One thing about history: looking back, it’s easy and almost scary to see how the tiniest change could have derailed entire destinies.
One of my favorite stories of serendipity is that of Mary Catherine “Mollie” Gortner. In 1890, she and her family moved to Colorado Springs from the gentle, rolling hills of Iowa. Her husband was on the scout for new opportunities and challenges. Mollie was always up for an adventure. She and her children, who were older, were eager to see some new sights.
After the Gortners were settled, the announcement of a massive gold discovery in Cripple Creek beckoned to her oldest son, Perry. He took a job there in the spring of 1891 as a surveyor. The burgeoning boom town turned wild and wooly almost overnight and Mollie worried about her young, innocent son. She arranged a visit for the fall, packed up some care packages for him and headed up the mountain. A 4-day wagon trip.
During one of Perry’s surveying jaunts over the summer, he had spotted a huge herd of elk and knew his mother would want to see the magnificent animals. They often hung about only three hundred or so yards beyond the first gold strike in Cripple Creek—the Gold King Mine. Perry and his mother packed a lunch and struck out for a warm, September hike up to what had become known, ironically, as Poverty Gulch.
A worse name no one could have imagined.
A bit winded after the high-elevation walking, Mollie sat down on a rock to wait for the herd to pass by. Nothing in particular drew her to that spot. In fact, she gave it very little thought.
Then, glancing around, she noticed a rock that “winked” at her. Curious, she took another rock and struck off a piece.
A chunk of pure gold cut through with bits of quartz fell into her hand.
Has any discovery of gold ever been easier or more serendipitous?
Hearts pounding, hands sweating, she and Perry hammered free a few more chunks, hid them in her skirt, and raced to the assayer’s office to file the claim. The clerk balked at handing the paperwork to a woman. Perry was a little befuddled on how to respond to this objection. Mollie solved the problem for both men. Without a second’s hesitation, she snatched up the forms, signed her name on the dotted line and raised her chin defiantly.
In Colorado in 1901 a woman had the legal right to own land and file a claim. The clerk didn’t have a leg to stand on, other than his chauvinism. He had a choice at that moment. He saw the fire in Mollie’s eyes and filed the claim in her name. Henry, her husband, didn’t give a wit about whose name the mine was in. He was supportive of her ownership and, to say the least, delirious about the lucky discovery.
The Mollie Kathleen mine is still in operation to this day. Perry ran it for Mollie from 1901 until his death in 1949.
Mollie died in 1917 but she will forever be known as the first woman to discover gold in Colorado, and the first woman to own a mine in the state.
Just think, what if she had sat on a different rock?
Have you ever had a moment like Mollie’s? The kind in which the slightest hitch could have redirected your life from where it is now? What do you think about her serendipitous discovery?
Comment for your chance to win one of two copies of my book, A Lady in Defiance, which was recently optioned for a television series. One of the characters in the book is named Mollie. It’s a bit foreshadowing.
Thanks for reading!
A LADY IN DEFIANCE
Charles McIntyre owns everything and everyone in the lawless, godless mining town of Defiance.
When three good, Christian sisters show up, stranded and alone, he decides to let them stay. The decision may cost him everything, from his brothel…to his heart.
Naomi Miller, angry with God for widowing her, wants no part of Defiance or the saloon-owning, prostitute-keeping Mr. McIntyre. It would seem, however, that God has gone to elaborate lengths to bring them together. The question is, “Why?” Does God really have a plan for each and every life?
A romance based on true events, A Lady in Defiance deftly weaves together the relationships of the three sisters and the rowdy residents of Defiance.
In my new book releasing today, Penelope, Book 6 in the Love Train series, my heroine has to pretend to be a nun. This is, of course, a substantial obstacle to the hero who fights falling in love with her. He has to wonder, though, what kind of a nun can’t keep her veil on and doesn’t know her Bible? But when called upon to help an abused Indian girl, Penelope rises to the task with plenty of heart.
The way this story went put me in mind of a young Catholic girl who, while she didn’t don a habit, impacted the West forever with her faith.
In 1850, at about the age of five, Nellie Cashman immigrated to Boston from Ireland with her sister and widowed mother. The three spent almost fifteen years together there, but then relocated west to San Francisco around 1872. Nellie and her mother, both of whom apparently had an adventurous streak, decided to move on to the bustling, untamed mining town of Pioche, NV. They only stayed a few years, but Nellie was deeply involved with
the Catholic church there, helping with fundraisers and bazaars.
When her aging mother decided Pioche was a little too wild for a senior citizen, she and Nellie returned to San Francisco. Nellie, however, didn’t stay. She left her mother with her married sister and headed north alone to British Columbia to another rough-and-rowdy mining town. She opened a boarding house in the Cassiar District and tried her hand at mining.Now, most girls in this situation, hanging around with such an unsavory crowd, might get into mischief, forget their morals. Herein lies the quirky thing about Nellie: she loved to help people, sometimes through hell and high water…and avalanches.
In the winter of 1874-75, Nellie took a trip to Victoria where she helped establish the Sisters of St. Ann Hospital. Over the coming decades, she would continue to be a stalwart supporter of this hospital and several others. She is most famous, though, for what she did upon leaving Victoria.
Traveling back to Cassiar, she heard a blizzard had stranded dozens of the folks from the district. They were trapped, hungry, and experiencing a scurvy epidemic, to boot. Nellie immediately hired men and sleds, acquired medicine and supplies and started out for Cassiar. It took the group 77 days in unimaginable conditions to reach the miners. Nellie then worked tirelessly to nurse the folks back to health.
Her feat was so astounding, so fearless, the story was picked up by the newspapers. With good cause, she came to be known to the miners as their “Angel of the Cassiar.”
Nellie was a legitimate legend.
She was also a restless girl, constantly on the move from one raunchy mining town to the next. After the death of her sister, she continued to feed her wanderlust, but with five nephews and nieces in tow. To keep food on the table, she bought and sold restaurants, and even owned and worked her own claims.
She spent several years in Tombstone, AZ where she rubbed shoulders with larger-than-life figures like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Nellie’s faith, however, was as ingrained on her heart as cactus on the dessert. Even in wild-and-wooly Tombstone, she worked to build the city’s first hospital and Roman Catholic church.
Nellie worked tirelessly to make the world a better place and still managed to raise five upstanding citizens while keep her mines working. When she passed away in 1925, she did so in the Sisters of St. Anne hospital that she had funded for nearly fifty years.
Today Heather is giving away 5 copies of Penelope! For a chance to win one, tell Heather what ways you think we can make an impact in our local communities or neighborhoods.
I’m making one of the three sisters in my upcoming new series an inventor.
It’s 1870-ish California. The three girls are the daughters of a wealthy man who owns a mountain full of forests and he’s raised his daughters to take over.
In my research into a new area…I’ve never set a book in California before. And a new industry…logging. (relax there are cowboys!) I found that this age is just amazingly full of inventions.
The oldest daughter is an inventor. She’s other things, too…but she already has two patents at age twenty-one and has a head just brimming with ideas.
Highly educated by her father, always treated with respect, her brilliance acknowledged by her parents, she’s a little shocked when circumstances force the three sisters to run from an evil man and hide out acting as servants.
Well, they are lousy servants. As smart as they are, they realize how completely all these basic needs have been met all their lives while they were doing ‘important stuff’. And now someone expects them, based on their disguises, to know how to mend clothes, darn socks, do laundry and cook. These three brilliant women are incompetent and they start to understand that they’ve really not respected enough the people who have seen to all their basic needs all their lives.
Anyway, back to the inventor. While other people cook and clean and care for her, she’s wild to invent things.
And in the research I did for her I just found SO MANY INVENTIONS. This was a crazy age for newer, more modern inventions. (I suppose that’s true of every age though?)
The progress they were making with oil and gas, with engines, with updating everything. There were so many small (and yet HUGE) inventions. The undercarriage of a railroad train, the braking systems, the use of water power, steam power, wind power. And now here she is, Michelle, hiding from a bad man and expected to know how to turn a haunch of venison into supper for twenty people and all she can do is hope to not poison or starve everyone.
I really loved this research. Oddly enough, the strange, small inventions caught most of my attention. The most rudimentary automobiles (which were modified bicycles but with motors, but BAD motors) had been invented. Then with one tiny speck of progress at a time, I read somewhere there were over 100,000 patents for cars by the time Henry Ford created his assembly line, crude first steps became what we have today.
I read for a long time about the four stroke cycle engine, which is the engine inside a car, at it’s most basic at least, was theorized for a decade before someone managed to build a working model. My heroine is fascinated by that and, later in the series, when her husband is getting VERY TIRED of her blowing stuff up, especially herself, we mention that’s she’s working on that theory.
Anyway, necessity is the mother of inventions but for me and this book? Inventions were the mother of the necessity of me writing this story.
Book #1 coming in February, this is the little sister who likes dynamite. I’ll write about that next! The Element of Love
The life of Ellen Watson, aka Cattle Kate, was defined for us by greedy cattle barons, and dutifully reported by a cowardly, boot-licking press. According to these men, Ellen was a prostitute, a cattle thief, and a fornicator. She traded sex for cows and had no compunctions about doing a little cattle rustling on the side.
All that was a smear campaign to protect the cattle barons.
So, what was the truth about Ellen Watson? For one thing, she was a woman with a brain in her head and a fire in her eye.
At 18, Ellen married an abusive drunk who beat her with a horse whip. She put it up with it for a couple of years, then left the loser and filed for divorce. Truly a rare thing in 1883. Strong-willed and stubborn, she moved away to escape the ex. Life took her from Nebraska, to Denver, to, finally, fatefully, Wyoming. She made her living alternately as a seamstress and cook. There is no evidence she ever worked as a prostitute at any time in her life. She did drink, smoke, and cuss, though.
She met Jim Averill while she was cooking at the Rawlins House. Jim had a road ranch on his homestead, catering to travelers and cowboys. Ellen worked as his cook and was paid for her time. She eventually bought her own land—adjacent to Jim’s—started her own ranch and acquired her own legally registered brand. All while she and Jim were courting.
The couple applied for a marriage license in 1886, but never filed it. Homesteads were limited in size per family so it would have been to their benefit to keep the marriage a secret. Ellen also took in two young boys who came from abusive homes and they, in turn, worked her ranch.
Ellen’s independent ways brought her into direct conflict with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and a neighboring rancher named Bothwell. Still big on the open range way of ranching, he despised Ellen and Jim’s piddly ranches. For nearly two years, Bothwell saw to it that the couple were threatened, harassed, and watched incessantly by riders from the WSGA.
Not interested in kowtowing to the cattle barons, Jim wrote fiery letters to the newspapers, decrying the men’s greed and tyranny. Ellen just kept on ranching, and to the devil with anyone who didn’t like it. Eventually, Bothwell ran out of patience.
On July 20, 1889, Ellen and Jim were accused of rustling cattle from his ranch. He and some his riders took the couple to a gulch and hung them from a stunted pine, not more than two feet off the ground. Witnesses said Jim begged for mercy, but Ellen went down cussing and swinging.
At the time of her death, 28-year-old Ellen had 41 head of cattle, a little over 300 acres, and a tenacious fighting
spirit that burnt bright right up to the last second of her life. If there is any justice here, it is that we remember her to this day, not the cowards who hung her.
My book, Grace be a Lady, is set during the Johnson County War, in the aftermath of Ellen’s murder. I’ll give two winners paperback versions of the book. Just comment on Ellen and tell me what you think of her life and death. Was she a heroine or a fool? Did she bring this on herself? Should she have sold out and left Wyoming?
Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for one of the 2 print copies of Grace be a Lady.
When I look out my backdoor and catch sight of Mt. Rainier, I know I am one fortunate gal. Something about that mountain, one of the tallest in the Continental U.S., draws me in. I’m not the only one. The first white men reached the summit in the mid-1800s. The first white woman reached it in 1890. And the heroine of A View Most Glorious, Coraline Baxter, is determined to climb it in 1893 as a way to raise awareness of a woman’s right to vote. After all, if a socialite like her can climb a mountain, why shouldn’t she be able to vote?
Today, safely reaching Rainier’s summit at more than 14,000 feet requires months of training, special equipment, and an experienced guide. Journals, letters, and newspaper accounts from the 1800s show that many climbers had no such advantages. Why, young Len Longmire, whose grandfather built the first hotel at the base of the mountain, was said to have reached the top in his shirtsleeves! Fortunately, most climbers were more prudent.
But as challenging as it was for a man to climb, it was even harder for a woman. For one thing, most expected a woman to climb in skirts. Pretty hard to jump a crevasse or clamber up a glacier with ice crusted on your narrow hem. While a few hardy lady bicyclists and sportswomen had dared to try bloomers, the loose trousers were still considered scandalous. When Fay Fuller, the first woman to reach the summit, was photographed after her climb, the photographer carefully took the picture to avoid any appearance of the flannel bloomers she’d worn.
Then there was the matter of simply getting to the mountain. Few roads led from Tacoma, Yelm, and Olympia, the cities closest to the peak, and those that did petered out just past Elbe, some twenty miles from Longmire’s Springs at the base. James Longmire, his sons, and his grandsons built a private road to his hotel and the hot springs there. When they opened the road in 1893, it still had a few stumps standing. Most people came in by horse or mule, and more than one traveler got a dunking or worse trying to cross the rivers of glacial runoff at the wrong time of the season. Other travelers complained of poor food, stinging yellow jackets, freezing temperatures, ice falling from glaciers, and crevasses so deep it was impossible to see the bottom.
But none complained about the view. Then, as now, reaching the summit of Mt. Rainier was a major accomplishment. Groups affixed plaques they had made beforehand to rocks to commemorate the occasion. Others carried a flag to be planted on the heights, only to watch the wind whip it away, sometimes before they’d even taken a step back to admire it! Individuals left mirrors, bullets, and other mementoes to prove they had made it.
After all, the best view comes after the hardest climb.
In honor of Cora’s climb, I’m giving away two print copies of A VIEW MOST GLORIOUS, U.S. only. Answer this question in the comments to be entered in the drawing:
What would you have wanted along for the trip to the mountain and the climb?
BIO: Regina Scott started writing novels in the third grade. Thankfully for literature as we know it, she didn’t sell her first novel until she learned a bit more about writing. Since her first book was published, her stories have traveled the globe, with translations in many languages including Dutch, German, Italian, and Portuguese. She now has more than fifty published works of warm, witty romance. She currently lives forty-five minutes from the gates of Mount Rainier with her husband of thirty years. Regina Scott has dressed as a Regency dandy, driven four-in-hand, learned to fence, and sailed on a tall ship, all in the name of research, of course. Learn more about her at her website at http://www.reginascott.com
As I was working on my current manuscript this past weekend, I found myself needing to do a research check on the role of a wrangler on a 19th century ranch. I knew they dealt with horses, but I didn’t know if the term wrangler only applied during cattle drives or if it would be applicable in a ranch setting. So I pulled up Google prepared for a quick, fast-checking search.
Well, at first all I found were Wrangler brand jeans. Not exactly what I was looking for. So I added “19th century” to my search about what a wrangler did. That search still didn’t pull up what I was looking for, but what it pulled up instead was an incredible story about a woman breaking academic barriers in mathematics. With a daughter who graduated with degrees in Math and Computer Science who is working on a PhD in a field dominated by men, I was immediately intrigued and dove head first d own the rabbit hole.
Cambridge University was considered the center of academic achievement and learning during Victorian times. Those who excelled at Cambridge went on to have amazing careers and were considered some of the greatest minds of the age. All of whom were, of course, men. During the Victorian era, the predominant medical opinion was that women were delicate, fragile creatures, unable to achieve greatness in academics or athletics. For a woman to dedicate herself to strenuous study or exercise was to run the risk of mental illness or sterility. Medical experts believed that the body could only handle a set amount of development and since a woman’s reproductive system was so much more complicated than a man’s if she diverted too much energy to academic study, her development in other areas would suffer. Not only that, but women’s skulls were smaller than men’s, so there brains were therefore smaller and unable to comprehend the complexities of high academia.
Near the end of the 1800’s however, the suffrage movement had picked up momentum and more and more women were seeking opportunities for higher learning. Women’s colleges began to appear, including Girton, a college associated with Cambridge. A handful of women proved to have very capable, bright minds. One such woman, Agnata Ramsey, even managed to take top marks on the Classics exams in 1887, besting all of the men from Cambridge. While a remarkable achievement, this accomplishment did little to sway the men at the time to consider women their intellectual equals. You see, women had been achieving similar scores to men in many academic subjects for years. All save one–mathematics. Men always placed higher in this exam. Victorian-era scholars believed women’s minds incapable of the complex logic required in advanced mathematics since everyone knew they a woman’s nature was based on emotion.
Enter Philippa Fawcett.
Philippa was the only child of Henry and Millicent Fawcett, two people who were extraordinary in their own rights. Millicent was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement and Henry, though blinded at age 25, became a minister in the British government. Such forward-thinking parents no doubt aided Philippa’s rise to greatness. She showed an early talent for mathematics, and her parents eagerly aided her growth. She earned a place at Newnham College (another women’s college associated with Cambridge) and took courses in pure and applied mathematics at University College London, a more progressive school that allowed females to take courses alongside males. Despite access to collegiate coursework, nothing could adequately prepare her for the extremely rigorous 8 days of exams known as the Cambridge math tripos. This exam was created to be nearly impossible. Those who did exceptionally well managed to complete 2 of the 12 papers. Results of the test were announced in numerical order. The group with the top scores were known as Wranglers. And the top scorer for the year was known as the Senior Wrangler. Female students from Cambridge’s sister schools of Girton and Newnham were allowed to sit for the same exams as the men. However, their ranking was kept separate. When the results were read, they would be announced as falling between the men’s ranking. So if a women scored higher than the 18th position and lower than the 17th, her result would be “Between the 17th and 18th Optimes (Optimes were the group below Wranglers).
The man who earned the position of Senior Wrangler was guaranteed a stellar career in academia and a great deal of prestige. Students would hire tutors and study up to 20 hours a day for months. As you can imagine, this led to health problems and mental breakdowns. In 1890, when Philippa sat for the exam, she took a much more measured approach. She worked with a tutor but kept to a strict schedule, rising at 8:00 am every day and never staying up later than 11:00 pm. She would study for 6 hours a day. Not only was she an orderly, self-disciplined person by nature, but she was well aware that she was being scrutinized by society within and without academia. She was determined to give them no fodder that could be used to denigrate the role of women in higher learning.
On June 7, 1890 the results from the Cambridge math tripos were announced and the world erupted. When the women’s results were read, Philippa Fawcett’s name came last, and her result – Above the Senior Wrangler! She scored 13% higher than the top man. The news spread worldwide and challenged traditional beliefs of what a female could achieve. Her remarkable accomplishment paved the way for equal opportunities for women at institutions of higher learning around the world.
It took significant time for change to reach the hallowed halls of Cambridge, however. They didn’t allow women to pursue degrees alongside men until 1948. (In the United States, Yale did not admit women until 1969 and Harvard until 1977.) Thankfully, Philippa lived long enough to see this day. She died at age 80 after a long career teaching at Newnham College. Her death came one month after Cambridge finally opened its doors to women, and 58 years after her society-rocking achievement of being ranked Above the Senior Wrangler.
What area of gender equality are you most thankful for today?
And a happy Tuesday to you! Hope y’all are doing well and I hope you’ll find the blog today fascinating.
Don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I’ll be giving away the free e-book, WAR CLOUD’S PASSION today, thus, I’ll do it here at the start of today’s blog. Today’s blog could be a bit long, so let’s get right to it.
In my last blog last month, I tried to give an overview and an idea of how Pocahontas came to be familiar with the English colonists and how they had come to know her. If you missed that post, you can do a search under “The Abduction and Murder of Pocahontas,” and it will come up for you to read.
Okay, that said, let’s look at where I left off in my last post, which was with Pocahontas coming of age and I promised to tell you about her marriage to Kocoum, as well as her abduction by a few of the colonists, and the rather sordid details of her subsequent marriage to John Rolfe. It may take me more than this post to fill in all those holes. But let’s at least start with how she might have met her husband, Kocoum.
In the Powhatan society, a young girl and boy’s coming of age is celebrated, and it was no different for Pocahontas. However, because there was a rumor of an abduction planned for Pocahontas, her ceremony was limited to special friends and family only. There is a special dance called the courtship dance during which male warriors search the dancers for a mate. This is probably where their courtship began. After a time, they were married. Kocoum was an elite warrior. He was among 50 of the top warriors that guarded the capital of the Powhatan confederacy. He was also the younger brother of Wahunsenaca’s, a friend of Pocahontas’ father, Chief Japazaw. Because the priests (called quiakros) feared that the colonists plotted to kidnap Pocahontas, the couple went to live in Kocoum’s home, which was isolated from the colonists and farther north. She was, in fact, being hidden from the English. Kocoum and Pocahontas had a child, little Kocoum, a boy. It was Captain Samuel Argall, an English colonist, who accomplished the feat of kidnapping Pocahontas.
Please excuse me as I pause from my story momentarily to tell you of a movie I once watched where it rendered that Pocahontas and her father had a falling out and that he had banished her from the tribe, thus she had taken up with the English. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pocahontas was a princess, dearly beloved by her father. She was also married to Kocoum and had a child by him. Never would she have been banished from the tribe. That movie did nothing but further the false information about this very brave woman. That said, back to Captain Argall. Why did he wish to capture Pocahontas? Why did he take such extreme measures, for he certainly did. Once he had learned of her hiding place, he gathered together not only men, but weapons and arms to attempt her capture. But why?
Let’s speculate. Do you remember from my previous post that the English colonists were looting the Powhatan villages of their stores of food. They were also raping their women and children and oftentimes stealing their women and children in order to make them servants for the English. Sometimes I wonder at the foolishness of sending only men to the colonies. It only courted trouble. But I digress. Perhaps he simply wanted her as his woman. But I don’t think so. I think the reason is much more complex and includes money and greed. The Powhatan had many diverse and rich agricultural fields. There were no trees to cut, no land to clear. In order to take the land, all the colonists had to do was destroy the village and take the land — it seemed this was considered easier than clearing the land. This the colonists did and they expected retribution from the very powerful Powhatan tribe because of it. The tribe might have done this. But they chose not to because Wahunsenaca considered the English a branch of his tribe. Though the abuses were numerous, he still sought other ways to deal with the problem, rather than killing the colonists outright.
Through trickery and deceit, Captain Argall managed to get Pocahontas onto his ship. She was supposed to be returned. She never was. She was held for ransom. What Captain Argall demanded from Pocohontas’ father was: a) the return of English weapons that had been taken from Jamestown, b) the return of the English prisoners Washunsenaca held captive and c) a shipment of corn. Washunsenaca paid the ransom at once. In fact Argall writes of the transaction in his log in 1613, “This news much grieved this great king (Wahunsenaca), yet without delay he returned the messenger with this answer, that he desired me to use his daughter well, and bring my ship into his river (Pamunkey), and there he would give me my demands; which being performed, I should deliver him his daugher, and we should be friends.” Although Wahunsenaca quickly carried out the ransom demands, Pocahontas was never released. According to the book, THE TRUE STORY OF POCAHONTAS, by Dr. Linwood “little Bear” Custalow and Angela L. Daniel “Silver Star,” “…oral history states that before Argall took sail (back to Jamestown), several of Argall’s men returned to Pocahontas’ home and killed her husband, Kocoum.” It was tradition that he would have come for her and rescued her, something that Argall could not permit. Little Kocoum survived because upon Pocahontas’ capture, he was put into the care of several of the women of the tribe. As an aside, there are still many descendents of Kocoum who are alive and well to this day. You may again wonder why the Powhatan didn’t retaliate. Part of that is Pocahontas’s father’s fear for her life if he were to do so, the other reason he didn’t attack is because of a tribal custom — part of the cultural foundation of the tribe, which was that of appeasing evil. If one could, one always sought a balance between submitting to evil demands and preventing the loss of life. Even so, the quiakros (priests) of the tribe advised a swift retaliation, but Wahunsenaca would not do it, fearing for his daughter’s life.
One of Pocahontas’ elder sisters, Mattachanna, and her husband, Uttamattamakin, who was also a priest, were allowed to visit Pocahontas during her captivity. Oral tradition is very distinct on the fact that Pocahontas confided that she had been raped and worse, she suspected she was pregnant. Again, rape was unheard of in Powhatan society. Interestingly, shortly after this confession to her sister, Pocahontas was quickly converted to Christianity in order to rush her into marriage. At this time, it would have been inconceivable for a Christian man to marry anyone who was not Christian. It is also supposed that Sir Thomas Dale was actually the biological father of Pocahontas’s child, since, according to scholars William M.S. Rasmussen and Robert S. Tilton, it was Thomas Dale who was most closely linked to Pocahontas during her kidnapping. Note also that her son’s name was not “John,” but rather “Thomas.” It would also explain why Rolfe (who was secretary of the colony at the time) did not record the birth of Thomas.
Was the marriage one of love? Oral history casts doubt on this. She had just lost her husband, was separated from the father she loved, had given birth to a child from an incident she described as rape, and was rushed into marriage in order to make it appear that the birth had taken place after the marriage. Plus, she was not free to live her own life. She could not come and go as her leisure. Did John Rolfe love her? In a letter to Dale, Rolfe refers to her as a “creature,” not a “woman.” But regardless, whether they loved one another or not, they were married and Rolfe became the heir to the friendliness of the Powhatan people, which included their knowledge of the tobacco plant and how it was processed. Here is where the unsavory aspects of money and greed enter into the equation. The Virgina company wasn’t doing well. There was no gold in the New World, there was no silver, no gems, nothing to make the venture successful. There just had to some way to make the colony prosperous. Would the tobacco plant become their claim to fame?
It seems likely that this might have been their intentions. Rolfe had left England in 1609 with the goal of making a profit growing and processing tobacco. He arrived in 1610 and for three years, he had been unsuccessful at both growing the tobacco and in the processing of it. The year 1616 was the “deadline for the initial investments in the Virginia colony.” From the book THE TRUE STORY OF POCAHONTAS, it appears that time was running out. The colony was failing. And Rolfe’s crop was failing. Thus, Rolfe himself was failing. What was he to do?
Stay tuned. We’ve gone over her abduction now. Next month, I hope to answer the questions of what possible motive John Rolfe, Captain Argall and Thomas Dale might have had for kidnapping Pocohontas. And then marrying her. Then there’s the question of who killed her? And why? What could her death have accomplished? Most of all, however, how was the deed accomplished and covered up so thoroughly? To the point where it was believed that she had died of small pox?
So come on back next month for the conclusion of The Murder and Abduction of Pocohontas.
Am hoping that you’ll come in an tell me your thoughts about this very real American legend.
Today marks the 63rd anniversary of the death of Laura Ingalls Wilder and in her honor I thought I’d share a bit of trivia about her life and accomplishments.
Laura was 65 when the first of her Little House books, Little House in the Big Woods, was published. It was 11 years later, when she was 76, that the 8th and final book in the series was published.
Laura received her teaching certificate at age 15 and taught in one room schoolhouses until she married Almanzo Wilder at age 18.
The Little House books were not her first paid writing accomplishments. At age 42 she went to work for the St. Louis Farmer as their poultry columnist. She eventually went on to write columns for the Missouri Ruralist, McCall’s Magazine and The Country Gentleman. In order to give her writing more credibility with male readers, her columns were published under the name A.J.Wilder.
As a young child, she lived through a devastating invasion of over 3.5 TRILLION locusts. It was one of the worst natural disasters the country had ever faced to that date, causing an estimated $116 billion worth of damage and causing near starvation for many settlers,, including her own family. The culprits, the Rocky Mountain locusts went extinct about 1902, though no one knows the reason why.
Laura had some interesting leaves on her family tree. One ancestor, Martha Ingalls Allen Carrier, was hanged as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. She was also related to Franklin Delano Roosevelt through her great grandmother, Margaret Delano Ingalls.
She was once told that writing for children was a waste of time. I’m so glad she ignored that advice! Her Little House books have remained in print continuously since the 1930s and the series has sold over 60 million copies and have been published in 26 languages.
Laura received lots of fan mail over the course of her writing life. After her Little House series took off she averaged about 50 pieces of mail per day. In fact, on her last birthday she received over 1000 bits of correspondence.
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award was established in 1954 by the American Library Association. Its purpose was to honor authors and illustrators whose children’s books have made a major impact on children’s literature. Laura was, of course, the first recipient. Since then, other recipients have included Theodor Geisal (Dr. Seuss), Maurice Sendak and Beverly Cleary. However, the organization announced in June 2018 that it planned to change the name of the award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award due to the way Laura portrayed Native Americans in her books. In their statement the organization added this caveat: “Changing the name of the award, or ending the award and establishing a new award, does not prohibit access to Wilder’s works or suppress discussion about them. Neither option asks or demands that anyone stop reading Wilder’s books, talking about them, or making them available to children.”
Prior to the establishment of her namesake award, Laura had already won Newberry Honors on four of her Little House books.
A fun little bit of Laura Ingalls Wilder trivia – In the summer of 2017, Laura (in her young pig-tailed girl persona) was sculpted in butter at the Iowa State Fair in honor of the 150th anniversary of her birth.
Laura died on February 10, 1957, just 3 day after her 90th birthday. She was survived by her daughter and only child, Rose. Rose never had any children of her own, but Roger MacBride whom she met when he was a teenager and who later became her lawyer and literary agent, became her heir. He inherited an estate that has a present day value of over $100 million and was responsible for licensing the television rights to the Little House books.
So there you have it, some interesting tidbits from the life of one of the most beloved of children authors. Were any of these new to you? Do you have some fun facts of your own to add? Have you read the books yourself?
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Today I want to discuss Constance Kopp, who is the very definition of a feisty woman. Even within this series of trailblazing women, Constance’s story is a remarkable one.
Constance’s father wasn’t in the picture much and was an alcoholic) Early in her life Constance was determined to have a career outside the home and attempted to study both law and medicine. Her mother, however, wouldn’t allow her to complete her studies, leaving Constance frustrated and rebellious. It is rumored that the youngest sister, Fleurette (love that name!) was actually her daughter, the result of a youthful indiscretion.
Constance, however, was no shrinking violet. Standing a good 6ft tall and weighing in at 180lbs, she was a formidable presence, one who loomed over most men of that time. That, coupled with her forceful personality and her father’s frequent absences, was likely why she became the de facto head of household, the person the rest of the family turned to for guidance when things turned bleak – which they did soon enough.
The extraordinary trouble entered the Kopp women’s lives in July of 1914, when Constance was 35, with what should have been a simply resolved traffic accident. Henry Kaufman, the wealthy owner of a silk factory, crashed his car into the Kopp family carriage that Constance and her two sisters were riding in. The accident resulted in damage to the carriage, including breaking the shaft.
Constance made several attempts to get Mr. Kaufman to pay for the damages. When he refused, Constance, not one to back down when she was in the right, decided to file a lawsuit. The courts awarded her $50. Kaufman was outraged to be held accountable and at one point accosted Constance on the streets. Undeterred, Constance promptly had him arrested.
But that was only the beginning of the man’s unreasonable reaction. Prowlers began roaming around the Kopp home, where the three sisters lived with their widowed mother. Vandals broke in and damaged furnishings. The Kopps received threatening letters. One threatened to burn down their home, another demanded $1000 with the threat of dire consequences if they refused, and still another threatened to kidnap Fleurette, still a teen, and sell her into white slavery. And while all this was happening they also had to deal with random shots being fired into their home.
Constance turned to Sheriff Robert Heath for help. Luckily Heath was a progressive minded man. He not only took the situation very seriously – the only person on the police force who did so – but he immediately armed the three sisters with revolvers.
Constance agreed to go ‘undercover’, agreeing to meet the writer of the threatening letters on not one but two separate occasions. They ultimately found enough evidence to convict Kaufman and he was forced to pay a $1000 fine ad was warned he would serve jail time if the harassment of the Kopps didn’t cease immediately.
Sheriff Heath was very impressed with Constance’s bravery and determination, so much so that he offered her the position of Under Sheriff, making her the first woman ever to hold that position. And this was no sham title. One of Constance’s early cases was to track down an escaped prisoner, something she handled with unexpected ease. She held the job for two years, losing it only after Sheriff Heath was replaced by someone less progressively-minded.
Her story was virtually forgotten until an author, researching some information for a book she was writing, stumbled across an article in some old newspaper archives, that led her down an unexpected trail. Amy Stewart eventually wrote several books that were fictionalized accounts of the Kopp sisters’ experiences, starting with Girl Waits With Gun.
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There you have it, another very brief sketch of the trailblazing life of a brave and ahead-of-her-times woman. What struck you most about her? If you’d already heard of her, did you learn anything new, or do you have more to add to her story?
I’m very excited to announce the upcoming release of my latest western romance, Sawyer. Sawyer is the 6th book in the Bachelors & Babies series – another Filly, Pam Crooks, had the lead off book, Trace. These books are all stand alone but have been proving to be popular with readers – fingers crossed that my book will continue that trend! Sawyer will officially release on Nov 1 and is now available for preorder.
Sawyer Flynn vows to see that the man who murdered his brother pays for his crimes, but becoming the sole caretaker of an orphaned infant sidetracks him from the mission. Sawyer can’t do it all—run his mercantile, care for the baby, and find justice for his brother. He needs help. But not from Emma Jean Gilley.
When her father flees town after killing a man, Emma Jean is left alone to care for her kid brother, but her father’s crime has made her a pariah and no one will give her a job. Learning of Sawyer’s need, Emma Jean makes her case to step in as nanny.
Sawyer is outraged by Emma Jean’s offer, but he’s also desperate and he reluctantly agrees to a temporary trial. Working together brings understanding, and maybe something more. But just when things heat up between Sawyer and Emma Jean, the specter of her father’s crimes threatens to drive them apart forever.
This month I want to talk about Alice Stebbins Wells, another trailblazing female law enforcement officer.
Alice was born in Manhattan, Kansas on June 13, 1873. Her parents were well-educated, both having attended college, and wanted the same for their daughter. As a result, after she completed high school, she too was allowed to attend college, where she studied theology and criminology (what a combination!).
By 1900, at the age of 27, she was serving as an assistant pastor at a church in Brooklyn. This led her to enroll at the Hartford Theological Seminary where she studied for two years. While there she filled in at churches in and around Maine while resident pastors were on vacation. This gave her the distinction of being the first female preacher in that state.
After she left the seminary, she continued to preach and lecture at churches and bible schools far and wide. During one such occasion in 1903, she was offered, and accepted, the role of full-time pastor at a local church in Perry, Oklahoma. While she served there she met and later married Frank Wells. They eventually had three children together.
They stayed in Oklahoma for three years and then moved to Los Angeles. While there Alice became involved in social work and over the next several years began to feel deeply that women should be part of the active police force, and that they play a role as something more than prison matrons and truant officers. As her feelings about this grew, she talked to anyone and everyone who would listen about this and gained growing support for her beliefs from members of her community.
In fact, Alice not only wanted women to be on the police force, she wanted to be one of those women. Nor was she willing to passively wait to be asked. She fought long and hard to make that happen and finally, In 1910 she managed to get the names of 100 citizens on a petition requesting that the mayor, police commissioner and city council appoint her as a police officer. That did the trick and 4 months later, at the age of 37, Alice was appointed as a policewoman.
Like other officers, she was given a telephone call box key, a police rule book, a first aid book, and the badge. She also sewed a uniform of her own design, a floor-length khaki-colored dress and matching jacket. It became the first police woman’s uniform in the U.S. However, unlike her male counterparts, although Alice had arrest powers, she was not allowed to carry a gun or baton.
At that time policemen were allowed to ride the trolley for free. When Alice tried to take advantage of that perk by showing her badge, the trolley conductor accused her of misusing her husband’s credentials. The police department took care of this by issuing her a new badge that was inscribed Policewoman’s Badge Number One.
Getting the public to understand and respect her new position was a sometimes rocky undertaking.
Some of her first duties included the enforcement and oversight of laws relating to “dance halls, skating rinks, penny arcades, picture shows, and other similar places of public recreation.” She was also to work on the “suppression of unwholesome billboard displays, searches for missing persons, and the maintenance of a general information bureau for women seeking advice on matters within the scope of police departments.”
And even news reporters didn’t know how to refer to her. Rather than using the term policewoman, early articles used phrases such as the “first woman policeman,” or “Officerette Wells” or as an “Officeress”.
And of course, being a woman, her pay was less than her male counterparts – she received $75 a month while policeman on the same force received $102.
Alice wasn’t satisfied with breaking ground as a policewoman. As her career progressed, she saw a need for different types of women’s organizations, and took the initiative to found them. One of these offered aid to women in need. Another served as a missing person’s bureau for women and children. Then she combined forces with Minnie Barton, the first female parole officer to create the Minnie Barton Home for women newly released from prison. This eventually transitioned into a halfway house and an alternative to jail for some very young offenders.
Alice was a strong public advocate for having more women on the police force. Because of that and the publicity she received, her department received numerous requests for information on the subject. In fact, they received so many of these inquiries that the LAPD sent her on a speaking tour across the country, where she stated her beliefs that more women police officers would provide a number of benefits, including better social conditions, safer streets and neighborhoods, and an increase in the overall welfare of cities where they served.
A fine orator, she received very positive reactions from both the public and the press in most places she visited. By 1916, her campaign promoting the need for female officers were deemed to be a driving force in the hiring of policewomen in at least 15 other cities and a number of foreign countries.
Some of her other accomplishments
In 1914, she was the subject of a biographical film entitled The Policewoman.
In 1915 she organized the International Association of Policewomen. The first year, the conference attracted policewomen from 14 states and Alice was elected president, a position she held for five years
In 1918, as a direct result of Alice’s urging, the University of California Southern Division (now UCLA) Began offering a course to train women in law enforcement. It was run by the School’s Criminology Department.
In 1924 she founded the Pan-Pacific Association for Mutual Understanding.
In 1925 Alice organized the Los Angeles Policewomen’s Association
in 1928 she was instrumental in the creation of the Women Peace Officers Association of California in San Bernardino and was named its chairman and first president.
In 1934, Alice was appointed as the Los Angeles Police Department’s official historian—she had requested permission to establish a museum within the LAPD. (That museum still exists to this day) She held that position until she retired in 1940, after 30 years of police service. Even then, she continued to lecture on the need for more women to enter law enforcement.
Alice died in 1957. As a tribute to her contributions and well-earned respect, her funeral was attended by all the senior officers in the police department. Her casket was accompanied by a an honor guard of 10 policewomen—something that would have made Alice S. Wells VERY proud.
Special Note: For decades, Alice Stebbins Wells was thought to be the first U.S. policewoman with arrest powers. However, unreliable record keeping coupled with more recent and extensive research techniques have recently challenged this assumption, uncovering two other women who are possible candidates for the same title. Regardless of the truth of this matter, there is no doubting that Alice deserves to be remembered and honored for her contributions to history.
There you have it, another very brief sketch of the trailblazing life of a brave and ahead-of-her-times woman. What struck you most about her? If you’d already heard of her, did you learn anything new, or do you have more to add to her story?