Between the Lines: The Life and Art of Vinnie Ream #womenshistory #American #history #artist #sculpture

Researching for each of the girls’ stories in Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure led me across America. I traveled a good bit—exploring sites in Maryland, Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, New York, Georgia, and Alabama, to name a few—but was not able to visit every site I would have liked to have reached. Mainly out west and northwest, but other places as well. The story of Lavinia Ream, known by those close to her as Vinnie, is one such example.

Lavinia Ellen Ream, known as Vinnie, was born September 25, 1847, in Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve vacationed in Madison but did not have a chance to search for any sites associated with her. Partly because I went long after I had written Hometown Heroines, and partly because it was a family vacation for Christmas.

Vinnie’s earliest playmates were Winnebago Indian children because there were few if any other white children to play with. In fact, her sister Cynthia Ann Ream, known as Mary, was born in 1844 in Madison, Wisconsin. Mary was one of the first white girls to be born in the Wisconsin area. The Winnebagos taught Vinnie how to draw and paint, a skill she put to very good use throughout her lifetime. I wonder what games they played and how this experience affected Vinnie’s view of diverse peoples she met.

The following is an excerpt from Hometown Heroines, the biographical facts I included:

Vinnie’s childhood was spent moving around quite a bit. Her father was a surveyor, and so would travel to find work. They lived at various times in Madison, Wisconsin; Little Rock and Ft. Smith, Arkansas; St. Joseph, Missouri; Wyandotte and Leavenworth, Kansas; and Washington, D.C.

When they moved to D.C. at the beginning of the Civil War, they settled in a cottage at 325 B Street North. Her father joined a Capitol guard unit. Her brother Bob had enlisted in Woodruff’s artillery regiment. To earn money to support the family, Vinnie, her mother, and her sister, all sewed epaulets for the officers uniforms.

After studying sculpture with Clark Mills for a while, she began making medallion reliefs of politicians. Then she had the idea of creating a bust of Lincoln. She was given permission by Lincoln only because she was poor, like he had been when he was younger.

I came for half an hour every day. I was the merest slip of a child, weighing less than ninety pounds; and the contrast between the raw-boned man and me was indeed great. I sat demurely in my corner and begged Mr. Lincoln not to allow me to disturb him.

She went to the White House frequently, watching him. Trying to capture his personality in clay.

I think that history is particularly correct in writing Lincoln down as the man of sorrow. The one great, lasting, all-dominating impression that I have always carried of Lincoln has been that of unfathomable sorrow, and it was this that I tried to put into my statue.

The death of Lincoln caused his memory to be locked in hers forever.

Vinnie Ream Lincoln StatueThe success of the statue that I subsequently made was attributed to its trueness to the actual Lincoln. My ability to produce it was unquestionably due to those half-hours in the quiet of the President’s office, and to the searing in of the image by the great tragedy.

In April 1866, Vinnie was encouraged to apply for the commission to create a life-size marble statue of Lincoln. With help from friends, a petition was written and circulated, and signed by many of the most powerful men in Washington. The commission was granted to her on July 28, 1866, and the contract for the statue was written and signed on August 30, 1866.

I enjoyed visiting D.C. and seeing her work in person in the Rotunda. While I was there, I also went to see her statue of Admiral Farragut. Here’s more on it from Hometown Heroines:

Vinnie Ream Farragut StatueVinnie was commissioned, again after much debate, to create a statue of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut. The contract for the statue was written and signed January 28, 1875. The statue was cast from the bronze propeller of his flagship, the Hartford, in which he had achieved his best success. The statue, resting on a base made out of Maine granite, stands on Farragut Square, on K Street between 16th and 17th Streets in Washington, D.C. It faces south and stands ten feet high, with Farragut holding a marine glass in his left hand, and resting his left foot atop a block and tackle. Vinnie was paid twenty thousand dollars to create the statue.

During the six years she spent making the Farragut, First Lieutenant Richard Hoxie proposed to her. She refused him, saying her work must come first. Only after Mrs. Farragut advised her to go ahead and marry, that the statue would wait, did Vinnie accept the proposal. She married Lieutenant Richard Leveridge Hoxie on May 28, 1878. Lieutenant Hoxie was assigned to the Corps of Engineers, United States Army.

The Farragut was unveiled and dedicated on April 25, 1881, amidst much ceremony. An account of the day was found in a local paper:

It was an inspiring sight. Besides the vast multitude of civilians; the host of soldiers and sailors, in their glittering uniforms; the rainbow hues of the Spring appareling of thousands of women; the decorated houses surrounding the square, glinting with flags and filled with bright faces from basement to roof–all were framed in the delicate interlacing of the young leaved trees and mounted by the snowy tracery of the delicate clouds, that fluttered like feathers against the warm blue of the April sky. President Garfield’s speech was happy, as his speeches always are.

Vinnie’s art and sculpture were not her only talents, though. She also wrote songs and poetry. Others dedicated their songs and poetry to her. Her life was filled with people who admired her enough to seek her out and praise her art and talents. Her example inspires me to live my life the best I can, and to strive to create stories that touch my readers in some way.

After she died at her Washington home in 1914, she was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Her husband erected a monument to her in 1915. Here’s more on it from my book:

VinnieReamMonument-ArlingtonCemeteryBrigadier General Richard Hoxie had a monument built in 1915 to Vinnie in her memory. It stands in Arlington Cemetery, in Section 3, on Miles Drive. The statue is a bronze likeness of her marble Sappho statue. His sense of loss is felt in the inscription “Words that would praise thee are impotent” engraved in the bronze plaque in the base along with her bas-relief profile. A stone bench faces the monument, inviting visitors to linger, as Vinnie would have wanted.

When I visited her grave, I sat down on that bench and thought about all this wonderful woman had accomplished in her life. I thought about how much her husband mourned her but also how much he loved her. I decided to try to include those ponderings in the short story I wrote for the book. Then when I got up, distracted by my musings, I actually left behind my Dayrunner calendar/address book. Which then my brother-in-law had to track down and return to me, but that’s another story you can read here.

Vinnie Ream Display in Vinita OKI wish I had been able to visit so many places associated with Vinnie. I did manage to get to Vinita, Oklahoma, though, and it’s small display of her art, guitar, and other memorabilia. The town itself is named for Vinnie by her friend Col. Elias C. Boudinot, a Cherokee. She had some fascinating friends, didn’t she?

Each story in Hometown Heroines includes a list of places you can go to related to the girl’s life and accomplishments. Have you read the inspiring and amazing stories of these girls who lived in the 1800s in America? Have you traveled to any of the parks, monuments, or statues dedicated to them? Would you like to?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

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. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

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

Hometown Heroines won the 2014 Gold Medal for Best Gender Specific Young Adult Book from Children’s Literary Classics and makes a great gift! Here’s more about it:

During the 1800s, daring and courageous girls across America left their unique mark on history.

Milly Cooper galloped 9 miles through hostile Indian Territory to summon help when Fort Cooper was under attack.

Belle Boyd risked her life spying for the Rebels during the Civil War.

Kate Shelly, when she was 15, crawled across a nearly washed-out railroad bridge during a ferocious thunderstorm to warn the next train.

Lucille Mulhall, age 14, outperformed cowboys to become the World’s First Famous Cowgirl.

These are just a few of the inspiring true stories inside Hometown Heroines—American Girls who faced danger and adversity and made a difference in their world.

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Kobo: http://bit.ly/2eNm5Ap

Amazon ebook: http://amzn.to/1nY0qXH

iBooks: http://apple.co/2em5Iw5

Google: http://bit.ly/2fFEQ6w

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Between the Lines: Fay Fuller, 1st Woman to Climb Mt. Rainier #research #women #history

 

Fay Peak-Visit Rainier
Image courtesy  VisitRainier.com

Have you heard of Fay Peak in the Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state? I had not, until I started researching the girls in my award-winning Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure. Edwina Fay Fuller embodies all three of those qualities: brave, daring, and adventurous.

 

Fay Fuller lived during a time in American history when women tended to be relegated to certain pigeon holes for appropriate behavior and activities. Only, Fay didn’t adhere to the restrictions. In fact, she decided to buck the system by not only riding her horse astride, but also by wearing men’s clothing for her most daring and adventurous escapade. See, Fay was 17 years old when she first climbed partway up Mt. Rainier. Three years later, she reached the summit. The first woman ever.

She climbed despite swelling she suffered from a charcoal mixture she wore on her face to attempt to prevent sunburn. She endured the pain on her face and on her wrist where the skin literally peeled off as a result of the failed mix. When they camped overnight in a steam cave on their way back down, she became sick from the smell of sulfur combined with the extreme cold and her exhaustion. Yet she had achieved her goal and would always carry that sweet feeling of accomplishment inside.

Fay inspires me through her commitment, determination, and sheer grit. When offered a hand by one of the men in the climbing party, she declined, preferring to reach the summit under her own power. The following day, though, the perilous nature of the trail made it necessary for her to permit a rope be tied to her waist in case of a slip or fall. A concession she reluctantly agreed to.

Her can-do spirit and belief in her own abilities humble me. She stood on her own two feet, literally and figuratively, and worked through obstacles to achieve her dream. If I ever get out to Washington state, I would love to climb up Fay Peak. I’d feel as though I’d followed in her footsteps, if only to a lower peak. I have no delusions of possessing the strength to climb to the summit of Mt. Rainier. Believe me!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

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. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

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

During the 1800s, daring and courageous girls across America left their unique mark on history.

Milly Cooper galloped 9 miles through hostile Indian Territory to summon help when Fort Cooper was under attack.

Belle Boyd risked her life spying for the Rebels during the Civil War.

Kate Shelly, when she was 15, crawled across a nearly washed-out railroad bridge during a ferocious thunderstorm to warn the next train.

Lucille Mulhall, age 14, outperformed cowboys to become the World’s First Famous Cowgirl.

These are just a few of the inspiring true stories inside Hometown Heroines—American Girls who faced danger and adversity and made a difference in their world.

 

B&N: http://bit.ly/2em4lh9

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2eNm5Ap

Amazon ebook: http://amzn.to/1nY0qXH

iBooks: http://apple.co/2em5Iw5

Google: http://bit.ly/2fFEQ6w

Why I Wrote Emily’s Vow (only 99 cents for a limited time) #writerslife #American #historical #romance #kindle #nook

Emily's Vow Finalist SealToday I’m going to talk about the kernel of information that sparked an entire series of books. First, you should know that Emily’s Vow is only $.99 for the Kindle and Nook books! But it’s only for a limited time, through November 18, so grab your copy now so you can sample the series for yourself. Also, I’m one of more than 100 romance authors who are throwing a Romance Writers Gone Wild Facebook party this week. Hop over there to find some new reads and new authors. There will be excerpts, snippets, and giveaways galore! Now on to today’s topic…

Story ideas come from all directions and experiences. They mix and blend into a “what if” kind of thought that then slowly builds into an interesting story to tell. That’s how the idea for the A More Perfect Union series started. Then I had to get to know the ladies and their goals and challenges they had to face and overcome.

Emily’s story is one that loosely mimics the career of an 18th century female writer Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820). Born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Judith was fortunate to have highly intelligent and progressive parents who allowed her to be taught alongside her brother by the local clergyman. She learned college prep topics such as Latin, Greek, and mathematics.

This background enabled Judith to argue effectively for the equal education of boys and girls and to advocate for “cultivating independent, intellectually alert women” in her essays and other works. Judith is best known for her compilation of her works, The Gleaner. It’s important to note that she used a pen name, Constantia, to write her essays, plays, and poems, until the release of this book. At the end of the book, she revealed she was a woman, saying she did so to hide her gender because “she feared that if she were known to be a woman, her writing would not be taken seriously.” (1) That last line prompted the idea of women of the late 1700s writing and beginning to turn the tide of opinion. Thus Emily Sullivan was born.

Emily starts out writing her thoughts down as essays in rebellion to the restrictions her father places on her. Her own declaration of independence, but she submits them to the newspaper secretly and using a pen name. Then as the series progresses and the situation becomes more and more unsettled, she ultimately openly submits the essays for printing though continues to use her pen name. I gave her a female pen name, by the way, on purpose so that she would in fact begin to change the way people thought about female intellect and reasoning. However, it was considered disrespectful to use a lady’s name in print, which is why in that time period you rarely see a woman’s name, and then usually only the lower classes. Which is frustrating for someone like me today who is researching for a story about a lady of that time period, but that’s another story.

I wrote Emily’s story to highlight the limitations placed upon females in the colonial and Early American Republic period of American history. The Declaration of Independence prompted everyone to rethink what it meant to be free from dictators and oppression. The American Revolution started, for many people, the push toward equality that America is still struggling with. That is why I write about that time and place, because of its catalyst to change.

What changes happened as a result of women sharing their thoughts in writing? What else needs to change?

(1) Quotes taken from The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Volume A, Literature to 1820. Sixth Edition. W.W. Norton & Co., New York. 2003. pp782-3.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

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!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Between the Lines: She wrote what? #American #women #history #research

Ann Frobel CW DiaryThe inspiration for the A More Perfect Union series of historical romances came from reading early American literature. An essay by Judith Sargent Murray, specifically, in which she argued for equal education for girls, and argued against the mistaken notion that females would become sick with too much education. Looking back on how our understanding of human capabilities has morphed over time, it’s difficult to imagine anyone would believe the brain couldn’t learn without making the person—female, that is—ill.

One symptom of this idea is the denial of women to write for publication without being criticized for “manly” behavior. But by the end of the American Revolution women had started to write for publication. Even young slave Phillis Wheatley wrote poems and had them published.

One thing I’ve noticed in my research is the expansion of available written materials for women’s lives over the last 240 years of our country’s existence. What’s interesting to me is that the earliest written record is usually in the form of letters between women and their friends and family. Few colonial women had the time, the materials, or perhaps even the interest in documenting their day-to-day existence in a diary. I can think of one that is famous for the very fact that it was written by a lady in South Carolina during the Revolution. Add to the dearth of materials available the fact that these women often had a sense of privacy they held dear. Which often led women to burn their letters before they died, like Martha Washington is known to have done. (Sadly…)

Mary Chesnut CW DiaryBy the time of the Civil War, however, it’s easier to find the histories of women. For example, both Mary Chesnut, wife of a Confederate general, and Anne Frobel, a Virginia lady, kept diaries specifically to document their lives during the conflict, recognizing that others may actually want to know what they had to endure after the fact. Which they were indeed correct to presume!

I found myself pondering the expansion of women writers of all kinds over the centuries. From writing letters, to keeping diaries, to writing essays and novels and nonfiction books, to the vast array of writing we enjoy today. Even this blog is an example of a woman voicing her thoughts to others. I think all this stems from women having more education, less manual labor around the house, more “leisure” time as a result. (Note that although I’m calling it leisure time, we all know that most people fill every waking hour with something to do!) And of course, the materials are always at hand, whether it’s paper and pen or some form of keyboard. But also because women are people who have a voice and thoughts worth sharing.

So I thank those courageous women like Judith Sargent Murray who stood up to be counted and helped to open the door to the world of writing I enjoy today.

Thanks for stopping by!

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!

My American Revolution series of romances begins with Emily’s Vow, which was a finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards contest. The stories each feature a strong woman who declares her own independence for a variety of reasons, but ultimately they each find and fall in love with their soul mate. You can purchase the 4-book series for Kindle, or for Nook. They are also available in paperback if you prefer. Happy reading!

AMPU Covers-4

Between the Lines: What a Family Tragedy #women #history #research

Winnie Mae MurphreeWhen I was researching for Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure back in the 1990s, I ventured out into many different cemeteries. It’s always a somber moment to locate the grave of a person, whether you knew them or not. The older tombstones often included a message, a poem, or a few heartfelt words revealing how much the person was loved or would be missed.

Winnie Mae Murphree is remembered for her heroic act, along with her sister Celia, in capturing Union soldiers in Alabama and turning them over to the Rebel army camped nearby. I Murphree Historical Markerwanted to find where she is buried, but when I did I also found that her husband, Asa Bynum had faced a terrible personal tragedy the year Winnie passed.

Winnie died from unknown causes on November 29, 1899. But two of their children also died around the same time. Maud had died a week before Winnie, on November 13 (or 18), 1899, at 16. Albert died December 3, 1899, at 20 years old. My heart still aches for poor Asa having lost three family members within a month.

Murphree TombstoneI wonder what caused them all to die in such a short span. I can’t locate anything about an epidemic in Texas during that time. I found some mention of pneumonia and smallpox but not during the end of 1899. Could it have been an accident? Was Albert still living at home at the time? I don’t know. If anyone does know, please tell me. I’d love to find out what happened.

If you’d like to see more pictures related to Hometown Heroines, you can find them on my Pinterest board. Thanks for stopping by. I love to hear from my readers, so please feel free to comment below.

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!

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

Between the Lines: Donner’s Pass #research #history #histfic

VirginiaReedWestward expansion of America happened through the courage and dauntless efforts of many pioneers. Among them was Virginia Reed, who at age 12 years survived one of the most dangerous and horrific winters. She was a member of the ill-fated Donner Party.

The idea to move to California came from Virginia’s father, James Reed. Neighbors Jacob and George Donner decided to join the Reeds on the journey west. The group was known as the Donner Party. They left Springfield, Illinois, on April 14, 1846, with a total of thirty-one people in the wagon train. By the time they departed Ft. Bridger, Wyoming, on July 31, 1846, there were seventy-four people and nineteen wagons in the wagon train.

Crossing the plains, Virginia’s grandmother died. The party paused to bury her and then moved on. Virginia had to desert her pony when it couldn’t keep up with the caravan of wagons any longer. She was heartbroken over the loss of both. Little did she know just how many more trials waited for her and her family.

As they struggled to climb the Sierra Nevada Mountains with their wagons and oxen, men, women, children helping to push, pull, and carry their possessions, winter descended upon them, a heavy blanket of snow that refused to melt for months. Many died. The Reeds boiled the leather covers of their books and Bibles and ate it as soup. They were trapped until men wearing snowshoes could come rescue them.

The group that was snowed in at Donner Lake consisted of eighty-three people. Of those, forty-two died at the lakes. Only eighteen of the original thirty-one people who left Springfield, Illinois reached California in February 1847.

Writing Virginia’s story was difficult, mainly from trying to imagine what she would be thinking, feeling, worrying about. I don’t like cold and snow, so that part was fairly easy for me. But the rest of her challenges and sorrows – I felt so bad for her, and all that she endured, and survived.

A couple years ago, I actually rode a train through Donner’s Pass as part of a tour of several national parks. I wish I had chance to visit the nearby Donner Memorial State Park but since we were traveling by train, that wasn’t an option. But the scenery was beautiful! At least in the late summer/fall. But to imagine walking up the mountain slopes reminded me of the very difficult adventure Virginia and her family had faced.

We all have faced our own challenges, though most likely not like the Donner Party. My biggest personal challenge was breast cancer (20 years ago), at a time when my children were 7 and 5. Writing Hometown Heroines (the first edition that released in 2001) helped me get through a very dark period in my life. The inspiration of each of the girls’ stories gave me hope for my own future.

What about you? What has been your biggest challenge that you’ve overcome?

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!

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

Between the Lines: The Girl Who Changed the Face of Lincoln #women #history #research

GraceBedellOne of my favorite stories from Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure, is that of eleven-year-old Grace Bedell. Her story remained a secret for many years, but once it came to light her fame has spread. What did she do?

She wrote a letter in 1860 to Abraham Lincoln when he was a presidential candidate. In part, she said:

“I have got 4 brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.”

Not only do we know that Lincoln indeed grew a beard, he also responded to her letter. In part, he said:

“As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affect[at]ion if I were to begin it now?”

Today, two statues commemorate her actions. One is a granite monument bearing copper reproductions of both letters which stands in the Delphos, Kansas, town square. The other is the statue pictured here that I took while visiting in Westfield, New York, where the two correspondents met when Lincoln traveled by train through the town in February 1861.

Can you imagine? This little girl had the gumption to pen a suggestion to Abraham Lincoln, a man she did not know and who had no real reason to respond. Yet he did both respond and agree with her suggestion. Then he made a point of meeting her when he went through her town. No wonder so many people find the story compelling! The rest, as they say, is history.

If you’d like to see more pictures related to Hometown Heroines, you can find them on my Pinterest board.

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!

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

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!

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!