Write About it Wednesday: American Revolutionaries and Founders of the Nation: Part One

“That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.”

I decided to cover some American history in honor of American Independence and the Fourth of July holiday this week. Many history classes teach the basics of who, why, and when but they get lost along the way in life and forget. This is just a brief glimpse into a few of our founding fathers compliments of the book: American Revolutionaries and Founders of the Nation by James Meisner, Jr. and Amy Ruth. This book had zero reviews or written comments on Goodreads which had to be corrected by me of course…oh the responsibilities of a bookworm.

John Adams- Voice of Independence and 2nd President of the United States

Adams grew into fame after successfully defending the British soldiers accused of shooting unarmed civilians during the Boston Massacre. He helped edit the Declaration of Independence which was passed on July 2nd. The final Declaration was edited and debated for two days until July 4th. Adams thought the celebrations should be held on the 2nd ever year, but as we all know he did not win that battle. He is credited with moving the seat of government to Washington D.C.

Alexander Hamilton- Founding Federalist and Money Man

Hamilton is best known for his duel with Aaron Burr that ended his life. He was a special aide to Washington during the war that helped him make acquaintances and led to his appointment as Secretary of the Treasury. He set a plan to pay war wages and the mounting national debt. His plans were not favored by all and led to much debate. Scandal rocked his personal life leading to a decline in his public favor. He favored federal government over states and wrote more than half of the essays titled “The Federalist Papers.”

John Jay- Reluctant Revolutionary and Responsible Caretaker

Jay supported reconciliation with Great Britain until revolution became imminent. He was loyal to his family and state before the nation. A firm believer that family above all else should be at the heart of a man. He was the President of the Continental Congress, signed the Treaty of Paris and was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I was hoping for more information but I may need to read a full biography to give you more insight.

Thomas Jefferson- Architect of Democracy

Jefferson is a controversial figure in American history. He was Secretary of State, writer of the Declaration of Independence and overseer of the Louisiana Purchase. His presidency was less formal than his predecessors, but significant progress was made as a nation. He was an avid reader and sold more than 6,000 of his books to the Library of Congress after it burned in the War of 1812. Instead of being remembered for writing the Declaration, Jefferson is most known for his controversial relationship with Sally Hemings, one of the slaves at Monticello.

Stay tuned for six more revolutionaries coming soon! Some you might not have heard about in history class. Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend full of fireworks and fun! And for those in other countries, here is a quick picture to share the view…

Who are some of your favorite Founding Fathers to research? I’d love to hear from you!

Book Review Friday: Wives of War

“There was no time; her sitting down to catch her breath or look for something to eat could mean a soldier died. Someone’s son, brother, husband…Tears filled her eyes, but she quickly blinked them away.”

Wives of War is a tale of three World War Two nurses, who find friendship and strength through one another during the hardships of war. The story starts out with Scarlet and Ellie meeting by chance at the railway station. Scarlet has signed up as a nurse to look for her fiancé Thomas who hasn’t been heard from in weeks. She believes that by being closer to the front she will be able to locate him. Ellie signs up because she wants to help and do her part. They agree on their way to remain close because together they will be able to handle anything. Their first stop was a home turned hospital to prepare for their arrival at the front. They do not know where they will be sent, but they are allowed to room together and develop a bond that will last through their lifetimes. Ellie meets a nice doctor and is asked to be his assistant once they embark on their journey. She is smitten right away but questions what he can see in her. When they reach their first assignment they are thrown into a world of decaying bodies, amputations and sleep deprivation. I have read about Normandy, but I can’t imagine the scene that lay in front of these nurses. Many men did not make it, or were left without legs or arms. The smells and lack of food and sleep would have pushed anyone to their breaking point. Ellie is affected the most and struggles to find her way. They meet a woman determined to become a doctor named Lucy. She takes some time to warm up to them, but in the end completes their trio. Lucy falls for a man that she saves, and Scarlet falls for a man that turns out to be her fiancé’s brother. Scarlet struggles between her heart and her duty while Lucy longs for the day her soldier will return. The ending sees the three women much changed and their lives set for the future.

The lightness of the friendship amongst the girls, their crushes on men and their determination to remain hopeful gives this story a spark that is needed when discussing difficult times in our past. War is dirty, hard on a body, and full of death and despair. These girls lived it right alongside the men and made it out to the other side. They were resourceful, and relied on one another to keep their strength. They faced extreme conditions for women of the time and only longed for hot baths and a cup of good tea. This story had excellent elements of the past along with a few love stories to keep you interested. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a pessimist and think that everything working out so perfectly is a bit of a stretch. War time saw a lot of romances bloom and a lot of them die. Did I want any of them to lose their loves? No, but that may have been more realistic to the times. I love this kind of story because it’s an easy read and gives me some insight into the past. If you love historical fiction with romance then you will enjoy this tale of three women in their journey through war to love. 

Release Date: July 1st, 2017

Write About it Wednesday: Angel of the Battlefield

“When you are hungry and supper less, she told them, I will be too. If harm befalls you, I will care for you: if sick, I will nurse you and under all circumstances, I will treat you like gentleman.”

I started my research on the role of women in war with those that nursed men on the battlefield. When you think of famous nurses there are usually two that pop into your head: Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton. I had heard of Clara Barton, but truly knew very little. In fact, embarrassingly enough I thought she was the founder of the Red Cross. I have since seen her true humanitarian nature and the vast use of her ideas in practices still used today.

Clara grew up in a home that inspired a humanitarian outlook. Her first experience with nursing was due to the near tragic fall of her brother David during a barn raising event. She stayed by his side and was credited for his eventual healing. She began teaching at the age of seventeen, following in her siblings footsteps. She never married, but had many suitors including one who hit it big in the gold rush and deposited $10,000 in her bank account which was later used to help fund her aid work. She saw a need for a free school and offered to work for no pay. The enrollment in her school surpassed 600 pupils and a male principal was appointed to oversee because it was “too large for a woman to run.” This led to her resignation from the school she founded and her career as a teacher. She left for Washington D.C to stay with her sister and was appointed to a position over confidential information making the same pay as the male clerks. She was forced to resign under the Buchanan presidency due to her antislavery beliefs, but was later reinstated by President Lincoln. During this time she made friends with many people in politics and often sat in on debates in the Senate and House of Representatives. These friendships would be the foundation for her assistance in bringing the Red Cross to America.

As the Civil War broke out Clara became concerned with the welfare of the men from Massachusetts. She began collecting donations and requesting assistance for these men through letter writing campaigns and newspaper advertisements. After the Battle of Bull Run she saw that almost nothing had been done to prepare for medical treatment of wounded soldiers. Many men died because they hadn’t been treated quickly enough. Can you imagine? Many of them lay there for three or four days waiting to be seen. Husbands, sons, brothers all waiting and no one showing up. I know this was a time before medical advancements and research but the lack of foresight to know that some men were going to need assistance is distressing. Clara was eventually granted permission by the surgeon general to go with the men to the front as a nurse. She was chartering new ground for women, but only saw it as her duty to help the men who needed her most.

The war came to an end in 1865 and Barton saw a need for correspondence with families seeking missing soldiers. President Lincoln appointed her the general correspondent, but was assassinated before making arrangements for her to be paid. She eventually ran out of her own funds due to lack of payment for much of her work and had to begin a lecture tour over her life and work in the Civil War. She became ill and went abroad to recover. The President of the Red Cross found her abroad and convinced her to speak with the United States about joining. The U.S had already refused to join three times because they felt the treaty broadened their foreign involvement. The treaty was not signed until Barton started the Red Cross on her own and had the organization respond to natural disasters throughout the United States. This was a new concept for the Red Cross, but eventually became a role of the international organization. She had much success and remained the President of the American chapter of the Red Cross until 1905. She died at the age of 90 from double pneumonia.

This woman did not take no for an answer. If she saw a problem, she fixed it. If she saw a person in need, she helped them. If she saw that something wasn’t being done that should, she made it happen or did it herself. I thought her greatest accomplishment was bringing the Red Cross to the United States but she did so much more than that. From opening a school for free without any salary to bringing word to thousands of families about their loved ones lost during the war she left an impact across the nation. She even had Andersonville camp, the South’s infamous prison during the Civil War, turned into a national cemetery for the 13,000+ that were buried there. She was repeatedly turned down with her attempts to sign the treaty for the Red Cross but went ahead and organized it on her own. She developed a new way to assist people during natural disasters that hadn’t been done before to convince the President. She had the foresight to make the hard choices that needed to be made. She is truly a remarkable American, and I’m glad I was able to research her rich and fulfilling life. We owe a lot to this woman, in war time and peace

Book Review Friday: The Underground Railroad

“A plantation was a plantation; one might think one’s misfortunes distinct, but the true horror lay in the universality.”

I picked up Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad after searching my local library database for new literature about the Underground Railroad. This book was recently featured in Oprah’s Book Club and won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. The author took a difficult topic and put it in an easy format for reading. He uses different perspectives and situations to address major issues of slavery that most authors are afraid to write down or mention. This book does not hide the cruelty, but it doesn’t feel like a vicious rant either. His writing asks readers to think about the past and how it is narrated.

Cora is a slave that was abandoned by her mother at a young age on the plantation. Her mother managed to escape and remain free which was a huge feat in the early days. A fellow slave approaches Cora about escaping with the assistance of the Underground Railroad. After intervening for another slave being beaten, she finally decides to escape with Cesar. She ends up killing a white man during the escape which raises the stakes for their capture. They are assisted by the Underground Railroad that according to Whitehead truly exists as an underground network of railway and old train cars that come along intermittently with no set destination. They settle in South Carolina for a while where Cora starts to feel safe. She has a job working at the Museum of Natural Wonders in their live history displays. This part of the book bothered me more than I care to admit. She is put on display as a slave in sections such as Typical Day on the Plantation and Life on the Slave Ship. In addition to this work she is taken to a doctor and realizes they are sterilizing patients and injecting some with syphilis for “research purposes.” They are discovered in South Carolina and must move forward, but Cora is separated and fears Cesar is dead. She is then held in an attic in North Carolina for an extended period before being caught. North Carolina features a barrage of death with the town square holding a hanging each week of a slave or those that helped them. The streets are lined with hanging bodies. This is the first novel I’ve read that mentions bodies hanging along the road. This detail just added to my perspective of the time. I can only see what I have learned from the past, but if you allow your imagination to see past what you know and the possibilities of what actually occurred you find the brutality is more than many could bear. This wasn’t that long ago, and these slave owners and catchers are human just like me. Where was their remorse? Their conscience? I don’t understand how cruelty so deep can form in a person that they no longer see a human being but property. I understand social constraints, but the choice of torture and abuse is a person’s alone. They are responsible.

Cora eventually makes her way to the Valentine Farm which appears as a modern day utopia. *Spoiler Alert* Utopia ends in blood and carnage. I felt like the Valentine scenes were a bit preachy to me, and after the heaviness of the other locations I was just ready for the book to be over. I wouldn’t rate this book on a level of Pulitzer Prize winning material, but his writing does make you think about injustice and the cruelty of slavery. He wasn’t afraid to include the dark and dirty side of history, but he also adds in a lot of lecturing. I do not like to be told how to think. I know some people may need this as an eye opener, but I just wanted more knowledge on the topic from a fresh perspective. I don’t think I would recommend it for most readers unless they have a true interest in the topic.

Book Review Friday: The Underground River

“Conflicted. That’s what the feeling of torn fabric inside of you is called.”

I have been (im)patiently waiting for Martha Conway’s next novel and she did not disappoint. I can’t describe the ease with which you become involved with her characters but they truly come to life. She doesn’t miss a single detail and the characters stay “in character” throughout the book as if they exist somewhere out in the world and are just waiting for you to find them. I was watching the Floating Theatre instead of reading about a fictional scene. Her historical fiction breathes life into time periods that are often lacking the feel of experience and authenticity.

The story starts out with an account of the boiler explosions on the Moselle riverboat on the Ohio River. May is a passenger along with her cousin when the boat begins to sink. She is quick to react and saves the life of a small child that will haunt her nightmares for the remainder of the book. This act of heroism sets the tone for the reader that she is of strong character and can handle any situation. She begins the search for her cousin who has been taken in by a known abolitionist. Her cousin decides to stay and begin a lecture tour for the cause because she will be well cared for, but this leaves May without any income or a place to stay. The abolitionist agrees to pay May $20 for a ticket home to get rid of her as quickly as possible. May wants to continue her life as a seamstress and looks for work near her cousin and lucks into a job on the Floating Theatre. The only catch is the $20 she is paid to return home will be required to get the boat up and running. May is incapable of telling a lie and must learn in order to utilize the money for another purpose than returning home.

Once she has paid Hugo, the captain of the ship, she begins her new career out on her own. Her duties on the boat go far beyond costume design and she has little experience. As May begins to grow and learn she falls in love with the boat and her fellow passengers. She has always been in her cousin’s shadow and now she can stand on her own. The climax of the book comes when May is blackmailed by the abolitionist to pay back the $20 when she discovers her working on the boat and realizes the money was not spent to return home. May must face the decision to work for the Underground Railroad. She has little knowledge of slavery and doesn’t begin to experience the injustices until the boat begins docking on the free North and slave holding South side of the river. The differences become evident and she is torn within herself about what is right and just. She decides to accept the offer since she sees little choice and the reader is lead into an intense “OMG! What is going to happen? She can’t get caught? Agh!” of excitement. The combination of the threat of discovery and the debut of a new play made it hard to put the book down. Conway does an excellent job of combining romance, action, suspense and a fresh perspective on a troubling topic in American history.

This book is simply put, fantastic. Buy it, read it, read it again, and then you can join me in waiting impatiently for her next book! Release date is June 20, make sure to preorder!

Write About it Wednesday: Harriet Beecher Stowe

“The family lived on words, spoken and written.”

One of my goals for this year was to become a more thoughtful reader. I want to know more about what I am reading and why it is important in the grand scheme of things. I do not need every book to change my life but I do believe there is a purpose for every piece of writing. Entertainment, learning, or just evaluating different styles of writing is important for me to grow as a reader and writer. I like to do some background work before I tackle any classical literature or books that are set in the past. I have been doing quite a bit of research on the Underground Railroad and I just completed three more books that will be reviewed in the upcoming months on the blog. Before I begin reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I wanted to know more about Harriet Beecher Stowe and her motivation behind writing the classic piece of literature that President Lincoln believes helped spark the Civil War.

Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in a male dominated century. She was declared a genius in her youth, but her father famously stated that it was of no use unless she was a boy. She lived under the direction of her stern older sister after the age of 12 and later married Calvin Stowe. Her family and religious beliefs were a strong influence in her writing, and helped spur many of her characters and stories. She wrote about things she was most passionate about and after the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 she turned her passive opposition to slavery into a determination to see the practice ended. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a plea to end slavery. It is a Victorian novel based on the life of Josiah Henson. Stowe knew a great deal about slavery from her family and time in Cincinnati. She also read slave literature including Theodore Weld’s American Slavery As it is. After the release of the book she faced several attacks on her character as well as her writing. She ended up writing an entire follow up book to defend herself and her research. The book was excellent publicity for the North and their crusade against slavery. Stowe published over 30 books, but is most well-known for Uncle Tom’s Cabin because of its inspiring subjects.

I found myself interested in the Fugitive Slave Act that spurred her reaction and led her to write. The original Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1793 and authorized local governments to seize and return escaped slaves to their owners and imposed penalties for aiding their flight. If this was already in place where was the outrage when this passed? Was the sentiment against slavery not as strong? The 1850 Act added further provisions making the crimes a civil and criminal matter with harsher punishments for interfering in runaway slave capture. This occurred under President Fillmore’s watch during the peak of the Underground Railroad movement. To ensure that the 1850 law was enforced the control of individual cases were placed in the hands of the federal commissioners. Data shows that the law remained largely unenforced, but the fact remains that this law led to major outrage and was a factor in the growing tension between the north and south. I would be interested in researching other laws that were passed during this time and the effects it had on the outbreak of war.

I have an admiration of Stowe for the courage it must have taken to speak out about the injustices of slavery. She was at a disadvantage as a woman in a male word, but stood her ground when attacked for her beliefs. Slavery is a huge part of our American history and she earned her place in the fight against it. She is proof that we can use our words to change the world.

Book Review Friday: The Dollhouse

“Where everyone acts like they’re the main character of their own book.”

The Dollhouse is the debut novel from author, Fiona Davis. I decided to read this tale of Barbizon’s Hotel for Women before beginning Davis’s next book. I had never heard of the hotel in Manhattan that housed many famous women as they were starting their careers in the big city. The history is fascinating, and there are several excellent articles covering the women who stayed there and the historical significance of the hotel. Sylvia Plath created a fictional Barbizon in The Bell Jar, after her short stay during an internship for Mademoiselle.

Davis weaves the story of a journalist in modern day with the past of a Barbizon girl trying to make it in the big city. The two women are connected through the hotel which has now turned into condominiums where they both reside. Rose, a journalist for a new startup company, sees a story in Darby almost immediately. As she begins to dig into the past she finds that her instincts were correct. The story is constantly evolving and keeps the reader intrigued. I liked the addition of the twist of mystery mixed with the rich detail of the characters and the history of jazz clubs and heroin trade. My only criticism of this book would be its correlation to the Bell Jar. It has very similar conflicts, and I kept thinking back and remembering events that unfolded almost the exact same way. I am going to be doing a feature on Sylvia Plath and the Bell Jar soon since this has peaked my interest.

This was a different era for women. They could start a career and depend on themselves. New York was a bright, new adventure. It was the city of opportunity. I find it sad that most books in this time period share a moment of men trying to take advantage of a woman. Did this occur often? I can’t say that I’d want to research this topic further but it seems that the assault of women was a common occurrence or at least literature wants us to believe that. Another reoccurring theme is the fear of failure. The women worry about returning home and their bleak possibilities if they are unsuccessful. The shame that these women must have felt had to be brought on by social pressure of the times. I think it’s important to look back at how far women have come and the confidence placed in our right to start a career, fail and keep going. This book does a great job of tying everything together and showing that women can be alone and successful. Stay tuned for my review of Davis’s next book: The Address.