I love the story I wrote for my current release. It’s called “Home Again” and it’s a novella in the Love Inspired Historical Mother’s Day anthology. Overall title is In a Mother’s Arms. The heroine has a 12-year-old son who’s determined to get into trouble. He starts by throwing a rock through the church window. That act of rebellion puts him in the path of the town sheriff, the man my heroine jilted fourteen years earlier.
What I loved about the story is how hard the heroine is trying to raise her son to be a good man. Here she is . . . A woman in 1890 Colorado, running a store, raising a child and divorced. She needs help and the hero is glad to give it, but the bottom line is that she’s responsible for raising her son. Like the real life women who settled this country, my heroine, by shaping a single child, contributes to the creation of the time and place we call the Old West.
When I started this column, I was going to list my five favorite Wild West women. Several names came to mind, most of which you’d recognize. Annie Oakley… Calamity Jane . . . Caroline Ingalls of “Little House” fame. Don’t get me wrong. I’m fascinated by these women and their larger-than-life ways, but I wouldn’t call them favorites. They are complex individuals with good traits and not-so-good traits.
I thought of Sacagawea, the Indian guide for Lewis and Clark. In elementary school I read her biography a dozen times. She’d be on the list, but I’m sure my impression has been overly romanticized. She’s a favorite, but I don’t feel strongly connected.
I broadened my search and thought of Willa Cather. A woman and an esteemed author, she was born in Virginia in 1873 and grew up in Nebraska. In college I read O Pioneers! and My Antonia. I enjoyed the stories, but I didn’t love them the way I love a western romance.
Somewhere in my search, I realized something simple. The women of the west I most admire don’t have individual pages in history books. They could most likely shoot a gun, but they weren’t in the league of Annie Oakley. They had grand adventures like Sacagawea, but their journeys had another purpose. They wrote like Willa Cather, maybe not books but letters by the dozens, even hundreds.
The women of the west I most admire were the wives and mothers who lived everyday lives. They cooked breakfast for their eight kids, did laundry in tubs with homemade soap, and tended sick children. They stared down danger, kept the faith and somehow brought civility to the wide open spaces of America. I have the deepest respect for these women and always will. They had tough lives and they persevered. What’s more, they passed that grit on to their sons and daughters.
Mother’s Day is a few weeks away, but I’m celebrating early this year. Home Again is dedicated to my mom. She’s strong, smart, wise and just plain fun. Who are the women, both in history and in real life, that you most admire? I’d love to hear about them. Everyone who comments will be automatically entered into a drawing for a copy of In a Mother’s Arms.
To learn more about Victoria, visit her website at www.victoriabylin.com