Last week, I got a title on the book I wrote this past summer. THE CATTLEMAN’S UNSUITABLE WIFE will be released in May, 2009, and will be the featured western in Harlequin Historical’s 60th Anniversary line-up. Yee-haw!
You might recall I wrote a blog about researching for this book. Despite what the title implies, it’s about sheep. The heroine’s family are Basque sheepherders, and her brother is the bastard son of a cattleman. Sheepherders and cattlemen clashed and made for some mighty strong feuds back in the Old West days, and it was fun to write Trey and Zurina’s story. Now that the book is finished and winging its way into the edits stage, it’s time for me to think about my next project.
This one will be a Christmas anthology that I’ll be sharing with our own Elizabeth Lane and Carol Finch. Our theme is “Coming Home for Christmas”, and it’ll be released in October, 2009. Since that will be only 4 months after THE CATTLEMAN’S UNSUITABLE WIFE, I wanted to give Zurina’s brother his own story while he’s fresh in readers’ minds. I’ve paired him up with another character in THE CATTLEMAN’S UNSUITABLE WIFE, the lovely and slightly inebriated Allethaire.
Which of course, threw me into another bout of researching. With Allethaire being wealthy and having no need to work to support herself, I had to give her something to do. That something was community service.
Men got all the glory when it came to settling the frontier, but it was the women who worked behind the scenes to give their towns personality and life. They volunteered countless hours shaping their communities into a place where their children would be educated and their families would prosper. As one Utah pioneer claimed, the men “built the bridges and killed the bears,” but “women worked just as hard in their way.” A Colorado woman in the 1800’s wrote how “women were the backbone of the church, the backbone of the family, they were the backbone of social life–everything.”
Whether they lived on the range or were comfortably settled in town, housewives banded together to raise funds to create and maintain institutions that would fill educational, religious, medical and social needs. They formed women’s groups (or clubs, if you will) that accomplished amazing things–and empowered them all along the way. Here’s a few of the women’s clubs I found:
The State Housekeepers Society of Bozeman, Montana. With a motto of “Our Kingdom is Our Home,” these ladies preserved history and organized endeavors to improve lighting on city streets and in parks.
The Deep Creek Ladies Aid of South Dakota worked hard to collect money to build a Norwegian Lutheran Church. They furnished and maintained the pews, the pulpit, the altar ring, and baptismal font, then went on to support the parochial school teachers, bought books, then zealously and without fail attended every service.
The Montana Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs improved playgrounds and housing for blacks, and eased racial tensions when needed. Most notably in the Northwest, their gatherings enriched the black woman’s life through church groups, literary, art and musical groups. Also, self-improvement societies, auxiliaries, sororities and reform associations.
The Morman Female Relief Society formed on behalf of Brigham Young’s desire to keep his followers self-sustaining. These women organized silkworm associations which taught how to raise the worms, then weave the silk into fabric for their own dresses, handkerchiefs, stockings, thread and lace.
Of course, I can’t not include the women’s temperance groups like The Women’s Temperance Prayer League in Portland and the infamous Women’s Christian Temperance Union who fought and risked their lives to eradicate alcohol and saloons. Likewise, groups similar to Seattle’s Female Suffrage Society who became politically involved to give themselves and their sisters the right to vote.
Ladies clubs continue to thrive and are as diverse as the women themselves. Ranging from junior leagues to sports associations, women’s groups have made America the fine country it is today!
So how about you? Are you currently in some kind of a woman’s club? What has been your favorite? Your most meaningful? Most fun?
For me, the first one to come to mind is La Leche League. Back when I was having my babies, I was a die-hard nursing mom. Those years were happy ones, when I was surrounded by other moms just like me with the same ideals for raising and caring for our babies. 🙂