Can You Really Turn a Tide? — Edith Maxwell
Today I’m happy to welcome author Edith Maxwell as she shares some of the history behind her latest story.
Actually, I don’t think it’s possible to turn an oceanic tide. It’s not a little boat. It’s not even a giant ocean liner or tanker. Our earth’s ocean tides are mighty gravitation-powered forces. They come around more or less twice a day, with two high tides and two lows. The moon influences them. The weather influences them. The moon influences them even more. We little humanoidss have no effect on the tides, unless on a grand climate-change scale.
So why would I name a book Turning the Tide if turning a tide isn’t even possible?
This third installment of the Quaker Midwife Mysteries opens at a meeting of the Amesbury Woman Suffrage Association a few days before election day in November 1888. We now know this was more than thirty years before women got the vote by the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US constitution in 1920. But that didn’t mean women weren’t already protesting and lobbying for the right to express their opinions at the ballot box.
Gradually, inexorably, women were turning the tide of opinion toward allowing half the adult population to vote. In the same way as with the movement to legally enfranchise African-American men, Quakers were in the forefront of the women’s rights movement, from Lucretia Mott to Charlotte Woodward to Susan B. Anthony to Alice Paul. When women in the US were granted the vote in 1920, only one of the sixty-four women who had signed the Seneca Falls Declaration had lived long enough to cast her ballot: the Quaker, Charlotte Woodward, who in 1848 had been a young worker in a glove factory.
Midwife Rose Carroll joins forces with other Amesbury suffragists to protest their enfranchisement during the presidential election in 1888. Her mother – a well-known activist for the cause – comes to town to stand in solidarity across from the polls on Election Day, as does Elizabeth Cady Stanton herself. But when Rose finds the body of the local association’s leader the next morning, and Rose’s own life is threatened more than once, she’s drawn into delivering not only babies but also a murderer.
I’m so excited that this book will reach the reading public in nine days! If you haven’t read books one and two, don’t worry. I write each to be able to stand alone. I’ll give one print copy away to a (US only) commenter here today – but you’ll have to wait until after April 8.
Readers: Do you vote? If not, why not? What do you think of when you exercise your right, not even a century old, to mark that ballot or pull that lever, whether in a local election or to name the next leader of the country?
(A version of this post first appeared on the Inkspot blog earlier this year.)
About her book:
Turning the Tide, the third book in the series, will be out in 2018, and is available for pre-order wherever books are sold. Excitement runs high during Presidential election week in 1888. The Woman Suffrage Association plans a demonstration and Quaker midwife Rose Carroll resolves to join the protest. When she finds the body of the association’s leader the next morning, she’s drawn into delivering more than babies. Rose’s own life is threatened more than once as she sorts out killer from innocent.
Agatha- and Macavity-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries.
She is president of Sisters in Crime New England and lives north of Boston with her beau, two elderly cats, and an impressive array of garden statuary. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, KillerCharacters.com, and Under Cover of Midnight. Read about all Maxwell’s personalities and her work at edithmaxwell.com.
Rowena Felch stood tall and graceful on the podium in the Free Will Baptist Church hall. “In this election season of 1888, we must work with ever more diligence to gain women the vote!” She sliced the air with her fervor. “We must convince our Massachusetts lawmakers to act. It is past time.”
The Saturday night meeting of the Amesbury Woman Suffrage Association was jam-full. I’d arrived a bit late with my friend Bertie Winslow, and we’d found places to sit near the side of the hall. I could see easily, being at least as tall as the speaker, but petite Bertie craned her neck to catch a glimpse of the speaker. It was my first suffrage meeting, although not hers, and I’d met Rowena only once before, at Bertie’s house. The full room was warm with female bodies and smelled of women: floral aromas, breast milk, and yeasty hints of sweat, scents integral to my world of midwifery. The gas lamps on all the walls gave a welcoming aura and highlighted Rowena’s face glowing with fervor.
“Do not lose heart, ladies,” Rowena went on. “We shall gather on Tuesday across from the main polling place in the new Armory. Frannie will hand you each a sash on your way out tonight.” She gestured toward the back of the room. “Please wear them proudly on Election Day.”
I turned to look. Frannie Eisenman, the grandmother of a baby girl I’d delivered just last week, held a sunflower-yellow sash in the air and waved it for all to see.
“Does anyone have a question?” Rowena asked.
An older woman with hair the color of iron stood. It was Ruby Bracken, a member of the same Friends Meeting as me. “What is our plan if we’re met with opposition from the gentleman, as we surely will be?”
A teenage girl with curly black tresses sat next to Ruby. The girl’s eyes widened as if in fear at the thought of opposition, but I was glad to see females of all ages at the meeting. An older lady with a comfortable corset-free figure and soft white sausage curls framing her face emerged from a side door at the front of the hall and walked to the podium. Rowena took a pace back, beaming at the newcomer.
“If this comes to pass, we shall link arms and stand tall,” the woman proclaimed, her flat black lace headdress falling like a veil and accentuating her snowy-white hair.
Bertie’s mouth fell open. “That’s Mrs. Stanton!”
“The Mrs. Stanton?” I asked, shifting on the hard wooden chair.