Petticoats and Pistols welcomes Jewell Tweedt, author of Cooking up Trouble at the Peabody Palace and just published from Prism Book Group, A Bride for the Sheriff.
Thanks to Mary Connealy, Sherri Shackelford and the other fillies for allowing me to visit today about women’s roles in the west and my western romances.
A bit about me-I teach American History and have loved western historicals since the day I discovered Little House on the Prairie at my local library at the age of eight.. Born and raised in Omaha I found it fun to base my Nebraska Brides series (A Bride for the Sheriff is book one) in my home state.
Women’s Roles In 1800’s America and the West
The old saying that children should be seen and not heard also applies to women of the 1800’s. Luckily for us, western women were more likely to buck the roles society placed upon them.
Acceptable professions for ‘pious genteel’ women included teaching (only if the woman was single), nursing, and being a household servant. It was assumed that these careers were only temporary until the woman lassoed herself a husband. As a married woman she then lost more freedoms. She could not own property, control her finances, or hold a job without her husband’s permission. As for voting, well no woman could vote in the United States until 1920’s passing of the Nineteenth Amendment.
Even though western women were staking claims, running ranches and birthing children without medical help they were still considered the inferior sex like their eastern sisters. This so-called inferiority was thought to be because of a woman’s ‘gentle nature’ and ‘delicate constitution.’ It was a belief that women had a different character than men and that they were solely on earth for the purpose of being subservient wives and homemakers.
In A Bride for the Sheriff–Claire Secord has the non-traditional role of being a shop owner. When the shifty banker tries to swindle her out of her business and her home she has to outwit him. “According to my records and the bank receipts written here, by your own teller, I have not missed a single payment since my arrival in town. And upon careful study of the lending documents…as long as the holder of the note pays down a certain percentage …on time every month the bank cannot foreclose. With a flourish she placed the money in a neat stack under Dawson’s nose. He stared at the stack and reached for it. She placed her left hand firmly on top of his and with her right placed a pistol on the desk. As you can see, I am neither poor nor a defenseless girl, Mr. Dawson.”
Protectors of the weaker sex
Men of the 1800’s viewed themselves as the protector of women and sometimes that protection was disguised as manipulation. The man defended the family and the ‘little lady’ but in reality she was handling firearms, planting, sewing, cooking, child-raising and providing moral and spiritual guidance as the stabilizing member of the marriage in crude sod homes and log cabins miles from civilization.
In my novella Cooking up Trouble at the Peabody Palace chef AJ Johnson is set to marry restaurateur Howard when he storms into the kitchen complaining the bouillabaisse is too salty and she’s a sweaty mess. She notices lipstick on his cheek and the scent of a woman’s perfume. Not hers, she always smells of fried food and vanilla. When she confronts him he tells her it’s none of her concern. She retorts that it is because they are engaged. He tells her he’ll continue to do as he pleases, married or not and that includes seeing other women. She won’t have any say because she’ll belong to him. Nor will she have a salary as head chef. She’ll be working for free, since the restaurant is his. She responds by tossing a boning knife at the wall inches from his head. Of course the engagement is off, she is out of a job and must leave town so he won’t press charges. She lands a job as cook in a tough gold rush mining camp and keeps her knife handy. The adventures begin.
In reality being a woman in the 1880’s took courage, grit and determination. Life was certainly better if a woman found a good man. That’s why we love historical romances, we all hope for that happiness amidst the challenges. I hope you’ll join me in the search for that romance and adventure.
I will be sending an autographed copy of Cooking up Trouble at the Peabody Palace to one lucky reader chosen by a Petticoats and Pistols filly.
Watch for my books on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
More about Jewell: Jewell Tweedt was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, the setting for her books.
Jewell has written for several magazines and is now at work on the fourth book in the series.
Jewell holds a Masters Degree in Education and teaches American History in Iowa where she lives with her husband in a house full of books and DVDs-westerns mostly.