Between the Lines: Sophie and the First Free Night School #womenshistorymonth

SophieWrightMonument-NewOrleansThe American Civil War exacted a terrible price on America as a country as well as for so many individuals. Sophie Bell Wright  was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 5, 1866, into a family that had lost everything during the Civil War. Little did they know how their young daughter would change not only their lives, but the lives of so many others.

When Sophie was three, she fell and severely injured her back and hip. She was strapped into a chair for six (some sources say ten) years. Finally, she was able to walk using a brace and a cane. She went to school and received a grammar school education before family finances, which obviously never improved significantly over the years since the war ended, dictated that she help earn money to support the family. When her attempt to find work as a teacher failed, in 1881 she started her own “select school for girls” in her mother’s living room. Sophie was fifteen years old. Her sister, Jenny, also taught in the girls’ school. Later the school became known as the Home Institute and continued in operation until 1928.

But in 1885, a stranded acrobat pleaded with her to teach him. I picture him standing on her doorstep, hat in hand, begging her to help him learn to read and write, hope shining from his serious eyes. Whatever the actual situation, she agreed to teach him at night, and that idea eventually blossomed into New Orleans’ first free night school. The night school operated until 1909 when New Orleans opened a night school of its own. By then, Sophie’s school had taught more than twenty thousand men and boys. That’s a whole lot of people she helped!

But she did more than teach, which is admirable enough. She also advocated for prison reform and started a Home for the Incurables. The city awarded her the Loving Cup for her community service. A school and a street are named in her honor, and a pretty little park on Magazine Street in New Orleans features a sculpture of her.

Literary Classics International Book Awards - Youth Award Winning Book
Literary Classics International Book Awards – Youth Award Winning Book

Interested in your own copy of Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure? You can find it in ebook and/or paperback at the following sites:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/VrXZy6

BN: http://bit.ly/1wbftz7

Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/22qxkD4

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1nMDpGh

iTunes: http://bit.ly/1FCoy5L

As always, thanks for stopping by and sharing with me. Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

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Between the Lines: Joanna and the Lone Star Flag #womenshistorymonth #history

No matter what cause you want to support, it’s common to have a flag or banner to rally behind. The honor of creating the rallying point would have to carry a lot of meaning and pride to the person bestowed with the task. Imagine then how 17-year-old Joanna Troutman felt when in 1835 she presented her gift of a flag to the leader of the Georgia troops heading ultimately to the battle at Goliad, in what is now Texas.

The accounts of how Joanna decided to make the Lone Star flag differ on the details. They agree that she used silk skirts to make the background and the star, and that she embroidered the motto “Liberty or Death” on one side, and the Latin motto “Ubi Libertas Habitat Ibi Patria Est” – where liberty dwells, there is my country – on the other. They also agree that she gave the completed flag to Lieutenant Colonel William Ward to carry to Lieutenant Hugh McLeod, and that McLeod sent her a letter thanking her for the flag.

JoannaTroutmanPortraitTexasCapitol1109JTThe version of how this came about that I think makes the most sense is that she met Hugh McLeod while she was working at the inn, and that McLeod gave her the idea of the star, and asked her to make the flag. She went home and her mother helped her plan materials to make the flag and the motto. Then she made it over the course of the next day or so, and took it to the inn to give it to McLeod.

The Georgia troops carried the Lone Star flag with them as they went on to join with the troops at the Mission of La Bahia at Goliad. While there on March 8, 1836, the troops received word that Texas had been declared free from Mexican rule. The flag was raised during the celebration that followed. At sunset, while lowering the flag, it snarled in the ropes and the banner was torn. The tatters remained flying until Santa Anna had completed his mission of killing the American troops on March 27, 1836. No remnants of Joanna’s flag survive today.

texas-flag-lonestar-state-usaWhile her flag no longer exists, the concept of the Texas Lone Star flag remains intact. And several landmarks and exhibits wait for visitors to view and learn of this remarkable young lady’s contribution to American history. A bronze statue marking Joanna Troutman’s grave is easily visible when you enter the State Cemetery in Austin, Texas. The monument also commemorates the men who died at Goliad. A silver spoon and fork from Santa Anna’s private collection, which had been given to Joanna by Sam Houston after Santa Anna’s defeat, now are on display in the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas. Joanna’s portrait hangs at the state Capitol in Austin, Texas. A plaque set in white stone stands on the lawn of the Knoxville, Georgia, court house. In part the plaque says, “On this site in 1835, Joanna Troutman gave to a company of Georgia soldiers … a ‘Lone Star’ Flag, which she had made….”

I have to admit, that as I compiled the research for each of the stories in Hometown Heroines, I became increasingly impressed by the courage and creative inspirations they exhibited through their actions. Who inspires you? Who is your role model?

Literary Classics International Book Awards - Youth Award Winning Book
Literary Classics International Book Awards – Youth Award Winning Book

Interested in your own copy of the book? You can find it in ebook and/or paperback at the following sites:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/VrXZy6

BN: http://bit.ly/1wbftz7

Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/22qxkD4

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1nMDpGh

iTunes: http://bit.ly/1FCoy5L

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions! Until next time!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Between the Lines: Annie’s Telegram #womenshistorymonth #research

In honor of Women’s History Month, I’m continuing to share a few of the ladies from my book, Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure. Today I’d like to share the story of Ann Ellsworth.AnnieEllsworth

Who was she, you may ask? A polite young lady whose father, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, served as the commissioner of the Patent Office. The Ellsworth’s lived in Washington, D.C. in the first half of the 1800s.

When Ann was seventeen years old, her father’s friend, Samuel Finley Breeze Morse, was waiting for final approval by Congress to build the world’s first telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore, Maryland. Samuel had given up on its passage before the Congress adjourned at midnight, and returned to his hotel. Henry managed to get the bill voted on, and passed by a vote of 89 to 83 on March 3, 1843. Henry told Ann the next morning and she was given permission to congratulate Samuel, and became the first person to tell him the good news. For this, Samuel promised to let her choose the first words, which she did with her mother. She chose the Bible verse Numbers 23:23, “What hath God wrought!”

On March 24, 1844, the message was sent via Morse’s telegraph to Baltimore and back in a matter of moments. Because Ann had written the message and delivered it to Morse, she has been honored as the first telegraph messenger girl. Recently, I learned that another famous lady was in the room. Dolley Madison witnessed the history making event, and then Morse invited her to send the first personal telegram. She sent a message to her cousin who lived in Baltimore.

Imagine being part of such a monumental moment as when a message could be sent over such a long distance in a matter of seconds. The ability to communicate more quickly led to other abilities and progress in other technologies, like phones and fax machines. On a personal note, my paternal grandparents both worked as telegraph operators in Georgia in the early 1900s.

Have you ever sent or received a telegram? What did it say?

Literary Classics International Book Awards - Youth Award Winning Book
Literary Classics International Book Awards – Youth Award Winning Book

Interested in your own copy of the book? You can find it in both ebook and paperback at the following sites:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/VrXZy6

BN: http://bit.ly/1wbftz7

Thanks for swinging by to spend a few minutes with me. Until next time!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks, and happy reading!

Between the Lines: First Famous Cowgirl #women #history #research

One of the joys of writing fiction is learning about new people, places, and events. Then being able to translate the facts into a good story. In honor of March being Women’s History Month, I’d like to share some of the research behind my young adult book. In Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure, I provide both the factual biography of each girl but also a fictionalized account of what made her famous. Each girl is remembered by an historic site—a park, a sign, a railroad trestle, even a mountain—dedicated to her for her achievement(s).

One such girl was Lucille Mulhall, deemed the world’s first cowgirl. Mulhall OK Historical MarkerLucille astounds me by her abilities with both a rope and her equestrian talents. She could ride her horse at a gallop and lean down to snare a handkerchief from the ground – with her teeth! She could out rope men, snagging a calf and tying its feet in record time. She had the reputation of a lady and is credited with helping to integrate women into the rodeo. In 1977, Lucille was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

My hubby and I traveled to Oklahoma to research her life. She grew up among roping and branding, bronco busting and shooting rattlesnakes. She competed against men in a man’s sport and won, yet kept her femininity and morals intact. Hailed by Will Rogers as the first famous cowgirl, she was a champion at steer roping and trick riding.

She had a trick horse named Governor who could do amazing stunts that one newspaper reported (according to Kathryn Stansbury’s book Lucille Mulhall: Wild West Cowgirl) as “He picks up a handkerchief, goes lame, plays dead, rings a bell, takes off his mistress’ hat, walks on his knees, picks up a whip, and sits on his haunches and crosses his forelegs.” He became almost as famous as Lucille.

One of her best roping achievements happened when she was twenty during a competition for the best average roping time of three steers, held at Coffeyville, Kansas, in September 1905. Her first time was thirty-two seconds, her second forty seconds, and her third forty-two seconds. She won one thousand dollars and became Champion Steer Roper.

mulhall2 copyWe visited Mulhall and then climbed the hill to Roselawn Cemetery, overlooking the town, where she is buried with her family. She died in December 1940, a few months after her last performance, after being in a car accident near her home on the Mulhall Ranch. She’d been first buried on the ranch in a mausoleum, then all the family caskets were relocated to the cemetery. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the marker was added to the once unmarked grave.

She and the other girls in Hometown Heroines continue to inspire me to strive for better, to do more and be more. What or who inspires you?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!