Farmingville Schoolhouse, Farmingville, Long Island, NY. Image from the Farmingville Historical Society.
By Chapter 5, the main plot of the A Good Community is rolling.
Maggie and Emily discover that they cannot enroll the Brooks sisters at the town’s school.
Eli takes care of Faith, while Maggie sets off to make an appointment to speak with the School Board.
Maggie also ends up touring Josiah Norton’s new hotel and getting an unwanted lecture from him, which infuriates her and doesn't go down very well with Eli, either.
Is Maggie headed for another collision or will she and Emily find another way?
Chapter 5: Confrontation
On Friday: a blog about Frances Willard of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
Clelia Mosher portrait from Stanford University Archives
I began my Ph.D. program in 1993, five years after the publication of Helena Whitbread’s book about Anne Lister. I didn’t know anything about Lister, but I encountered similar information around 1995 while studying for my comprehensive exam called “The Status and Role of Women in the Nineteenth Century.” By then, Lister’s journals and other studies were beginning to change our understanding of nineteenth century women and the role of sex played in their lives.
For my exam, I found information on a study that had been done in the late nineteenth century by physician Dr. Clelia Mosher (1863- 1940). I learned that Mosher began studying the “sexual habits and attitudes of a group of women prior to 1890.” She continued to study the same women for 20 years, but never published the results. Her work predated the Kinsey Reports on human sexuality of 1948 and 1953. (Johns Hopkins)
Much like Lister’s journals, Mosher’s study was hidden away, but this time it was not intentional. The work was uncovered in 1973 by historian Carl Degler, who was writing on a book about the history of the family. Since Mosher taught in Stanford University’s hygiene department, the school had her papers in an archives. Degler found the bound volume on women’s sexuality but almost put it aside, assuming that it was a manuscript for one of her published works. Fortunately, he had second thoughts, which revealed an American sex survey indicating that maybe “Victorian women weren’t so Victorian after all.” (Platoni)
A summation of Mosher’s work found its way into my notes for the “Status and Role of Women” exam. Below is a bit of the information I had on file.
Or at least, that’s how my notes went in 1995.
Mosher’s study was an eye-opener and helped broaden our understanding of what life was like for women in the nineteenth century.
The information I uncovered for my exam also informed my writing later. For instance, it is clear in my historical fiction series that Maggie enjoys sex. In fact, she and Eli appear to get a bit experimental now and then, although I’m not as graphic as some authors. As a nineteenth century woman, Maggie likes to draw the curtains when things get too hot.
Below is an excerpt from Saint Maggie in which my central character gives some marital advice to her eldest daughter Lydia, who is about to get married.
Maggie tells to her daughter to ignore the marital advice books of her era and enjoy her relationship with Edgar. By saying that it is "part of God's plan," Maggie is saying that sexual activity is natural and normal. Lydia then teases her mother about being "very, very happy with Eli." And, of course, Maggie is.
On Wednesday, I'll post Chapter 5 of A Good Community.
On Friday, I’ll take a look at a prominent nineteenth century American woman who in her journals mentions a relationship with another woman that seemed a bit deeper than friendship.
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, “Dr. Clelia Duel Mosher: Women’s Sexuality and Women’s Rights Advocate,” The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation
Platoni, Kara. “The Sex Scholar.” Stanford Magazine. March/April 2010.
Anne Lister, portrait by Joshua Horner
The next few blogs will focus on women’s sexuality, the nineteenth century, and in particular the presence of lesbians in the culture, and how it all connects to one aspect of my Ph.D. studies, namely the status and role of women in the nineteenth century.
I was stumbling around HBO one evening in last month and came upon a series called “Gentleman Jack.” Since it was set in the nineteenth century and was about a mannishly dressed woman, I was intrigued. I love history and in particular, women's history. So I watched an episode. And I was hooked.
In case you haven’t heard of “Gentleman Jack,” it is the story of Anne Lister (1791-1840) who lived in Halifax England. Her family had land and a large, rather tired house called Shibden Hall. Lister was determined to restore financial health to the Shibden estate, but she could not achieve this without marrying a wealthy lover. And therein lay the difficulty. She was a lesbian and needed to find a wealthy woman who would enter into a relationship with her. Wearing mannish attire, physically vigorous, intelligent, and determined, Lister stood out in the town of Halifax as “queer” and often was the subject of loud comments and insulting mail.
The BBC series is based on Lister’s journals. The woman was an inveterate diarist. She took it up after she had been sent to live in the attic of her boarding school. The school's powers wanted to keep her from influencing her fellow students. Apparently, she was an unconventional person even then. To assuage her loneliness, she took to keeping a diary.
Lister continued to keep meticulous records throughout her life. In them, she reveals that she realized she was sexually attracted to other women at the age of 15. To keep her socially unacceptable feelings and experiences private, she journaled about them in a code that was a mix of “Greek and Latin, mathematical symbols, punctuation and the zodiac” so she could freely express her feelings and experiences. (Lister)
The code was indecipherable.
In the 1890s, her ancestor John Lister with the help of schoolteacher Arthur Burrell broke the code. The two men were utterly shocked at what it was hiding. Anne Lister had written details about her sexual relationships with her many female friends. Fearing for his family’s reputation, John Lister hid the 26 journal volumes behind a wall panel, and that was the end of that.
In the 1930s, though, when Shibden Hall passed into public ownership, Anne Lister’s journals were discovered behind the wood paneling. To preserve the volumes and to make them available for historical research, Lister’s diaries and a copy of the code were given by Arthur Burrell to the library in Halifax. The library, however, made researchers refrain from including anything about Lister’s sex life in published works.
Historians obeyed the library’s rule until 1982. That was when Helena Whitbread, a schoolteacher looking for material for a book, stumbled across microfilm copies of Lister’s journals. Intrigued by the copious use of code within them, Whitbread set out uncover what exactly it was that Lister felt compelled to hide.
By then the old agreement to remain silent about the content of the coded material had been forgotten. A library aide gave Whitbread a copy of the code and Whitbread went to work. In 1988, she published a book about Anne Lister and her relationships called I Know My Own Heart. (Lister)
Not only did Whitbread’s book set previous assumptions about nineteenth-century women and sexuality on its head, but it also revealed the presence of a lesbian subculture in Britain, something most scholars thought did not exist. (Lister)
Coming up on Monday: a nineteenth-century sex study that preceded the Kinsey report of the 1940s-1950s.
Have a good weekend!
“The Live and Loves of Anne Lister,” BBC, News.
giveImage from http://clipart-library.com/clipart/1881936.htm.
When Frankie was at Camp Fair Oaks and hoping to travel to the front with Patrick, she became "besties" with a young woman named Rosa. Rosa returns in A Good Community. I love her. She's plucky, takes no sass, and reminds me a lot of a young woman I know.
Sorry I did not get the Monday blog up. I have developed a sinus infection, a lovely parting gift from the cold I had in June. While not flat on my back, I was rather good for nothing until Tuesday evening.
But I was well enough to post a chapter today, so that’s the good news.
Today, Rosa (Frankie’s friend from The Enlistment) comes to Blaineton, becoming part of the Greybeal House family and enchanting Edward Caldwell. Things are now in place for the rest of the story.
Meanwhile, Eli suffers another panic attack while visiting Bob and Natey at their “fort.”
Chapter Four: A Surprise Return
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