanks to western novels and movies, the Peacemaker—formally known as the 1873 Colt .45 Single Action Army—is one of the most famous guns in history, and for good reason. The six-shot revolver was lighter than its predecessors, exceptionally well balanced, and accurate in the hands of someone who knew what he or she was doing. Not to be overlooked among its characteristics: A .45 slug makes a big hole.

Though known as “the gun that won the west,” Peacemakers weren’t alone in helping stalwart individuals tame the wild frontier. Several other sidearms and long guns also played roles. Here are a few of the lesser-known weapons carried by folks on both sides of the law.

 

1875 Remington Frontier Army

1875 Remington Frontier Army

Remington Frontier Army

In 1875, E. Remington & Sons began manufacturing a single-action revolver meant to compete with Colt’s Peacemaker. Nicknamed the Frontier Army or Improved Army model, Remington’s Model 1875 Single Action Army six-shooter never attained the Peacemaker’s commercial success or legendary status, partly because Colt got the jump on Remington by two years, the U.S. Army already had adopted the Peacemaker as its official sidearm, and many lawmen and outlaws preferred the Colt’s superior balance and lighter weight. Remington’s Frontier Army had its devotees, however, including Frank James.

In Prodigal Gun, heroine Jessie Caine carries an 1858 Remington New Model, which differed from the Model 1875 only in the type of ammunition it chambered. The 1858 was a cap-and-ball pistol, while the 1875 employed metallic cartridges. Both featured a cylinder that could be removed on the go, which made for easy reloading: just pop out the empty and pop in a fully loaded replacement. For that reason, the 1858 model was popular with both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. In fact, Bennett Collier—a Confederate cavalry officer who returns to his family’s Texas ranch at the end of the Civil War—brings a pair home with him. Ben is the hero in “Making Peace,” one of two related stories that compose The Dumont Brand.

 

1875 Smith & Wessons .45 Schofield (courtesy Bob Adams)

1875 Smith & Wesson .45 Schofield (courtesy Bob Adams)

.45 Schofield

The Smith & Wesson Model 3, which began production in 1875, saw service during the Indian Wars in the Southwest and the Spanish-American War. Favored by Wyatt Earp (who used one during “the gunfight in an alley near the OK Corral”) and Well Fargo road agents, the Model 3 was ordered in quantity for the U.S. military, providing Smith & Wesson modified the 1870 Model 3 according to Major George W. Schofield’s specifications. The contract ended early when the modifications, primarily having to do with the ammunition the revolver chambered, caused confusion and inconvenience in the field. Though heavier than both Colt’s Peacemaker and Remington’s Frontier Army, the Schofield’s range and muzzle velocity were superior to both its competitors. Prodigal Gun’s Col. Boggs, a sheep rancher whose barbed-wire fence touches off a range war, keeps one in a desk drawer.

 

Winchester Model 1873 carbine (courtesy Bob Adams)

Winchester Model 1873 carbine (courtesy Bob Adams)

Winchester Model 1873

Also called “the gun that won the west,” the Winchester 1873’s carbine model saw extensive use all over the West because of its portability. The shorter barrel length—20 inches as opposed to the rifle version’s 24 inches—made the carbine easier to carry and fire on horseback. The Model 1873’s ammunition also made it popular: The rifle and carbine chambered Colt’s .44-40 cartridge, which meant users of both handguns and rifles needed only one kind of ammunition.

The Winchester Repeating Arms Company developed the first lever-action repeating rifle in 1860. Known as the Henry, the long gun was employed by the Union Army during the Civil War, to the Confederates’ extreme consternation. Rebs called the Henry “that damned Yankee rifle they load on Sunday and shoot all week.”

Calhoun, the titular prodigal gun in Prodigal Gun, carries a Winchester 1873 carbine, as does his comrade, Latimer. For that matter, so does Quinn Barclay, The Second-Best Ranger in Texas.

 

A couple of days ago, I found out The Dumont Brand has been nominated for a Reward of Novel Excellence, or RONE, Award. The RONEs, given annually by romance magazine InD’tale, are judged in an unusual way: A jury selects nominees, the nominees go to a public vote, and then another jury selects the winners from among the books most popular with the public. I didn’t realize anything I’ve written was eligible, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Because I’m feeling magnanimous after that discovery, I’ll give an e-copy of The Dumont Brand to one of today’s commenters. To be eligible, answer this question: If you had been a denizen of the Wild West, what kind of weapon would you have carried? Revolver, rifle, shotgun? Maybe a derringer? Or perhaps something pointy would have been more your style. (All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)

 

Here’s a bit about the book, in case you’re curious.

The Dumont BrandThe Civil War burned Texas…and fanned the flames of love.

On the eve of the Civil War, family secrets threaten everything a ranching dynasty has built…until one son finds salvation in the wrong woman’s love. In the aftermath of battle, a woman destroyed by betrayal brings peace to his brother’s wounded soul.

The Big Uneasy
To escape the unthinkable with a man about whom she knows too much, New Orleans belle Josephine LaPierre agrees to marry a Texan about whom she knows nothing. Falling in love with his brother was not part of her plan.

Making Peace
After four long years in hell, Confederate cavalry officer Bennett Collier just wants to go home—assuming home still exists. Widowed Jayhawker Maggie Fannin will hold onto her home at any cost…even if she must face down the imposing Rebel soldier who accuses her of squatting.

 

If you just can’t wait to find out whether you’ve won, you can find The Dumont Brand at these fine e-tailers:

Amazon  •  Barnes & Noble  •  iBooks  •  Kobo  •  Smashwords

 

 

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