One of the most enjoyable tasks I faced when beginning my trilogy The Victorians, was finding clothing for the women. They quickly learned what they should discard of these layer upon layer dresses to live in Victoria, Kansas in 1875. As the book blurb states, Victorian dresses weren’t meant to be worn to a kidnapping. This is quickly proven when the outlaw who does her bidding and kidnaps her to prevent an unwanted marriage, throws her on his horse wearing all her Victorian garments. The horse decides to upend Wilda in a creek because her hoops bob up and down in a frightful way and prevent good vision. The outlaw’s solution? Make her strip off her soaked dress, underskirts, and the awful hoops leaving her in what he calls her unmentionables.
Women who settled on the prairie quickly learned that too much clothing prevented them getting the work done that was needed in the wild west. However, for a long while, women didn’t ride “clothespin.” It was considered wicked to straddle a wild animal. Besides, it really wasn’t easy to ride astraddle wearing a long dress, even a simple one. Eventually, women of the Victorian age developed riding outfits, but most continued to ride side saddle.
My grandmother was a second generation Victorian. Her mother’s family came to the United States and settled in Iowa. Just at the end of the Civil War my great-grandmother was born, and when she was 13 the family moved west to Winfield, Kansas in a covered wagon. I remember by great-grandmother well because I was 16 when she died at the age of 97. She was a short, stout woman who enjoyed reminiscing about her childhood while we children crowded around. How I wish I had listened more closely to her stories of going west.
She met and married Daniel Gregg, who was one of the first policemen on the force and at least a foot taller than she. They had four girls. My grandmother, the eldest, was a staunch Victorian, as was her next sister. The next however, went to work for the local newspaper, practically unheard of in those days, and shamed the family further by getting a divorce. The youngest was a rebel of a different sort. I remember a photo of her as a young woman dressed in a leather Indian style dress, her black hair in braids and the scoop neck showing plenty of cleavage. I can only imagine her lifestyle.
Year round my grandmother wore cotton stockings fastened to a corset with garters. Her dresses never were shorter than calf length, her undergarments, while no longer the old style of bustles, crinolines or the like, were layered, beginning with a cotton undershirt, a slip, a camisole and then the dress
After we moved back to Arkansas, where my mother was raised and I was born, I met an old friend of grandmother’s. Her tales were different from the family’s, almost as if grandmother led two lives. Her friend Gladys told me that grandmother was well known for her wildness. She rode sidesaddle all over the county, and braved wild creeks and narrow trails that wound through the Ozarks. I learned after her death that she carried a .22 pistol as well and it was found in her belongings.
In writing The Victorians, it was a pleasure to draw on these women for the heroines in Wilda’s Outlaw, the upcoming Rowena’s Hellion, and the yet unwritten Tyra’s Cowboy.
Velda is giving away a Kindle copy of Wilda’s Outlaw to the winner of the drawing!
Wilda Duncan is pledged to marry Lord Prescott to keep her family together in this new land, the American West. Her plot to be kidnapped by sexy outlaw Calder Raines could put her in more danger than the arranged marriage. when his gang decides she can help them rob a bank. Calder has other plans for the beautiful red haired Victorian lady.
Velda Brotherton has a long career in historical writing, both fiction and
nonfiction. Her love of history and the west is responsible for the publication of 15 books and novels since 1994. But she’s not about ready to stop there. When the mid-list crisis hit big city publishers, she turned first to writing regional nonfiction, then began to look at the growing popularity of E Books as a source for the books that continued to flow from her busy mind. Those voices simply won’t shut up, and so she finds them a home.