Image: the Cover of The Enlistment.
When I posted the cover reveal for The Enlistment, a Frankie-fan reader immediately commented, “Maggie would never allow Frankie to get her ears pierced.”
I looked at the photograph and, yes, indeed, the young woman is wearing earrings. How did I ever miss that? Then I too wondered: would Maggie frown on such an extravagance, not to mention bodily mutilation?
Let’s just say that Frankie pierced her ears behind Mama’s back. That’s small potatoes, though, because she doesn’t mellow out as she cruises into her teens. From her first appearance in Saint Maggie, it is clear that thirteen-year-old Frankie is different. She bursts into the kitchen and announces, “I hate corsets and crinolines!”
Used to rough-housing with boys and running free, Frankie chafes at the conventions her era layers upon young women. Her rebellion runs the gamut from proper attire to proper behavior and speech to living life her own way.
Part of the thing that upsets the people around her is that Frankie speaks truth they don’t want to hear. For instance, when Maggie gives several reasons as to why she accepted the offer to house the new minister- but leaves out the obvious one.
So, Frankie does it for her, “Besides, we can use the money.”
As Saint Maggie progresses, Frankie develops her first crush. It is on Rev. Jeremiah Madison and she is devastated when he becomes enamored with her cousin, Leah, instead. Maggie finds her sobbing into a pillow and, as she works to calm her down, her distraught daughter reveals that she had been imagining that she and Jeremiah would be married and become partners in ministry.
This hits Maggie upside the head. Her wild child just might be wilder than she thought – wild in the sense that God is calling her, a calling that indeed grows throughout the series.
Later, Frankie stands at a camp meeting and addresses the people after Jeremiah’s sermon. This is a big no-no. Women were not supposed to preach and, even though Frankie’s words might be considered “exhortation” (encouraging the audience to attend to the message they have just received), it still ruffles a few feathers, especially those of Maggie’s brother, Samuel.
Of course, none of this has any impact on Frankie. Throughout the novel, she continues to speak her mind, reminding the people in her church and town to follow the path of love and forgiveness – especially after a murder has been committed.
While many people are appalled at Frankie’s behavior, one person does find it intriguing. His name is Patrick McCoy, the undertaker’s assistant who lives at the boarding house. As Saint Maggie progresses the two engage in confusing bits of flirtation. Confusing for Frankie, that is. By the end of the book, when they go off for a walk around the Square, and they are holding hands. Love has found the wild child.
In my novella, The Enlistment, set in August of 1862. Frankie has just learned that Patrick and Lydia’s husband Edgar are going to Camp Fair Oaks in Flemington to enlist in the New Jersey 15th Regiment. This both frightens and angers the sixteen-year-old, but then she gets an idea. Frankie’s plan – determined and a bit harebrained – is to disguise herself as a boy and enlist, too, so she can be with the love of her life. (By the way, there is actual history behind this. At least 400 women that we know of dressed, enlisted, and fought as men in both armies during the Civil War.)
Once at Camp Fair Oaks, though, nothing goes right. Frankie’s attempt to look like a man falls flat and the soldiers at the recruiting desk believe she is a boy. When she asks about becoming a drummer boy, they tell her that all the places are taken. Frankie is left to wander around the camp, trying to find Patrick and wondering how to stay with the regiment. That is, until she sees an encampment of laundresses who take her under their wing.
Eventually, Maggie and husband Eli learn what Frankie has done and travel to Flemington to find her and bring her back home, which they do, much to her disgust. But Frankie’s little adventure at Camp Fair Oaks will not be her last.
In Walk by Faith, the second full-length Saint Maggie novel, the family has relocated to Gettysburg. The family arrives in the town in late winter, during which time sixteen-year-old Frankie pursues a theological education by visiting the head of the Lutheran seminary and petitioning to be admitted. In the end, she is allowed to audit classes, where she makes friends with fellow student Gus Schultz, who finds her interesting:
“You sure aren’t like any girl I’ve ever met. You study theology, you shoot a revolver…”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing. It’s just you’re different.”
Frankie is seventeen when the battle begins on July 1, 1863. Gus shows up at the family’s door and excitedly announces that people can see a skirmish from the seminary. With the briefest of goodbyes to her mother, Frankie runs off with him. The skirmish turns into a Union retreat and the two students get pushed out of town ahead of the soldiers. Fortunately, Gus has an aunt who lives past the Spangler Farm where they can shelter. Frankie spends the rest of the battle with Gus’s family and also serves at a nearby field hospital. Patrick eventually finds her after the battle.
Upon the young couple’s return to the old Smith home, something important happens, something to which Eli is an unwilling witness:
“She even made [the wound soldiers] biscuits.” Patrick chuckled. “I’d say our girl is ready to get married now.”
Frankie smiled at her soldier. “Maybe I am ready to get married. But I’ll tell you one thing: I’m not going to chain myself to a stove. I hope my future husband doesn’t mind doing some of the cooking.”
“I think he might put up with that so he could have you.”
“Put up with? – Have? –” Suddenly Eli was overcome by paternal panic, “Wait! Who said anything about getting married?”
“I think I just did.” Patrick grinned broadly at Frankie.
“Married?” Eli babbled. “No, no. Hell, no! Not yet. You…wait. You…just… wait!”
Yes, Maggie’s girl, her wild child has received and accepted a proposal. Thus ends Frankie’s “difficult years.” Or not.
A final blog about Frankie Blaine’s late teens is coming next. But I’ll leave you with something Patrick says in The Enlistment, “Oh, Frankie, you’re crazy as a bedbug, but I love you. I really do.”
In the meantime, take care and be kind.
Janet R. Stafford
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder