Kate Bridges Asks: What Would You Have Been in 1850?

katebridgessmallerwebphoto.jpgHello, friends! It’s been a while since I’ve visited and I’m glad to be back to catch up with everyone.

One of the things that excites me about writing historicals is researching the occupations from way back when. Some of the jobs sound so adventurous.

In Wyoming Territory, women got the right to vote earlier than in most other places. In 1869, in fact. When the Territory debated whether to join the Union, the other states asked Wyoming to drop the right for women to vote as a precondition for joining. The men of Wyoming refused, and in 1890, Wyoming became the 44th state of the Union anyway. Hooray for those dashing Wyoming men! As a result of getting the right to vote, women of Wyoming got to serve on juries, be judges, lawyers, court bailiffs, and all sorts of fascinating occupations much sooner than their Eastern counterparts.

gunsOne of my earlier books involved a female gunsmith (THE SURGEON, 2003). That was fun to research. I discovered that not everyone in the Wild West could afford to own an expensive Smith & Wesson or Colt Revolver. Everyday guns (why does that sound odd?) were made by the local clockmaker because he owned some of the same intricate tools needed, and had an eye for detail. In my story, the heroine grew up with a father who held that occupation, and she and her brother picked up the trades. She tries to stick to clockmaking and shuns the weapons, but her expertise is needed in the climax of the book when she has to help the hero deliver several guns custom made (by her) to the villain, with her brother’s life in the balance.

Thinking about livelihoods is what sparked the idea for my current book, ALASKAN RENEGADE.


The heroine is Victoria Windhaven, a nurse stuck in the middle of nowhere who has to do more than what’s required of her since no doctors are around to help. Victoria sets off on a dangerous medical journey through the Alaskan wilderness and needs a bodyguard to protect her. Unfortunately, he’s a man from her past – Brant MacQuaid. Several years ago in St. Louis, he left her sister standing at the altar and Victoria has never forgiven him.

Brant is the son of a governor who has shunned his father’s political footsteps to become a bounty hunter. His family has disowned him for it – but he was traumatized by the murder of his best friend and figures this is his chance to bring criminals to justice in his way. Accompanying them on the trip is an inexperienced and scared young medical student who has a crush on Victoria and complicates everything – also provides some comic relief. The medical student is being pushed to become a doctor by his father, but is trying to decide if that’s who he really wants to be in life. The villain himself is in dire need of medical help for his own injured father, and it becomes a tense showdown for the three travelers to decide if they’re going to help the villain or do him in….and in the meantime battle who they’ve become in their young lives, and the occupations they’ve set out for themselves. And, of course, the wilderness is a very romantic backdrop for the love story!

Here’s a photo of the place I set the story. Isn’t it beautiful?


If you were living in those times, what would you have been?

A judge? A traveling photographer? Candy maker? Railroad worker? Tinsmith? Bootmaker? Explorer? Mapmaker? Casket-measurer (I just threw that one in for fun.) Inventor of fancy notions? Printing press owner? Bar-keep? Saloon girl? Dancer? Restaurant owner? Deputy Marshal? Tailor? Gold miner?

firetruckΒ Β clockΒ plants

If I couldn’t choose writing, I would have liked to have been an apothecary. There would have been lots of research and thinking involved, plus I’d get to run my own business and help people in need. And I’d love to work with all those pretty bottles. Being a judge would’ve been interesting, too, although I’m not sure I could control my temper. I’d be like a Judge Judy giving all the criminals lectures. “Did your mama raise you to play with guns? Take your hands off your holsters and stand up straight when you’re talking to me!”

For anyone who leaves a comment or question today, you’ll get your name put into a drawing for a free autographed copy of ALASKAN RENEGADE.

To read an excerpt visit www.katebridges.com

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45 thoughts on “Kate Bridges Asks: What Would You Have Been in 1850?”

  1. Good morning Kate-nice to see you back here!

    I think I would have owned a Boarding House…like a modern day B&B! But-I would have had a family too-I would not be just a single woman/business owner! My family and I could have lived in my nice big house and rented out rooms to other people! My husband would have been the blacksmith in the town-since that’s about the closest thing to being a modern day automotive technician!! (see..I have this all planned out! LOL)

    By the way-LOVE LOVE the cover-very nice!!
    Have a great day,

  2. What would I have been in 1850? Very happy! This is my favorite time period in American History, the time to which I feel the greatest connection. I often feel as though I lived in the mid to late 1800’s with the love of my life and a wonderful family. I would have been a woman who loved to cook and sew and garden and read, but who knew how to work hard and provide for herself. I would have been a champion of equal rights for women, and I probably had my own business. Maybe I would have owned and operated the first hotel/restaurant/general store combination with the feed troughs (fuel pumps) out in front!

  3. Hi Melissa! It’s nice to be back and thanks for the warm welcome!

    Owning a Boarding House would’ve been a lot of fun, especially how you describe it as a B&B. And I always thought those blacksmiths were such rugged alpha men! πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the mention of the cover. I love it, too! I think the publisher did an amazing job.

  4. Hi Virginia! Isn’t that funny how you feel as though you’ve lived in that era? I feel really connected to that time period, too. Maybe because it was a time when women got so many of their freedoms and equal rights, and cities and towns were forming… Your life sounds like it would have been a happy one, and that’s a nice touch with feed troughs out front! πŸ™‚

    Hi Cathy! Thanks for your comments! We’ll add your name into the draw.

  5. Hi Kate! Love the posting. I have often wondered the same thing myself. I wonder, based on the kind of family I have, what trade I would have been “born into.” My dad retired from the military, so I guess I would’ve been the daughter of a solider. Probably wouldn’t have wanted to marry a soldier though…they travel too much. I ended up married to a doctor…which has kind of inspired me toward nursing. I think if I had the opportunity I would’ve done nursing. But, if not, then teaching. I always thought it would be awesome to teach in a little one-room schoolhouse. I was the little girl who played “Little House on the Prairie” everyday.
    Seriously, I think I was born at the wrong time. My heart calls me back to the western past.

  6. Hi Kate. Great post. Alaskan Renegade sounds wonderful. Love the cover. I think I would have been a school marm or a mercantile employee back then.

  7. Hey, Kate, welcome back! So nice to have you on P & P if only as a guest. Your book sounds wonderful. My friend and I just booked an Alaska cruise for May. Maybe I’ll take it along to read. That country looks so beautiful in photos, can’t wait to see it!
    And if I’d lived in the old west I’d still have wanted to be a writer or maybe a reporter. Can’t imagine not writing.

  8. I would love to have been a traveling photographer. I bet the rugged beauty of the land back then was breath taking. No buildings everywhere to block your view.

  9. Hi Stephanie! Those are some interesting thoughts. Nursing would’ve been challenging and interesting in those difficult times, and very much appreciated by the community. Teaching in a one-room schoolhouse would’ve been fun. I used to watch “Little House” a lot, too!

    Crystal – Thanks about the cover. Being a mercantile employee would’ve been fun – seeing all the new supplies come in and being the first to pick out something pretty or useful for the house!

    Elizabeth – Thanks so much on the welcome back! It’s nice to visit you all. πŸ™‚ Enjoy that cruise, it sounds awesome. I’d love to see the coast like that. I can picture you as a reporter way-back-when!

    Rebekah – A traveling photographer, how exciting! That’s true about the buildings not blocking any views. I imagine it must’ve been stunning to step off the train and be surrounded by those beautiful mountains in the West.

    Hi Anon – teaching seems to be a popular choice. I think teachers back then would’ve had a lot more freedom in the classroom and you’d pretty much be your own boss. A very valuable asset!

  10. I think I would have been a teacher…considering that is currently the degree I’m pursuing, I think that’s probably a good thing! But I also would like to think I would have been adventurous and maybe done something different…who knows?

  11. Hi Kate, what a great post! I think I would have been a seamtress or a baker, maybe a little of both. Make people bread for the day in the mornings and their chothes at night by candle light. Hmmmm maybe this would have been a bit much!

  12. Hi Kate! What a pleasure to have you back at P&P! Your new book sounds as wonderful as all the others.

    Let’s see . . . Old West professions . . . I would have started a newspaper and been a bit of a crusader. Teaching appeals to me, too. Either way, it would have been an adventure.

  13. Thanks for all your comments. They’re making me chuckle as I read through your choices.

    Minna – candy maker would be great! But difficult for me to not gain a million pounds on the job.

    Kaitlin – good luck on your degree! I bet you’ll be a great teacher!

    Emma – thanks! Your name is in.

    Quilt Lady – Seamstress and baker sounds like a good combination. In fact, I bet there were some women out there who did those two things. They would’ve loved you in the Klondike – all those men who needed feeding and clothing! I believe there was one lady who owned a sandwich shop in Alaska and she became a millionaire from it.

    Victoria – Howdy! πŸ™‚ Starting a newspaper sounds just like you. Adventurous and a go-getter!

  14. Kate,

    I must agree that research is alot of fun. I am currently working on a mystery and I have learned so much.

    If I had been born in the 1850 I would have wanted to live on the Lakota reservation at Wounded Knee. The American Indian should be showed respect for they are very special people.

    Thanks Kate for the post. I have put Alaskan Renegade on my must read list

    Walk in harmony,

  15. I think I would be like Clamiity Jane,dont see myself being someones little woman keeping the garden an having babies,lol,although I have 6 now an 5 grandkids,I would have loved riding horseback an shooting!

  16. Kate, it’s great to have you back on P&P. Almost like old times. Love you book cover! Wow! That would get me to buy it even if I hadn’t already planned to. πŸ™‚

    I think I’d have wanted to be the owner of a mercantile or something along those lines. It would’ve been neat having new merchandise arrive and being the talk of the town (the merchandise, not me LOL.) The mercantiles filled a huge void with things so hard to get. And usually the mercantile also handled the mail. That would’ve piqued my curiosity. But I’d have been the first to know who got what mail. Now that’d make a good story. I’ll have to jot myself a note.

    Thank you for filling in for me today. You’re so sweet.

  17. Hi Kate and welcome back to the Junction! The setting you chose is gorgeous.

    With my need to take care of everyone, I’d probably have run a boarding house or a hotel. Or I’d have run off to be by myself up in the mountains somewhere. πŸ™‚

  18. My usual answer would have been a teacher, but it would have been interesting to be a bootmaker or something else different… πŸ˜€

  19. Melinda – good luck on your mystery! It can be a lot of fun weaving in those clues. What a fascinating place you’d choose for 1850!

    Vickie -LOL on Calamity Jane! You’d have to practice your shooting while sitting on a moving object.

    Linda – thanks for the welcome! And for allowing me to step into your shoes for a day. The blog and photos look lovely, BTW, the way you spaced them. πŸ™‚ LOL on you being the talk of the town. I forgot about the mercantile handling the mail – yes, that would’ve been interesting! It would’ve been hard not to be snoopy.

    Tracy – Thanks! The hotel/boarding house would be appealing, meeting all those strangers from all over the place. Running off to be alone appeals to me, too, especially around deadline time, LOL!

    Colleen – teacher or bootmaker… The bootmaker would be very different. I recently visited a re-made bootmaker’s shop from around that era. It had a bunch of patterns for boots and shoes cut out in thin metal, hanging off the walls. It seemed to be a very precise job!

  20. I think I would have owned a bar or resturant establishment or a hotel.. I think those kinds of buisnesses where always needed.. Or maybe I maybe a lawyer.. It is fun to think “what if”..

  21. Wow – gorgeous scenery. And such a unique job for back then. Me? I’d probably be what I’ve been in the past – a teacher. I know, boring. But… I think it would have been interesting to work in a one-room school with all levels. Or maybe I’d have taken after my grandmother and driven a dray wagon – which is how she met my grandfather – when his stagecoach tangled with her wagon. πŸ™‚

  22. Hi Kate, so good to see you here again! I miss you. The book sounds fantastic; what an imagination you have.

    I suspect I would have been a schoolteacher since that’s what I ended up doing in this life lol. OR a seamstress or hatmaker. A boardinghouse sounds kinda fun…but I think a lot of work!

    In my first book the heroine and hero are heading for Wyoming at the end mostly for those enlightened reasons you mention.

    Come back soon, ya’ hear? oxoxoxoxoxox

  23. a fabulous post…1850…i would have probably been a schoolteacher…your book sounds wonderful…thanks for the opporutunity to read it.

  24. First the pictures are awesome. That cover lickable. Oh in the 1850’s I think I would have liked to have been a stagecoach driver, maybe even a female army scout cause my daddy might have been and officer and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Oh my such good ideas for a story I can’t wait to get my hands on your book awesome.

  25. Kathleen – how about a bar where you give legal advice? Sounds like a good concept, LOL.

    Pamela – I can totally relate to that. Camping and searching for the big time!

    Vicky – what a lively way your grandparents met. I can just picture it – sort of romantic, eh? And being a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse sounds interesting, not boring! You’d be your own woman.

    Tanya – hugs back at you. πŸ™‚ Your book where the hero and heroine head for Wyoming at the end sounds adventurous. Maybe that’s why we write Westerns? That fabulous sense of freedom our characters had in the West – at least more so than the east. Being a hatmaker would’ve been fun, working with all those pretty fabrics.

    Karen – thanks for the comments and for dropping by and adding your name to the list of schoolteachers in our make-believe little town.

    Nancy – glad you like the pictures and the cover! You’ve got an adventurous spirit in you with stagecoach driver or army scout as possibilities. Sounds like you would have loved it!

  26. Kate I am so happy you are visiting I wished you were still here you are very much missed. I am very happy for the time you are spending here today. I feel like a lot of the rest that I should be older and lived in that time. I think I would have like to be a teacher or I would like to have ran a general store with all the sewing and baking items. I wished life was that simple again, it seems like everything thing is so fast.

    It again is so good you are here today it is going to make the holidays even more special what a nice gift to all of us.

    Oh I love the cover it is very hot I am suprised there is still some snow there. LOL

  27. A carpenter would be a nice occupation. Probably not too many women in that field, but I would like to be able to build a house. Next best thing would have to be a seamstress, but I would rather be outside doing anything than stuck in the house. Except during Nebraska’s winters.

  28. Hi Kate!

    Nice to see you here again. Welcome back!

    I think I would have been a housewife — thus, a baker and seamstress and childcare provider. : )

    I think if I were happily married, I would have loved it, also. : )

    Great post!

  29. What an interesting question. My first thought is I don’t have a clue lol. So after thinking, I like the idea of running a paper – printing press and all. Or possibly a book maker. Or being able to own a general store would be interesting. Lots of possibilities now that you’ve got me thinking lol.

  30. Alaskan Renegade sounds great. I would have been a tailor.I loved to sew before I retired—now I don’t have time.

  31. Brenda – How sweet. Thank you. I’m sending you a big cyberhug. I’ve missed being here, too, so it’s nice to be able to drop in today. I agree that sometimes I wish life was a lot simpler than it is. Your choices for a job back then sound interesting.

    Sue – a carpenter would have been a great occupation for a woman, just to turn a few heads! I agree on liking sunshine better than being cooped up indoors. I know of a few electricians and site superintendents who are women around here – can’t be easy for them, but men are fairly respectful.

    Karen – Howdy! Nice to see you again, too! Your definition of housewife says it all about the duties we women have!

    Jeanne – LOL that you took some time to think about it. I had to, too. You’ve got some fabulous choices.

    Hi Estella! I like your choice. It’s funny you had more time to sew before retiring than after. Makes me think your life is packed with all kinds of wonderful things now.

  32. Hi, Kate

    We miss you here. I loooooooove your book cover. The story line sounds great, can’t wait to read it.

    I have no ideal what occupation I would have had. Most likely on the realistic side I would probably empty slop jars from hotels.(lol)

    I would in my wildest dreams loved to be in the paper business, since I love paper and work in a printing show now I am sure it would have been in my blood then as well.

  33. Hi Kate, Love the cover and am looking forward to reading this book. What would I have been? I think I would have loved being a traveling photographer. My pictures of all the places I have been are very dear to me and one place I dream of visiting Alaska.

  34. Love your books, Kate. THE SURGEON was the first one I read. Your books have a different “feel” to them, can’t put my finger on exactly what is is. Just your special touch. The characters and situations are very real.
    I would probably be what I am now, teacher and librarian. Would love to have been an explorer, but not many women got to do that early on. In reality, every woman who moved out west was an adventurer. Life was never simple and you never knew what would happen. It would have been an exciting, frustrating, heartbreaking challenge.

  35. Hi! I’m just popping in again before bedtime to say how much I enjoyed spending the day with you all.

    Sherry – thank you so much on the lovely sentiments. LOL on the empty slop jars. The paper business would’ve been fascinating!

    Charlene – a big hug going your way. Hope your day has calmed down. Thanks on the new cover and yes, all is going well over here! Hope the same for you. πŸ™‚

    Connie – Hi! Being a traveling photographer would have been romantic and adventurous! Hope you make it to Alaska!

    Patricia – what a sweetheart! Thank you for the compliments. THE SURGEON is one of my personal favorites. As a teacher and librarian, you are an explorer in certain ways!

    Big hugs to everyone who came out today!

  36. I love this type book! Please enter me. I think I would have been a teacher back then!

  37. First I would have tried to meet and fall in love with a man of high status, if that didn’t work out, then I think I would have been a courteson……LOL

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