Category: Women in History

Wild West Words: Ladies’ Night

Kathleen Rice Adams: classic tales of the Old West...that never forget the power of love.March is Women’s History Month in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. (Canada celebrates Women’s History Month in October.) Setting aside a special month to celebrate women’s history always has struck me as a mite amusing, because without women there would be no human history.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Women’s History Month traces its origins to the original International Women’s Day, March 8, 1911. In 1980, Jimmy Carter, then President of the United States, expanded the recognition of women’s roles in society to a week. In 1987, the U.S. Congress declared all of March Women’s History Month, but they didn’t make the designation permanent. Each year since (until 2017), the President has proclaimed March Women’s History Month.

Regardless whether Women’s History Month continues in an official capacity or becomes an informal observance, there is no doubt women have changed the world in ways too numerous to mention. Most of us would rather be called “the fairer sex” than “the weaker sex” — but we’ll let men call us whatever (polite) term they desire, because we know who’s really in charge.  😉

Women in 19th Century America knew who was in charge, too. Perhaps nowhere was that more evident than in new vocabulary that entered the lexicon during the period. (How’s that for a segue?) Here are some of the more colorful terms.

Women with "safety bicycles," 1890s

Women with “safety bicycles,” 1890s

California widow: a woman whose husband is away from her for an extended period. Americanism; arose c. 1849 during the California Gold Rush.

Call girl: prostitute who makes appointments by phone; arose c. 1900. To call someone, meaning to use a phone for conversation, arose in 1889 along with the telephone.

Catty: devious and spiteful; c. 1886 from the previous “cattish.” The meaning “pertaining to cats” dates to 1902.

Cute: pretty, 1834 from American English student slang. Previously (1731), as a shortened form of acute, the word meant “clever.”

Drag: women’s clothing worn by a man. 1870s theater slang from the sensation of long skirts trailing on the floor.

A working girl of the late 1800s

A working girl of the late 1800s

Fancy woman: high-dollar whore or a kept woman; possibly from the 1751 use of “fancy” to mean “ornamental.”

Fast trick: loose woman. Of unknown origin, but possibly related to the 15th Century use of the noun “trick” to mean “trifles,” or pretty things with little value. By 1915, “trick” had come to mean a prostitute’s client.

Feathered out: dressed up.

Filly: a young, unmarried woman (literally, a young mare).

Frump, frumpy: cross, unstylish person; sour-looking, unfashionable. The noun arose c. 1817, possibly imitative of a derisive snort. The adverb followed c. 1825. The slang etymology is a bit obscure, although earlier uses of the noun frump meant “bad temper” (1660s) and “cross-tempered” (1746), both of which may have derived from the verb frump, which in the 1550s meant “to mock or browbeat.” All senses may have descended from the late-14th-Century verb frumple, “to wrinkle; crumple.”

Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young's 19th wife. She divorced him.

Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young’s 19th wife. She divorced him.

Grass widow: divorcee

Gyp: female dog; more polite form of “bitch.” American slang from about 1840 as a shortened form of gypsy, presumably in reference to stray dogs’ wandering nature. By 1889, gyp’s meaning had shifted to “cheat or swindle,” also based on gypsies’ perceived behavior.

High-strung: temperamental, excitable, nervous; c. 1848. Evidently based on earlier (1748) musical term referring to stringed instruments.

Hot flashes: in the menopausal sense, attested from 1887.

Hysteria: mental disorder characterized by volatile emotions and overly dramatic or attention-seeking behavior. When the word arose in 1801 (based on the Latin medical term hysteric), it was applied solely to women and often resulted in their confinement to an asylum. In 1866, clitoridectomy was proposed as a cure.

Lightskirt: woman of questionable virtue. American slang. Date unknown, but most likely from the notion loose women’s skirts lay over fewer petticoats than traditional skirts of the time and therefor were easier to raise.

Dolly Adams, exotic dancer in San Francisco, 1890s

Dolly Adams, exotic dancer in San Francisco, 1890s

Painted lady: any woman who wore obvious makeup, primarily entertainers and prostitutes. From the 1650s use of “paint” to mean makeup or rouge.

Scarlet woman, scarlet lady: prostitute. From the 13th Century use of scarlet to mean “red with shame.”

Soiled dove: prostitute; generally considered the kindest of such terms. Most likely a conflation of the 13th Century definition of “soil” (to defile or pollute with sin) and the Christian use of “dove” to indicate gentleness or deliverance.

Sporting house: brothel. Arose latter half of the 19th Century as a combination of “sporting” (early 1600s for “playful”) and “house.”

Sporting ladies, sporting women: prostitutes. Shortening and modification of 1640s “lady of pleasure” by substitution of early 1600s “sporting” (playful). Arose in America during the latter half of the 19th Century in conjunction with “sporting house.”

Vaulting house: brothel. Conflation of “vault,” meaning a vigorous leap (mid-15th Century), and “house.”

 

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Lottie Deno, Lady Gambler

Do you know who Miss Kitty of Gunsmoke was created from? If you said the lady gambler, Lottie Deno, you’d be correct. Born Carlotta Thompkins on April 21, 1844 on a Kentucky plantation, she created quite a stir everywhere she went.

Her parents were very well-to-do and Lottie didn’t want for anything. At her birth, she was assigned a nanny from among the slaves—Mary Poindexter. She was a giant of a woman—7 ft. tall—and she accompanied Lottie everywhere she went. Nobody messed with big Mary.

Lottie’s father taught her to play cards and she became an expert. When he was killed in the Civil War, Lottie played cards to support her mother and younger sister. For a while, Lottie worked on the riverboats and gambling houses along the Mississippi. She was a vivacious redhead with sparkling brown eyes and could charm the pants off any man—and his wallet too. I love this woman!

In 1865 Lottie arrived in San Antonio and a year later was offered a job dealing cards at the University Club. She fell in love several times but stayed single until later meeting a half-Cherokee gambler named Frank Thurmond. He left town very suddenly after killing a man and soon after, Lottie followed.

Lottie rode into the rough town of Fort Griffin, Texas on a stagecoach. She sat out in the open right on the very top where she could see everything. She caused quite a stir. It didn’t take long to get a job at the Bee Hive Saloon. One night she and Doc Holliday played cards all night long and by morning she’d won thousands of dollars of Doc’s money. She also played with legendary Wyatt Earp and many other notables of the old West.

It was in Fort Griffin where Lottie got the Deno part of her name. One of the gamblers who’d lost to her hollered out, “Honey, the way you play your name should be Lotta Dinero.”

Once when a gunfight broke out inside the Bee Hive Saloon all the people fled except Lottie. She got under a table and waited. When they asked her why she stayed, she said she wasn’t about to leave her money and besides, they couldn’t shoot straight.

She separated herself from the violent population of Ft. Griffin by taking a shanty in what they called The Flats on the Clear Fork of the Brazos. She only left it only to visit the local mercantile and to go to work. But Lottie lost her heart to Frank Thurmond and followed him to Silver City, New Mexico where they married and opened two saloons, a restaurant and a hotel.

Lottie got involved in charity work, feeding newly released prisoners and giving them a place to stay.

She and Frank eventually moved on to Deming, New Mexico where they got out of the gambling business and settled down to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Frank became vice president of the Deming National Bank and helped found the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

In 1908, after forty years of marriage, Frank passed away. Lottie outlived him by 26 years until she, too, died and was buried next to Frank. Those who knew her said she maintained her laugh and good cheer to the end. I’d like to have met her. I’ll bet she was a lot of fun.

She and Frank became models for characters in a series of books by Alfred Henry Lewis. Miss Kitty owed everything about her characterization to Lottie Deno.

I think I would’ve been friends with her. She was bold and daring in a time when women were told what to do and how. I like her rebellious spirit, maybe because I’m a little rebellious also.

If you could sit down and talk to one of the larger-than-life characters from the old west, who would it be? I’m giving away a copy of TO LOVE A TEXAS RANGER (#1 Men of Legend series.) 

I’m so excited! I have a new release on February 7th–TEXAS REDEMPTION. This is a reissue of REDEMPTION (2005.)  It’s set in the swamps of East Texas four years following the Civil War. Brodie Yates and Laurel James are searching for redemption for things done in their pasts. Secrets abound–all threatening to come out. It’s a tale of two brothers who love the same woman. I’ll tell lots more about this in my next blog on release day, Feb. 7th. It’s available for preorder everywhere online.

Lady Killers

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The Wild West could be a dangerous place. If outlaws, gunfights, and Indian attacks didn’t do a body in, disease or injury very well might. For an unlucky few, danger emerged from an unexpected source: women with an axe to grind … literally.

Belle Gunness

Belle Gunness and her children

Lizzie Borden may have been the most infamous of America’s female killers, but she certainly wasn’t the only woman to dispose of inconvenient family, friends, or strangers. She wasn’t even the most prolific American murderess. That honor probably goes to Belle Gunness, a Norwegian immigrant suspected of killing more than forty people — including two husbands and several suitors — in Illinois and Indiana at the turn of the 20th Century. When authorities began investigating disappearances, Gunness herself disappeared … after setting up a hired hand to take the fall for arson that burned her farmhouse to the ground with her three young children and the headless body of an unidentifiable woman inside.

The shocking crime of serial murder seems even more chilling when the perpetrator is a woman. Cultural and biological factors encourage women to eschew physical aggression. Most women fight with words or, sometimes, by manipulating male proxies. Consequently, females seldom go on the kind of violent binges that characterize male serial killers. In fact, only about 15 percent of serial murderers in history have been women.

According to Canadian author, filmmaker, and investigative historian Peter Vronsky, who holds a PhD in criminal justice, when men kill, they employ force and weapons. Restraint of the victim often provides part of the thrill: Many male serial killers derive sexual gratification from the act of taking a life. Women, on the other hand, prefer victims who are helpless or unsuspecting: 45 percent of convicted female serial killers used poison to dispose of spouses, children, the elderly, or the infirm. Instead of a sexual high, their primary motivation was money or revenge.

The eight female serial killers below were active during the nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries in the American West. (Another half-dozen cropped up east of the Mississippi during the same period.)

Delphine Lalaurie

Delphine Lalaurie

Delphine LaLaurie

The volatile wife of a wealthy physician, Delphine LaLaurie tortured and killed slaves who displeased her. An 1834 fire at her New Orleans mansion revealed her depravity when a dozen maimed and starving men and women, along with a number of eviscerated corpses, were discovered in cages or chained to the walls in the attic. One woman had been skinned alive; another woman’s lips were sewn shut, and a man’s sexual organs had been removed. LaLaurie fled to avoid prosecution and reportedly died in Paris in December 1842. Years later, during renovations to the estate, contractors discovered even more slaves had been buried alive in the yard.

Mary Jane Jackson

A New Orleans prostitute with a violent temper, Mary Jane Jackson was a relative anomaly among female serial killers. Described as a “husky,” universally feared woman, she physically overpowered her adult-male victims. Nicknamed Bricktop because of her flaming-red hair, between 1856 and 1861 Jackson beat to death one man and stabbed to death three others because they called her names, objected to her foul language, or argued with her. Sentenced to ten years in prison for the 1861 stabbing death of a jailer-cum-live-in-lover who attempted to thrash her, 25-year-old Jackson disappeared nine months later when the newly appointed military governor of New Orleans emptied the prisons by issuing blanket pardons.

Kate Bender

Kate Bender

Kate Bender

A member of the notorious Bloody Benders of Labette County, Kansas, beautiful 22-year-old Kate claimed to be a psychic. In 1872 and1873, she enthralled male guests over dinner at the family’s inn while men posing as her father and brother sneaked up behind the victims and bashed in their skulls with a sledgehammer or slit their throats. Among the four Bender family members, only Kate and her mother were related, though Kate may have been married to the man posing as her brother. When a traveling doctor disappeared after visiting the Benders’ waystation in 1872, his brother began an investigation that turned up 11 bodies buried on the property. The Benders, who robbed their victims, disappeared without a trace. A persistent rumor claims vigilantes dispensed final justice somewhere on the Kansas prairie.

 

Ellen Etheridge

During the first year after her 1912 marriage to a millionaire farmer, 22-year-old Ellen Etheridge poisoned four of his eight children. She attempted to kill a fifth child by forcing him to drink lye, but the 13-year-old boy escaped and ran for help. A minister’s daughter, Etheridge confessed to the killings and the attempted murder, laying the blame on what she saw as her husband’s betrayal: He had married her not for love, but to provide an unpaid servant for his offspring, upon whom he lavished both his affection and his money. In 1913, a Bosque County, Texas, jury sentenced her to life in prison. She died in her sixties at the Goree State Farm for Women in Huntsville, Texas. (Note: Someone who claimed to be Ellen Etheridge’s grand-niece told me Etheridge did not die in prison but instead lived the rest of her life in Oregon with her sister, the speaker’s grandmother. I remain skeptical because the woman offered no proof except her word, but I thought I’d mention the discrepancy.)

Linda Burfield Hazzard

Linda Burfield Hazzard

Linda Burfield Hazzard

The first doctor in the U.S. to earn a medical degree as a “fasting specialist,” Linda Burfield Hazzard was so committed to proving her theories about weight loss and health that she starved at least 15 patients to death. In 1912, she was convicted of manslaughter in the case of an Olalla, Washington, woman whose will she forged in order to steal the victim’s possessions. Hazzard served four years of a two- to twenty-year prison sentence before being paroled in late 1915. She died of self-starvation in 1938.

Della Sorenson

Between 1918 and 1924, Sorenson killed eight family members to satisfy a twisted desire for revenge. Upon her arrest after an attempt to poison her second husband failed, she told authorities her niece and infant nephew, her first husband, her mother-in-law, two toddlers, and her own two daughters “bothered me, so I killed them.” She poisoned all of the children in the presence of their parents by feeding them cookies and candy laced with poison. A Dannebrog, Nebraska, jury declared the 28-year-old insane and committed her to the state mental asylum. She died there in 1941.

Lyda Southard

Lyda Southard

Lyda Southard

A serial “black widow,” Lyda Southard married seven men in five states over the course of eight years. Between 1915 and 1920, four of her husbands, a brother-in-law, and Southard’s three-year-old daughter — all recently covered by life insurance policies at Southard’s suggestion — died only months after the nuptials, apparently of ptomaine poisoning, typhoid fever, influenza, or diphtheria. Southard eventually was convicted of second-degree murder in the poisoning death of her first husband, earning her a ten-years-to-life sentence in the Old Idaho State Penitentiary. She escaped with the warden’s assistance in 1931, only to be recaptured and returned to serve another eleven years before receiving parole. After changing her name and divorcing three times, she died of a heart attack in 1958 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (At least she divorced her final three husbands instead of murdering them.)

 

Bertha Gifford and a six-year-old victim

Bertha Gifford and a six-year-old victim

Bertha Gifford

At the turn of the 20th Century, Bertha Gifford was known as an angel of mercy in Catawissa, Missouri. Not until 1928 did authorities discover her deadly ruse: The twenty to twenty-five sick friends and family members she took into her home and cared for between 1909 and 1928 all died of arsenic poisoning. Gifford was declared insane and committed to the Missouri State Hospital, where she died in 1951.

 

 

 

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Lottie Deno, Lady Gambler

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Did you know who Miss Kitty of Gunsmoke was created from? If you said the lady gambler, Lottie Deno, you’d be correct. She was one of the most interesting women on the American frontier. She was born Carlotta Thompkins on April 21, 1844 on a Kentucky plantation.

Her parents were very well-to-do and Lottie didn’t want for anything. At her birth, she was assigned a nanny from among the slaves—Mary Poindexter. She was a giant of a woman—7 ft. tall—and she accompanied Lottie everywhere she went. Nobody messed with big Mary.

lottie_denoLottie’s father taught her to play cards and she became an expert. When he was killed in the Civil War, Lottie played cards to support her mother and younger sister. For a while, Lottie worked on the riverboats and gambling houses along the Mississippi. She was a vivacious redhead with sparkling brown eyes and could charm the pants off any man—and his wallet too. LOL Which she did every chance she got.

In 1865 Lottie arrived in San Antonio and a year later was offered a job dealing cards at the University Club. She fell in love there with a half-Cherokee gambler named Frank Thurmond. He left town suddenly after killing a man and Lottie soon followed. I don’t know about you, but he sure wasn’t anything to look at. She could’ve done far better.

She was a bold woman and rode into the rough, lawless town of Fort Griffin, Texas on the top of a stagecoach like a fairy princess. She sat out in the open right on the very top like a fairy princess where she could see everything. With her flame-colored hair shining in the sun and a wide smile flashing, she caused quite a stir. It didn’t take long to get a job at the Bee Hive Saloon. One night she and Doc Holliday played cards all night long and by morning she’d won thirty thousand dollars of Doc’s money. She also played with legendary Wyatt Earp and many other notables of the old West.

frankthurmondIt was in Fort Griffin where Lottie got the Deno part of her name. One of the gamblers who’d lost to her hollered out, “Honey, the way you play your name should be Lotta Dinero.”

During a gunfight when all the others fled the saloon, she got under a table and stayed. When they asked why, she said she wasn’t about to leave her money and besides they weren’t shooting very straight.

She separated herself from the violent population of Ft. Griffin by taking a shanty in what they called The Flats on the Clear Fork of the Brazos. She only left it only to visit the local mercantile and to go to work. But Lottie lost her heart to Frank Thurmond and followed him to Silver City, New Mexico where they married and opened two saloons, a restaurant and a hotel.

lottie-denoLottie got involved in charity work, feeding newly released prisoners and giving them a place to stay.

She and Frank eventually moved on to Deming, New Mexico where they got out of the gambling business and settled down to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Frank became vice president of the Deming National Bank and helped found the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

In 1908, after forty years of marriage, Frank passed away. Lottie outlived him by 26 years until she, too, died and was buried next to Frank. Those who knew her said she maintained her laugh and good cheer to the end. I’d love to have met her. She was a colorful character.

She and Frank became models for characters in a series of books by Alfred Henry Lewis. Miss Kitty of Gunsmoke fame owed everything about her characterization to Lottie Deno. 

Okay, how many of you watched Gunsmoke? Do you think Matt and Miss Kitty should’ve gotten hitched? If you can remember that far back, did you have a favorite episode? I liked the one where Miss Kitty got kidnapped and Matt searched everywhere for her.

Movie Quotes: You Can’t Say it Better Than That!

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I love good dialogue, especially when it delivers the unexpected or makes me laugh. Dialogue sparkles when it reveals insight into the character, adds conflict, or moves the plot forward. I also like dialogue that adds sexual tension—hee haw!  Here are a few of my favorite western movie quotes.

The Ououtlawtlaw Josey Wales

Josey Wales: When I get to liking someone, they ain’t around long.
Lone Watie: I notice when you get to disliking someone they ain’t around for long neither.

 

Once Upon a Time in the West

Wobbles: You can trust me, Frank.
Frank: Trust ya? How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders, a man who can’t even trust his own pants?

True Grit

Rooster Cogburn: Damn that Texan, when you need him he’s dead.

The Magnificent Seven

Chico: Ah, that was the greatest shot I’ve ever seen.
Britt: The worst! I was aiming at the horse.

 Tombstone

 Wyatt Earp: You gonna do something or just stand there and bleed?

 Unforgiven

The kid:  Well, I guess they had it comin’.
Munny: We all got it comin’, kid.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

 Man with no name: See, in this world, there’s two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.

 The Cowboys

Jebediah: Above all, forgive me for the men I’ve killed in anger…and those I am about to.cowboy

 Pale Rider

Preacher (played by Clint Eastwood): Well, if you’re waitin’ for a woman to make up her mind, you may have a long wait.

 Support Your Local Sheriff

Jake: You want me to tell Joe Danby that he’s under arrest for murder? What’re you gonna do after he kills me?
Jason: Then I’ll arrest him for both murders.

The Searchers

Martin: I hope you die!
Ethan: That’ll be the day.

Blazing Saddles

Lamarr: Taggart.
Taggart: Yes, sir.
Lamarr: I’ve decided to launch an attack that will reduce Rock Ridge to ashes.
Taggart: What do you want me to do, sir?
Lamarr: I want you to round up every vicious criminal and gunslinger in the West. Take this down: I want rustlers, cut-throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nit-wits, half-wits, dim-wits, vipers, snipers, con-men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bush-whackers, horn-swagglers, horse-thieves, bull-dykes, train-robbers, bank-robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers, and Methodists!
Taggart: Could you repeat that, sir?

GWTWWestern movies aren’t known for love or romance, so I offer one of my favorite romantic quotes from Gone with The Wind:

Rhett Butler (who else?) You should be kissed — and often — and by someone who knows how.

And finally, here’s one from my soon-to-be-released book Left at the Altar

Josie (when the groom fails to show up for the wedding) You don’t suppose something might have happened to Tommy, do you? An accident?
Meg (the bride) It better have!

Do you have a favorite book or movie quote to share?  If not, which of the movie quotes above did you like best?

LeftattheAltarfinalcoverWelcome to Two-Time Texas:

Where tempers burn hot

Love runs deep

And a single marriage can unite a feuding town

…or tear it apart for good.

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Updated: July 28, 2016 — 2:27 pm

Jane Porter: One Room School Houses

A former teacher, I come from a long line of passionate educators. My father was a history and political science professor. My brother Thom is a business professor at UNC Wilmington, and my great grandfather was a professor of refrigeration engineering at Purdue University.

With teaching in my blood, it’s a given that I’ll write a story or two about teachers (Kit Brennan in The Good Daughter teaches English at a Catholic High School in Oakland, California and Jesslyn from The Sheikh’s Chosen Queen teaches at an international school in the UAE), I’ve never written about a teacher in a one room school house…until now.

My new story, The Lost Sheenan’s Bride, which releases on Friday, July 8th, is about a young teacher taking a long-term substitute job at one-room schoolhouse in Montana. The story wasn’t about the one-room school, but you wouldn’t know it from my research. I’m fascinated by Montana history, and in particular the intrepid women who first settled there.

Some facts from http://montanawomenshistory.org:

  • It’s estimated that up to 18 percent of homesteaders in Montana were unmarried women.
  • Passage of the Homestead Act of 1862 allowed any twenty-one-year-old head of household the right to homestead federal land. Single, widowed, and divorced women fit this description, and they crossed the country to file homestead claims of 160 acres.

Many of the homesteading women in Montana also became the state’s first teachers. Because of the Homestead Act of 1862, one-room schoolhouses were built all over the state.   Historians estimate that there were once 2,600 rural schools in Montana, and those rural schools served a multitude of purposes for each community, from education to social gatherings. In America today, there are still 200 operational one-room schoolhouses, with 62 of them located in Montana.

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The one room school house in Paradise Valley that inspired my story (photo courtesy Megan Crane )

Last month in early June I returned to Montana for eight days, and on my flight from Seattle to Kalispell I sat next to a woman who worked for the Swan Valley school district which still has an operational one-room school in the town of Salmon Prairie. The woman, a school clerk, loves the one-room school in Salmon Prairie and told me about the exceptional quality of education the children receive, the time teacher is able to devote with his students, the ability to individualize lessons and even better, the opportunity for a teacher to truly teach Montana—morning nature walks, visits to local parks (Glacier National Forest, Yellowstone, etc). The teacher doesn’t just teach math and reading, but hunts and fishes with his students and embraces what it means to be a Montanan. (Here is a story on the school in Salmon Prairie! Photographers document Montana’s disappearing one-room schools)

I was able to work a little of that fascinating conversation into my story, but its impossible to convey the history for Montana’s one-room schools in a 50,000 word contemporary romance, but I’ll try to share a bit more here with you since I know you’re all history and western buffs, too.

In 2013, The National Trust for Historic Preservation added Montana’s one-room schoolhouses to their list of the Nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historical Places.

Today at Montana’s Divide School, built in 1870, teacher Judy Boyle functions as teacher, principal, and guidance counselor. Grades K-8 are taught in the same room to as many as eight students. This year she had 3 students, and as there are no janitors, it is part of the kids’ responsibility to help clean the school daily.

As an American Studies major at UCLA, I focused on Frontier literature with my senior thesis on Mark Twain, and you can’t immerse yourself in Frontier lit without understanding the significance of the one-room schoolhouse scattered across vast prairies and in the snug valleys nestled between the Rockies. The schools represented hope and opportunity, and education was a big part of that opportunity. Homesteaders and miners, ranchers and railroad workers wanted their children to succeed, and the best way to succeed was by getting an education, and the sheer number of the schools still standing today are a reminder of the commitment Montanans made to their children.

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Another historic school house in Paradise Valley, this one still in operation.

Many of us grew up with Little House on the Prairie, or are fans of Hallmark’s popular series, When Calls the Heart, so we can picture the one room school. There was very little variation from one school to another:

  • Teachers were typically male. If the teacher was a woman, she had to be single. Married teachers were not allowed.
  • Frequently, families in the rural towns would take turns boarding the teacher, with every family contributing towards the teacher’s salary.
  • Schoolhouses had only a few windows and one door. Bigger schools might have two doors for separate entrances for the boys and girls.
  • The teacher’s desk was located at the front of the room and the teacher wrote the lessons on a large slate board, much like chalkboards or white boards in classrooms today.
  • There was no bathroom or running water. Students used an outhouse.
  • The children sat at narrow wooden desks and/or on long wooden benches, with boys sat on one side and the girls on the other.
  • Schoolhouses were heated by one stove with the older students responsible for keeping the fire going.

One of my favorite books I bought in Montana several years ago, that probably also helped inspire my new story was Visions and Voices: Montana’s One-Room Schoolhouses. The pictures are worth the price of the book alone, but there are also wonderful quotes and stories from former students who were educated in these schools.

Visions and Voices: Montana’s One-Room Schoolhouses
by Charlotte Caldwell
Link: https://amzn.com/0985497106

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Three other favorites books from my shelves on Montana and women homesteaders:

Nothing to Tell: Extraordinary Stories of Montana Ranch Women
by Donna Gray
Link: https://amzn.com/0762779098

Montana Women Homesteaders: A Field of One’s Own
by Sarah Carter
Link: https://amzn.com/1560374497

Staking Her Claim: Women Homesteading the West
by Marcia Meredith Hensley
Link: https://amzn.com/0931271908

To celebrate the release of my new book, The Lost Sheenan’s Bride, featuring Jet Diekerhof, the teacher of a one-room schoolhouse in Paradise Valley, Montana, I’m giving away a signed print copy of the book, plus lots of fun reader swag. Interested? Tell me if you think you would have enjoyed attending school at a one-room school. One comment will be drawn and the winner will be announced on Wednesday, July 13th so do check back and see if that was you!

Look for The Sheenans’s Lost Bride at these online retailers:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK

TheLostSheenanBride-MEDIUM

Updated: July 5, 2016 — 2:46 pm

The Good Old Days – Teacher Requirements

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Yesterday, I received an email from a student who was working on a research paper about teacher certification exams. In her online exploration, she ran across a blog post I wrote about Normal schools (Teaching the Teachers) and asked me for some of the sources I used for that post. As I searched for them, I ran across a site that focused on the requirements for teachers that went beyond their scores on certification exams.

1905 teaching contractSince teachers were in charge of molding young minds, many school boards placed extra, more personal and moral, requirements on the instructors they hired. And some, just tried to get as much for their money as possible. Here’s a photo of an actual teaching contract from 1905 that stipulates janitorial labor as part of the position with no extra pay. Also no holidays were allowed.

But that wasn’t all.

There were all of these stipulations as well:
1. Teachers are expected to live in the community in which they are employed and to take residence with local citizens for room and board. Nothing like a little privacy and a place of your own. Though the free meals would be nice.
2. Teachers will be required to spend weekends in the community unless permission is granted by the Chairman of the Board. Do you get the feeling this school board wanted to keep an eye on their teachers? No holidays, no weekend train trips to visit family in the next county without special permission.

3. It is understood that teachers will attend church each Sunday and take an active part, particularly in choir and Sunday School work. Now as a church goer myself, I’m all for encouraging church attendance, but the cynical side of me is wondering if this is stipulated just so they can force her to teach Sunday School classes in addition to her usual classroom duties.

4. Dancing, card playing and the theatre are works of the Devil that lead to gambling, immoral climate, and influence and will not be tolerated. Theatre is a work of the devil yet …

5. Community plays are given annually.  Teachers are expected to participate. Uh huh. Double standard, anyone? 

6. When laundering petticoats and unmentionables it is best to dry them in a flour sack or pillow case.  (So no one sees them hanging on the line to dry). I have to wonder how anything actually dries while inside a flower sack. And can you get a special dispensation if the family you are boarding with (see item 1) has their feminine underthings flapping on the line? Because, really, what hard-working mother would take the time to hide her unmentionables in flour sacks?

19th century classroom7. Any teacher who smokes cigarettes, uses liquor in any form, frequents a pool or public hall, or (for men) gets shaved in a barber shop, (or for women) bobbs (cuts) her hair, has dyed hair, wears short skirts (could not be any shorter than 2 inches above the ankles) and has undue use of cosmetics will not be tolerated under any circumstances. OK – this time I’m on the man’s side. You can’t get shaved in a barber shop??? Something tells me the local barber was not on the school board.

8. Teachers will not marry or keep company with a man friend during the week except as an escort to church services.  But on the other hand …

9. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly. Not only do they get paid more, but they’re allowed to date. Because men would never do anything impure while dating, but a woman . . . well, she can’t be trusted to remain pure. (Sticking my tongue out here.)

11. Loitering in ice cream parlors, drug stores, etc., is prohibited. Yes, because ice cream parlors are such dens of iniquity. Dens of calories, yes, but that’s not the same thing. Usually.

12. After 10 hours in school, the teacher should spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books. I’m all for Bible reading, but a good novel is a great way to unwind after a 10 hour day. Too bad my definition of “good books” probably doesn’t match what is intended here.

13. Women teachers who marry or engage in other unseemly conduct will be dismissed. Marriage is unseemly conduct??? Apparently only for a woman (see #9)

16. The teacher who performs his labors faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents a week in his pay providing the Board of Education approves. Wow! Makes me appreciate the value of a dollar. It takes 5 years of faithful service (and no marriage) to get $1 more a month.

  • So, which of these stipulations would you have the hardest time swallowing?

Excuse me while I loiter in an ice cream shop with a gentleman not related to me, showing off my bobbed haircut. After 5 years of dedicated service, I’m spending my raise and living it up before the hatchet falls at the next school board meeting.

 

(Source: http://www.ameshistory.org/contract.htm)

Harper Lee

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P BluebonnetHarper Lee, the elusive novelist who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel that was writtenHarper Lee from a child’s-eye whose view reflected racial prejudices in a small Southern town recently died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 89, in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.

Although I read a dozen articles about her death, they were about the same through the eyes of the Associated Press.  The information that I found the most intriguing was in her biography.

One thing of interest was that her full name was Nelle Harper Lee.  Her first name was her grandmother’s name spelled backwards.  Lee dropped the Nelle because she didn’t want people to mispronounce it.  Her father was a lawyer, a member of the Alabama state legislature and part owner of the local newspaper.  For most of Lee’s life, her mother suffered from mental illness and rarely left the house.  It was believed that she may have had bipolar disorder.

Although Lee was the youngest of four children, she was scrappy as any of her brothers. Not to mention she was brilliant.

One of her best friends, and who as authors today we’d call a critique partner, was Truman Capote, then known as Truman Persons. Lee often stepped up to serve as Truman’s protector.  Truman, who shared few interest with boys his age, was picked on for being sensitive and for the fancy clothes he wore.  While the two friends were very different, they both had difficult homes lives.  Truman lived with his mother’s relative after largely being abandoned by his own parents.

“The world knows Harper Lee was a brilliant writer but what many don’t know is that she was an extraordinary woman of great joyfulness, humility and kindness. She lived her life the way she wanted to– in private – surrounded by books and the people who loved her,” Michael Morrison, head of HarperCollins U.S. general books group, said.

Gregory PeckTo Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960, a little over a half a century ago, quickly became a best-seller, won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a memorable movie in 1962, with Gregory Peck winning an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus, plus the movie winning three Oscars. As the civil rights movement grew, the novel inspired a generation of young lawyers.

By 2015, its sales were reported to be more than 40 million worldwide, making it one of the most widely read American novels of the 20th century. When the Library of Congress did a survey in 1991 on books that have affected people’s lives, I was second only to the Bible.

Lee herself became more mysterious as her book became more famous. At first, she dutifully promoted her work. She spoke frequently to the press, wrote about herself and gave speeches..

But she began declining interviews in the late 1960s and, until late in her life, firmly avoided making any public comment at all about her novel or her career. Other than a few magazine pieces for Vogue and McCall’s in the 1960s and a review of a 19th-century Alabama history book in 1983, she published no other book until stunning the world in 2015 by permitting Go Set a Watchman to be released.

”Watchman” was written before “Mockingbird” but was set 20 years later, using the same Harper Lee Both Bookslocation and many of the same characters. Readers and reviewers were disheartened to find an Atticus who seemed nothing like the hero of the earlier book. But despite unenthusiastic reviews and questions whether Lee was well enough to approve the publication, “Watchman” jumped to the top of best-seller lists within a day of its announcement and remained there for months.

Much of Lee’s story is the story of “Mockingbird,” and how she responded to it. She wasn’t a bragger or a drinker like many authors of her time. She was not a recluse or eccentric. By the accounts of friends and Monroeville townsfolk, she was a warm, vibrant and witty woman who enjoyed life, played golf, read voraciously and enjoyed plays and concerts. She just didn’t want to talk about it before an audience.

One of the most interesting things I found about her life really doesn’t differ a great deal from today’s readers.  Although eventually To Kill a Mockingbird was released as an e-Book, she wasn’t all that pleased with the decision.  In her words, like many of ours, she said, “I’m still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries. I am amazed and humbled that ‘Mockingbird’ has survived this long ….”

As most students who grew up in my era, To Kill a Mockingbird was required school reading.  However, I read mostly Granny’s True Confession mags she hid under the bed in the room I stayed in every weekend, plus of course, required class reading.

When I got older, the first real romance novel I read and it’ll always be my favorite is The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss.  After I got caught up on her older books, I turned to LaVyrle Spencer. There are so many to choose from but my favorite of all is The Hellion and later Hummingbird.  For me, as I remember, The Hellion, was the first truly bad-boy hero I’d ever read.  Just writing about it today makes me want to find my copy and read it again, but since I’ve got to get the second book in the Kasota Springs series finished for Kensington, I guess I’d best save the reading of The Hellion and The Flame and the Flower until it’s winter and I can curl up with hot tea in front of the fireplace and read.

My question to you all … what is the book you literally “cut your teeth on” when you began reading historical romances?

Being the first day of March, I can truly smell all the freshness of spring here in Texas.  To one lucky winner I will give you an e-Book of the first book in the Kasota Springs series, The Troubled Texan.

The Troubled Texan GoodValentines Short Story, Harper Lee, and Linda's books at BN

This was a fun shot at Barnes and Nobles and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a picture.  To Kill a Mockingbird, Filly Linda Broday’s Texas Mail Order Bride, and the Valentine’s short story collection from Prairie Rose Publications, Hearts and Spurs which features P&P Fillies Linda Broday, Tracy Garrett, Cheryl Pierson, Kathleen Rice Adams, Tanya Hansen, and Phyliss Miranda.

Updated: February 29, 2016 — 8:19 pm

The Best Unknown Architect Was a Woman!

MargaretBrownley-header

Mary ColterThe heroine in my latest book Calico Spy is a Pinkerton detective working undercover as a Harvey Girl. Last month I wrote about Fred Harvey and how he saved early train travelers from food poisoning.

This month I want to draw your attention to Mary Colter, the woman who designed many of his hotels and restaurants. At a time when traveling was expensive and people traveled only out of necessity, she helped introduce the concept of traveling just for pleasure and that’s not all she did.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1862, she attended the California School of Design at the tender age of seventeen. She planned to support her mother and sister by teaching art. While attending school, she apprenticed as an architect.

At the time, architecture was going through great changes. Instead of emulating European styles, a new type of California architecture was in the works and Mary was influenced by this new Mission-type of design. She also believed in replicating nature by utilizing natural materials in her designs.

Hopi

Mary designed this to house native American craftsmen and their wares.

After graduating in 1890, she returned to St. Paul and taught art at the Mechanic Arts High School.

She was hired by the Fred Harvey company in 1902 as an interior decorator. In the early days, Fred Harvey collected Indian art and she encouraged the company to expand on this concept. She was instrumental in reaching out to Native American craftsmen and bringing their wares into the Harvey hotel shops. This was a daring venture as the Indian Wars were still ongoing in some parts of the country, but somehow she persuaded visitors to purchase tribal pottery, blankets and jewelry—quite a feat given the times.

Watchtower

This was an engineering feat and was lined with steel for safety.

 

 

Eventually, Mary became the chief architect of the Fred Harvey company. The idea of a woman playing such a role in a company was unthinkable, and it wasn’t easy. She clashed with family members who carried on after Fred’s death, but eventually won them over.

Never heard of her? There’s a good reason for that. Architecture was a male dominated profession, and Mary was not credited as architect on the buildings she designed. As a result, she never gained the same recognition as many her peers such as Frank Lloyd Wright. She has been called the best unknown architect of the Southwest.

Some of Mary’s work includes the Indian Watchtower at Desert View; Lookout Studio; Hopi House; Hermit’s Rest and Painted in Painted Desert. La Posada in Winslow, Arizona was her favorite.

Historic Park Inn HotelPosada

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, you decide; Frank Lloyd Wright’s Park Inn Hotel is on the left and Mary’s La Posada hotel  is on the right.  Many think that had Mary been a man she would be better known today.  What do you think?

Working Undercover is No Job for A Lady!

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Updated: February 20, 2016 — 1:31 pm

Welcome Guest – Ruth Logan Herne & Book Giveaway

Ruth Logan HerneI am over-the-moon excited to be over here on Petticoats & Pistols, because that means I’ve had another dream come true:

Ruthy’s writing westerns!

I love western lore, I love the look of a rugged cowboy, and I love Reba McIntyre’s song “Cowgirls Don’t Cry”… And I’m thrilled that Book 1 of the “Double S Ranch” series is releasing on March 15th! Talk about a swoon-worthy hero and cover!

But westerns aren’t just about heroes, although I love ’em… The backbone of the western movement is found in the women who settled there under some unspeakable conditions, the women who still help run the west. They’re the stuff dreams are made of. The ones who stayed back then and help run the heartland today are not shrinking violets. Generally these gals are unafraid to get dirty, and willing to roll up their sleeves and help in the barn before they set a fresh baking of bread.

You only have to do a walking tour of a nineteenth century cemetery to see how many women and children were lost in days of scant medical care and pre-antibiotics.

And still they forged ahead, risking life and limb to open a new land to growing families for a long variety of reasons, many of which lay back east in the smog-filled manufacturing cities. The open air of the west called to them. A land of opportunity, free land! Tempting flyers and newspaper announcements painted a glowing picture, even though the truth of the matter was often quite different.

Back in the SaddleHarsh lands and tough conditions took required health and backbone, and it’s an unfortunate truth that the loss of women in childbirth or to disease opened the door for more western brides. Opportunity sprang from great misfortune, and for each group of wagons bringing worn pioneers back east, more joined the journey west. Mail order brides back then have become the Farmers Only internet brides of today.

The image of the west called to certain types.

Women with a past, and women who thought they had no future. And also women who wanted a say in their future, women seeking the rights of suffrage had fewer men to shout them down on the prairie! And women were of great value on the prairie. Staking, running and keeping a claim wasn’t a one-man job.

The role of women and the claim of suffragists helped forge a different kind of community from the early years of settlement. As communication became easier, women’s voices grew louder, and men began listening because what choice did they have? By the first World War, it became clear that certain rights were undeniable, finally, but FOUR western states had granted women the right to vote decades earlier. Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho stood strong on the belief that women and men were equal, and raised the bar for an East Coast that had been dickering the subject for nearly six decades. Good for them!

I love creating heroines worthy of that western designation, the distinctive grit that goes hand in hand with a more feminine, nurturing side.

Settling a land isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s true, but when men and women join forces to create an unbreakable bond, amazing things happened then… and now!

Here’s a Peek at Ruth’s new book

When stock market manipulations leave Colt Stafford financially strapped, the oldest son of legendary rancher Sam Stafford returns to the sprawling Double S ranch in Gray’s Glen, Washington. He’s broke, but not broken, and it’s time to check in with his ailing father, and get his legs back under him by climbing into the saddle again.

He doesn’t expect to come home to a stranger pointing a loaded gun at his chest— a tough yet beautiful woman that Sam hired as the house manager. Colt senses there’s more to Angelina Morales than meets the eye and he’s determined to find out what she’s hiding…and why.

Writing westerns is a dream come true for Ruth. 

For a chance to win 1 of 2 copies of Back in the Saddle tell us about a dream

that came true for you.

The book can also be Pre-ordered Here:

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About Ruth

Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne loves God, her family, her country, chocolate, coffee and dogs, not always in that order! A country gal with a love for the big city, she is the author of nearly thirty novels and novellas and absolutely loves writing the kind of books she likes to read!

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Updated: February 19, 2016 — 9:38 am
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