Write About it Wednesday: Carry A. Nation

“You put me in here a cub, but I will go out a roaring lion, and I will make all hell howl.”

I love podcasts. I subscribe to anything from history to crime and books in between. Two different podcasts covered Carry Nation and peaked my interest. Most would say that listening to two episodes about a woman would be thorough enough, but leave it to me to have more questions. I had never heard of Nation before listening: first to Stuff You Missed in History Class, and second Criminal with Phoebe Judge and I wanted to know more. I’m a sucker for strong female leaders.

Carry was a trouble maker in her youth until she fell ill and found God. She devoted her life to religion and saw fit to improve the lives of others with HER opinions. She was very reserved until a doctor who was boarding at her home stole a kiss in the dark. She soon found herself in love. Carry married Dr. Charles Gloyd, a well-known to everyone (except Carry) alcoholic, in her early 20’s that set her path in life. He was drunk at the ceremony and she never saw him sober again. Her father came to check on her a few months into the marriage and decided she had to return home immediately and leave her husband. Dr. Gloyd died 6 months after she left from complications due to alcohol abuse. No shock there. Carry was now responsible for her daughter and mother-in-law and needed a career. She became a teacher until she was fired for refusing to change the pronunciation of the short and long a. As a teacher myself, this excuse is so ridiculous that it’s comical. They just wanted her gone.

Her only plan was to marry. When she ran into David Nation she believed it was divine intervention. They were married a few weeks later and moved to Texas. This would be one of many moves as Nation faced disaster everywhere they attempted to settle. Their eventual move to Kansas started the famous saloon smashing and prohibition speeches. Carry noticed that several saloons were still fully operating under laws that forbade the sale of alcohol. She started with warnings but then began to throw bricks into saloons, carry a hatchet which she is well known for, and call out bar owners to close shop. It was her divine calling. She had visions that directed her behavior and many saloons were forced to close after Nation swept into town. Not everyone agreed with her behavior. In 1901, she was beaten by a group of women. She was jailed numerous times and during one of the stays, she began publishing a newsletter that eventually turned into a newspaper called “The Hatchet,” which supported prohibition and women’s rights.

I could talk about Carry Nation all night, but I’m going to save you time. Why in the world is this woman famous? If I decided to walk into a bar, tear it apart and break everything in sight and then tell everyone how they should be living…I’d be in jail for a very long time. Should you be honored for breaking the law because it doesn’t hold true to your own way of thinking? Her visions from God sound almost like Andrea Yates, the woman who drowned her children in the bathtub because she had a vision. Believer or non-believer, do we get to use a vision as an out for committing crimes? My research left me with only one thought: Carry Nation was a stubborn, semi-crazy woman in a network of prohibitionists who blamed alcohol for all the problems in the world. I don’t see her as a leader, but as a woman who is just as bad as the people she is trying to stop.

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Write About it Wednesday: The Mystery Queen

“Grant a great age to Queen Nefertiti, long years may she keep the hand of the King.”

Have you ever made it to the last page of a book and wondered what you just read? It is no secret that my reading list is a mile long and therefore my reading time is precious to me. I am curious by nature and walk the nonfiction aisles of my library with a purpose. I have things that I want to know and my hope is the books that I choose will feed that curiosity. I make stacks and lists of topics and try to tackle them in a semi-organized fashion (let’s be honest though, the stacks and lists are so long I may never get to them all).

I decided to start on Egyptian history and found a short biography of Nefertiti. I own a copy of Michelle Moran’s Nefertiti but haven’t found the time to start it yet. It’s buried between A Guide to Serial Killers, a pictorial history of Hurricane Katrina and a biography of Andrew Jackson. (My reading knows few limits.) I thought the biography would be a great introduction but it was a major disappointment. Although the book is titled for the Queen, much of the time is spent reading about her husband. I should have thrown the red flag when I read the author’s note that the story would be told from Nefertiti’s point of view in current time. The short version:

Nefertiti came from a family who was close to the King and Queen, so she was destined to marry the prince. They marry at 15 and 16 and have children. The prince who is now King decides that there is only one god, the sun itself. He wants everyone to believe this and angers his people. Bad luck comes knocking and everyone dies.

Does that answer all your questions? Mine either. I know that I signed up for a short biography but I think there might be more to the story… How do you select your nonfiction titles? Do you read reviews prior to selecting? If you have any Egyptian books to recommend, please reach out so I can add them to my list!

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

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.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World

   
“And then, out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear, and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”

I saw this on the shelf at the library and thought, “Yes! Finally, I will get to read this one.” What I failed to note is that I picked up the young readers edition. I hope I didn’t miss too much by choosing this copy! Malala is well known throughout the world as an advocate for peace and education. I was interested in her experiences in Pakistan before the shooting and the book covered her daily life very well. It’s amazing that we live in the same world and can have such different experiences. Her outlook is well beyond her years and she truly is an inspiration. Malala began speaking out well before the Taliban targeted and shot her on the bus ride home from school. She prides herself on standing up for what is right and has a wonderful role model in her father, who did the same. The struggle that these girls went through to go to school hits me hard. I was fortunate to walk right in and took that for granted. They worried if their uniforms stood out as targets or if the school would be shut down. For an entire country to fall under a man that has the power to stop all women from attending school in this age of technology and innovation is heartbreaking. If you have no interest in biographies, I urge you to take a few moments to check out the Malala Foundation and research what is going on with refugees around the world. Education is a major foundation for success in the future and we could all be more informed. 

His Excellency: George Washington

  

I am embarking on a journey to read a biography of every United States President. This is a lofty goal that many have commented is hard to achieve. I think a knowledge of how this country was governed and the men we elected to run it are invaluable to me as a citizen of this country. I long to be the history buff that can tell you the 26th President without thinking or can list off reasons the people elected one candidate over another. Essentially, I have high expectations for my choices on this journey, especially for our first President who would kick it off. This book failed to meet these expectations and my excitement diminished almost immediately. Instead of fact and storyline, I got someone’s opinion, a negative one at that, which feeds on itself and cannot help but leave the reader dreading turning the pages. I literally asked myself if I should finish it or just start another biography? I want to like Washington, our revered first President, but I can’t. Not even a little bit. Now this may not be all Ellis’s fault. My history classes are partially to blame with their cherry trees and tales of building a nation. From what I have learned through this book, it seems Washington was simply a lucky man. In the right place at the right time, not dying alongside many others. He chose to keep quiet where others chose to have an opinion. His demeanor just said “I am a leader” and so he was. From Ellis’ view, Washington allowed others to form his opinions, to write his letters and even persuade him to make decisions he would not have made. That is all I got out of this 275 page book that inevitably took me two months to suffer through. I believe historians should give facts, not their own speculation. I want Washington as he was or as close as I can get. This book was not that at all.  Back to square one. 

Lee

“In the quiet of a summer evening with the enemy fled, and only a distant, random gun heard, he surveyed the widespread havoc and smoking piles.”

I’ve always felt that research, when thoroughly done and applied correctly, is what sets a great author apart from a good one. Horn truly put a lot of effort into this novel and it shows. He gave an open perspective of Robert E. Lee’s life, avoiding minute battle details and giving you more interesting facts about his childhood, marriage and how his choosing Virginia over the Union changed the future of this country.  I learned interesting details about Lee’s original plans for his army that could have turned the tides of the war. Horn also tackles the Lee family’s trials and feelings with losing their home in Arlington and the outcome of these sites after the war. Lee generally led a life away from his wife and children which allowed for a lot of correspondence which Horn incorporated throughout the novel. It was a truly fascinating read.