Bringing History to Life

NEWS FLASH: Melinda is the randomly selected winner! Please send your snail mail address to me at edith at edithmaxwell.com. Congratulations!

Edith here, delighted that Turning the Tide came out from Midnight Ink yesterday!

This is my third Quaker Midwife mystery, and my fourteenth published novel, in which Rose Carroll, midwife, becomes involved in murder once again. I’m so grateful for my editors at Midnight Ink for believing in my stories and making them better: Amy Glaser, Terri Bischoff, and Nicole Nugent. And to talented cover artist Greg Newbold for rocking cover number three.

In celebration, I’m most pleased to give away a signed copy of the book to one commenter here today.

Turning the Tide.jpg

The story has a background theme, as every book in the series does. In book time the season was rolling around to the fall, so I decided to explore issues of women’s suffrage in 1888. The Amesbury Woman Suffrage Association (fictional as far as I know, but it could have existed) turns out in force across from the polling place on Election Day to protest not having the vote. Here’s one of the placards I found online, and it’s my favorite. WomenbringallvotersIn a book featuring a midwife, you can see why I love this sign.

I read that proponents of women’s suffrage wore sunflower yellow sashes, to represent hope. Quaker women were in the forefront of the movement for decades, both before and after this book takes place. Rose’s mother is an ardent suffragist, and in Turning the Tide she comes to town to support the protest.

I love slipping bits of my own family history into the books. Rose’s mother Dorothy Henderson Carroll is named after my paternal grandmother, Dorothy Henderson Maxwell. We called her Momma Dot, and Rose’s nieces and nephews call the fictional Dorothy Granny Dot. My grandmother was the first woman to drive an automobile halfway across the United States in 1918, and I imagine she didn’t hesitate to vote the following year.

I decided to bring Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Amesbury, too. Historically I don’t know if she did, but she might have, and writing fiction gives me permission to portray her rallying the women, with her white curls and comfortable, corset-free figure.

Elizabeth-Cady-Stanton

Stanton was a real intellectual. In the book I took the liberty of paraphrasing a few sentences from her essay, “The Solitude of Self,” which was not published until 1892, for her to speak in person in this book (at Rose’s friends’ salon gathering). I couched it as Stanton developing her thoughts on the topic, and I trust her departed soul will approve.

So, dear readers, who is your favorite suffragist? Any family stories about your feminist foremothers, or the first time you yourself voted?

News for the History Books

Edith here, soaring with delight despite snow piles higher than my head, which are still rising as you read this.

First: Congratulations to Patricia Stoltey for winning a book from Catriona McPherson!

I have casually, some might say coyly, here and there mentioned my historical mystery series, the Carriagetown Mysteries. Well, today I am really exceedingly pleased to announce that I have signed a three-book contract with Terri Bischoff, Aquisitions Editor at Midnight Ink! (And yes, this does make three multi-book contracts. Gulp.)

I’m so pleased that my book-length stories of 1888 Amesbury, my fair city, are going to hit the hands of readers beginning a little over a year from now. To celebrate (besides the bubbly), I’ll give away an ARC of a totally unrelated mystery to one commenter today.

In the first Carriagetown mystery, Breaking the Silence, Quaker midwife Rose Carroll hears secrets and Buggykeeps con­fi­dences as she attends births of the rich and poor alike. When the town’s world-famed car­riage indus­try goes up in flames (a true event in April, 1888), and a fac­tory owner’s adult son is stabbed to death with Rose’s own knitting needle, she is drawn into solv­ing the mys­tery of who set the fire and who killed the son. Things get dicey after the same owner’s mis­tress is also mur­dered, leav­ing her newborn infant with­out a mother. While strug­gling with being less than the per­fect Friend, Rose draws on her strengths as a counselor and prob­lem solver to bring two mur­der­ers to justice.

MorningMeetinghouse

That little brass plaque reads, “Whittier’s Seat.” Picture by Kathleen Wooten.

Rose’s elder and mentor is the actual Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, who lived in Amesbury and attended Amesbury Friends Meeting (the same Meetinghouse where I walk to and sit in expectant waiting on Sunday mornings). It’s been wonderful to research Whittier and bring him back to life, right down to the twinkle in his eye, his love for children, and his cane that was made from the Philadelphia building burned down by anti-abolitionists while he was in there working on his pro-abolition newspaper. His home, two blocks away from my own home, is now a living museum of which I am a member.

Rose lives with her dead sister’s brother and his five children in the very house I live in, DSC_8500which was built in 1880 for the mill workers, so some of my research for the book is very easy and personal. I walk around town and visualize how it was without electric wires overhead or electric lights within. I imagine the many still-standing buildings housing the businesses of that era, and visualize structures no longer standing, like the Opera House.

The late 1800s were a time of great change. Some towns and businesses might have had electricity and indoor plumbing, but not families of modest means like Rose’s. Germ theory was just being widely practiced. Midwives were beginning to be supplanted by doctors. The hospital across the river, where Rose’s romantic interest is a doctor, was only eight years old. You could buy ready-made shoes and clothes, and even a version of infant formula. At the same time, only twenty-two years had passed since the Civil War. Black people struggled. Women couldn’t vote or even run for office higher than the school committee. Police refused to get involved in domestic violence situations. It’s an exciting time in which to place a series.

Rose is an independent businesswomanTwo-women-on-safety-bicycles-2-ha-pennies who buys one of the new “safety” bicycles with wheels of equal sizes, and her good friend is postmistress Bertie Winslow, who rides a horse named Grover, after the President, and lives in a Boston marriage. But Rose is also a member of the Society of Friends, wearing plain dress and addressing people with thee and thy. She sometimes butts head with Irish police detective Kevin Donovan, and at other times is able to work with him to ferret out crime in the town.

I have two short stories out that pilot the setting and characters of the series: “A Fire in CarriaFireinCarriagetownCovergetown” (originally published as “Breaking the Silence” in Stone Cold: Best New England Crime Stories 2014 from Level Best Books), and “A Questionable Death” in the History and Mystery, Oh My! anthology from Mystery and Horror, LLC. But you’ll have to wait until March 2016 for the first book.

I’m so grateful to Terri and the Midnight Ink crew for taking me on. I’m grateful for readers who like historical mysteries. I’m hugely grateful to my local community, including the Amesbury Carriage Museum, the Whittier Home Association, and Amesbury Friends Meeting, who are all, as you can imagine, eagerly awaiting the first book. I’m terribly grateful to Ramona DeFelice Long, who greatly improved the manuscript for me with her editorial comments, and to Kathy Lynn Emerson, a successful historical mystery author, who shared her own historical research bibiolography and then offered a very positive pre-contracted endorsement of Breaking the Silence. Historical mystery author KB Inglee gave me some great tips on how life sounded and what things were called. And I’m always grateful for the Wickeds, and for all our wonderful blog followers. Thank you! Stay tuned for more about this series.

Now: Questions? I’m happy to talk about research, ideas, problems. Any of it! Ask away. I’ll give an ARC of Farmed and Dangerous to one commenter. And please raise a glass of the celebratory beverage of your choice with me sometime today.