Tag Archives: the 19th century

Status Update – Victoria: Episode 3

Jan 31, 2017

For those of you who have been watching PBS’s new Masterpiece Theater series, Victoria, since I majored in the History of the 19th Century in college and spent my summer reading several books about Victoria & Albert and their household, I’ve been doing a little commentary about each episode after it airs to say whether it’s historically accurate or not.

So here we are at episode three…and, well, they’re not even entirely getting the names right now. Ha!

They’ve continued with this sort of romance between Victoria and Melbourne, but as I pointed out last week, that’s not even a little bit accurate, and it actually grossly misrepresents both the law of the time—which stated that a member of the royal family could not marry a British subject—and the sentiments of both Victoria and Melbourne. They were close, yes, and she probably had a little crush on him, but she wasn’t the sort to get serious ideas about a man unless he was going to be her husband, and Melbourne had a mistress with whom he was very happy.

So that bit of this week’s episode is fabrication once again.

I’m having a slightly harder time deciding how I feel about the portrayal of Prince Albert. On the one hand, Albert was about the furthest thing from a romantic that existed. That scene where he cuts his shirt to put Victoria’s flower near his heart? Yeah, from everything I’ve read about Albert and his personality, there’s no way he would do that. Sorry ladies!

Personally, I think the real Albert was way handsomer than the actor they’ve got playing him.

But I do think that the actor portraying Albert—even though he keeps falling out of his German accent—did do a good job of portraying Albert’s personality. He was, apparently, rather gruff and dour. He did contradict Victoria a lot, to the point where later in their marriage they would get into rip-roaring fights. And he was a notorious party-pooper. He didn’t like cards, as the episode portrayed, where Victoria did. He liked to be in bed by 9:00 (sort of like me) while Victoria liked to stay up all hours. And he was generally a man’s man and distrusted most women, probably because of the way his mother was forced to leave the family. They did a good, if brief, job of explaining that in this episode, but they should have gone into more detail, because it profoundly affected Albert’s life.

Anyhow, once again, everything with the servants of the house is completely made up. Except that they did steal from Victoria a lot. But she didn’t mind so much and would defend them, to the frustration of her ladies in waiting and others, because at the end of the day, for both Victoria and Albert, their true friends were their servants. They didn’t associate much or have friends amongst the rest of the British aristocracy.

So let’s see how they do with next week’s episode!

Western Wednesday – Closing the Open Range

Jan 06, 2016
The Open Range

The Open Range

Last week we talked a bit about how cattle got to the West, and how they were maintained and then driven to railheads and eventually on to market (the part we don’t like to think about when we’re enjoying a juicy burger). Obviously, letting cattle graze freely over vast tracts of public land couldn’t last forever. So what changed things and how?

The quick and dirty answer to what changed things is “barbed wire.” But of course, it’s not as simple as that. It is, however, pretty amazing that one little invention could change the course of history and cause a lot of trouble, adding to the reasons it was called the Wild West.

Let’s start with those cattle. The West began to be settled in the 1840s and 50s. During that time, you had an incredibly large amount of land inhabited by an incredibly small amount of people. Neighbors were not something you had to worry about. As the cattle industry began in places like Wyoming, where my Brides of Paradise Ranch series is set, there was more than enough forage and water sources for everyone to let their cattle roam free across the land.

(Of course, this is all from the perspective of white settlers. It was an entirely different story for the Native American tribes who were systematically having their homeland taken from them, but that’s a post for another day.)

All that began to change as more and more people moved West to settle. The most serious problems and resulting conflicts developed when small ranches and individual settlers attempted to put down roots next to the huge ranches run by men of wealth and influence. Simply put, once the West reached the tipping point of number of settlers, all that vast open land and all those easy water sources couldn’t supply everyone who wanted to use them.

The result was that, by the mid-1880s, large ranchers were doing everything they could to drive the smaller ranchers out of business. That included hiring thugs to attack, and in some cases, lynch competing outfits. The Range Wars of the Old West have gone down in legend—sometimes exaggerated, but sometimes not. They were competition taken to the extreme.

Early advertisement for barbed wire

Early advertisement for barbed wire

And one quiet player in the conflict that led to these wars had to do with the invention and implementation of barbed wire fences. Because as soon as barbed wire was invented in the 1870s, it became less expensive to fence in vast tracts of grazing land and accompanying water sources so that a rancher could keep their herd separate from their neighbors’. Only, the problem was that a great deal of the land that was being fenced in was public land.

Back in the earlier days of the West (up to around the 1870s), various Homesteader Acts meant that if you went West and claimed property and made improvements, it was yours. As that land disappeared, however, ownership of the land wasn’t so cut and dry. So when ranchers began building barbed wire fences to enclose their herds, as often as not, they’d fence in land that they didn’t technically own, regardless of whether other livestock needed to use it, the post office needed to get through, or other official institutions had claim to it. And especially regardless of whether a smaller rancher or independent farmer happened to have built their homestead on that land.

Add to that already volatile mix the fact that, in Wyoming at least, an organization of the wealthiest and most powerful ranchers, the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association (which I mention in His Perfect Bride that Howard Haskell and Rex Bonneville both belong to, although Rex is more involved with them) had so much power that they basically controlled the government of Wyoming. A lot of nasty things went down while officials turned a blind eye. None of it was exactly fair. 

Next week, we’ll take a look at some of the range wars that gave the West it’s adjective of Wild.

(images are public domain, courtesy of Wikicommons)

Excerpt Wednesday – More Precious Than Gold – First Look

Apr 22, 2015

You know I love Wednesdays! Today I’m bringing you an excerpt from a new project that is very close to my heart. I’ve started writing an Inspirational Historical Romance series based on the actual history of the church I was raised in. This first book, More Precious Than Gold, begins the trilogy with the story of Louisa White and Andrew McBride. They’ve been friends since childhood, but as they blossom into adults, they are each startled to find their feelings changing. But how can they navigate these new, complicated feelings when the world and the church they have known their whole life is in such trouble? Here’s a peek….


Louisa left the June Nineteenth picnic with hope in her heart, buoyed by the love of her friends and the society. The next morning she awoke to a pile of work that had doubled after being ignored for a day. She thought of her friends, thought of all of the blessings in her life, and tried not to complain. Instead she sat in the back room of their little house, working diligently and cheering herself with the thought that she was serving a very important for her family.

At least, she tried to. Within minutes, her hopes fell and her heart was heavy. She wasn’t sure which struck harder, the hours of sewing that left her eyes stinging and her head pounding or the endless dialog of frustration that swirled through her head.

“I didn’t study hard and excel in school all those years only to end up working in a shop or a factory, harried and lonely,” her thoughts grumbled. “My friends are still enjoying their last taste of childhood while I have to work to have a roof over my head and food on my table. I don’t even care about nice things, like Gayle, or big families, like Wren. I just want to be normal. Andrew would understand.”

The last thought took Louisa by surprise. She paused halfway through embroidering the hem of a christening gown.

Why should Andrew McBride come straight to her thoughts?

Then again, she considered as she returned to sewing, Andrew knew what it was like to have a job, to work hard for a living. Still, his family was wealthy. Hers was not.

By the time Saturday rolled around, Louisa was bursting with desperation to get out of the house and into the balmy summer sunlight. She hadn’t seen Wren or Gayle all week. As she mounted her bicycle and pedaled off along the main road leading up the coast to Cliff House, she wanted to spread her arms and embrace the morning. Instead she settled for gripping the handlebar of her bicycle with a fondness that made her laugh and roll her eyes at herself.

Her bright red bicycle was far and away her favorite possession. Like everything else of any worth that she owned, it had been a gift from the McBrides. They had presented it to her, along with bicycles for Wren and Gayle, when they finished grammar school years ago. The fact that Gayle had been given the same gift was the only thing that had stopped Louisa from refusing such an elaborate present, and now both of her friends had newer, fancier bicycles. But Louisa still loved her old, clunky, red one.

She pedaled up the long, sloping drive to Cliff House, ringing the bell on her handlebars and waving at Wren’s youngest brothers and sisters. They played with their friends and the family dog where the lawn met the beach. The McBrides were a large family, eight children in all, and Louisa was never sure if she felt comfortable with them or just overwhelmed. At home there had only been Father, Mother, Henry and her. Now it was just the three of them, and Henry was gone most of the time.

She found herself praying for a large family of her own one day, lots of children to love and care for, as she skidded to a stop at the top of the drive beside the back door. As quickly as the thought came into her mind she brushed it aside. Marriage was the last thing she should be thinking about. Someday, yes, but at the moment it was the least of her problems.

“Hello!” she called out as she leaned her bicycle against the side of the house and brushed her skirts straight.

Gayle’s bicycle also rested against the house, so Louisa walked through the kitchen door as if she too were a McBride. Sure enough, inside the warm, fragrant kitchen, Gayle and Wren were hard at work. Gayle wore yet another new dress, light pink with the puffy sleeves that were becoming so popular. One sleeve already had a smudge on it. Wren was dressed in far more practical clothing, her long strawberry-blonde hair hanging in a braid down her back.

“I knew I’d find you in here.” Louisa smiled as she greeted them. She could have laughed out loud with joy at seeing her friends. It was ridiculous that just a few days apart could make her miss them so much. “What’s all this?”

“Provisions,” Gayle answered with a mischievous tweak of her dark eyebrows.

The kitchen table was spread with cookies and miniature cakes and the raspberry tarts that Wren was famous for. Wren and Gayle were busy packing them into baskets and tins and even a large napkin or two as they ran out of containers. Louisa closed her eyes and breathed in the warm, sweet smells of baking.

“I wish I’d gotten here sooner,” she sighed, mouth watering.

“Me too!” Gayle said with a giggle.

“Where were you?” Wren asked without looking up from her task.


“We’re going to take refreshments to the men working at the lighthouse,” Gayle interrupted, sparing Louisa the embarrassment of yet another excuse.

Wren sent a wary glance in Gayle’s direction before adding, “Mama thought it would be a good idea to take the workers a snack. They’ve been out there since sunrise.”

“We’ve got all this and some jugs of lemonade,” Gayle added, nodding to the counter by the sink. Two large brown jugs with corks stood waiting for attention. “Of course we don’t really have room for glasses,” Gayle shrugged, “but my guess is they’ll be so thirsty they won’t mind drinking straight from the jug.”

“You’ve come just in time,” Wren continued with her businesslike voice, wiping her hands on her apron before untying it and pulling it off over her head. “We’ll put the lemonade in the basket on one of our bicycles and split the goodies between the other two.”

Louisa jumped into action as soon as the suggestion was made. Action made everything feel better. “I’ll take the jugs,” she said, crossing to the counter to retrieve them.

The girls had long since dropped the habit of being polite with each other and asking for help. It was understood that they would all help each other without being asked whenever help was needed. Gayle set about hanging baskets of treats from her arm while Wren hung her apron on a peg beside the back door and returned to gather an armful of treats. With a grin, Louisa found herself considering that if Wren ever found herself in the same predicament that Louisa was in now, she would probably open a bakery and become wealthy and famous all over again. Money stuck to some people like burrs on a cat.

“You’ve made an awful lot,” Louisa said as they fixed their hats on their heads and carried their loads out to their bicycles. “Do we really need this much?”

“Everyone is over there, everyone.” Gayle smiled, eyes glittering with mirth. “Even C.J. Wick.”

It was all Louisa could do not to roll her eyes. She didn’t know what she would do if her friend tried to play matchmaker.


More Precious Than Gold is coming the first week of May. I’m thinking the 6th right now. Stay tuned!

And if you’d like to learn more about Swedenborg and the New Church, please visit the Swedenborg Foundation! They’re packed full of great info.

Cheyenne Women

Feb 09, 2015
A Cheyenne Woman, 1927. I think she could easily be the head of the Quilling Society. ;) Courtesy of Wikicommons

A Cheyenne Woman, 1927. I think she could easily be the head of the Quilling Society. 😉
Courtesy of Wikicommons

One of the most fun parts of my research into the Cheyenne way of life was discovering the way that women functioned in their society. The role of women was very different within the Cheyenne community of the second half of the 19th century than it was in white society of America…and yet in a lot of ways it was similar.

One of the big similarities that struck me was that male and female society amongst the Cheyenne were largely separate. The women had their duties and responsibilities, and the men had theirs. While the men were responsible in large part for hunting and warfare, both of which were important ways they provided for their tribe, women were in charge of what I would classify more as daily life chores of the village. This reminds me a lot how, in white society of the 19th century, a woman’s realm was the home, and, really, a man had far less say about how his house was run than a lot of modern people realize.

Cheyenne women were responsible for preparing good, making clothing, caring for children, and making and building tipis. There was a lot of prestige attached to these tasks too. I really enjoyed reading in George Bird Grinnell’s book The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Lifeways about how Cheyenne women had various societies for the different tasks they performed. The Quilling Society was one of the most important of these, and to be invited to join was a great honor. Quilling was the art of decorating clothing and other items with quills and beads and other adornment, so it was sort of like a sewing or quilting circle in white culture, but with actual political punch in the running of the village.

I was impressed by how much clout women had amongst they Cheyenne. They weren’t considered as full equals with men, though. They didn’t smoke with the men, for example, which was an important social and ceremonial practice. There were some strange rules about where they could sit or how they had to walk around a fire or men who were meeting as well. But so many of these things were just as strange and eyebrow-raising as customs amongst white American society.

A Cheyenne couple talking under a blanket outside the woman's tipi. This is part of an awesome collection of ledger art, courtesy of https://plainsledgerart.org/

A Cheyenne couple talking under a blanket outside the woman’s tipi.
This is part of an awesome collection of ledger art, courtesy of https://plainsledgerart.org/

One thing that did really shock me and take me aback about how Cheyenne men and women interacted with each other, though, was the fact that grown brothers and sisters were forbidden to speak to each other. I have three brothers, and according to Cheyenne rules, I would not be allowed to speak to or have any kind of relationship to any of them. Not cool! I suppose I can see how this would have developed from an effort to prevent incestuous relationships? Maybe? Still not cool.

Another detail that I found to be incredibly sweet and that I included in my book Trail of Dreams was the Cheyenne way of courtship. If a young man wanted to “go out” with a young woman, he would wait at the door to her tipi with a blanket draped around him. Then, when she came out, he would wrap her in the blanket too, creating their own little cocoon in which they could talk (or make-out) without interference. Grinnell mentions that if a woman was particularly popular or desirable, she could step outside of her tipi and find several men in blankets lined up to spend time with her. Then she would spend a few minutes talking under the blanket of each man before going on with her duties.

So after learning all these things and more, I hope that I’ve translated them well into the story of Trail of Dreams.

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George Bird Grinnell and The Cheyenne Indians

Feb 03, 2015

I’m a day behind on my Monday History post, but I would rather be late this week than skip it entirely. Because today I want to talk about the man to whom I owe an incredible debt of gratitude in the writing of Trail of Dreams. And that’s George “Bird” Grinnell.

George "Bird" Grinnell, courtesy of Wikicommons

George “Bird” Grinnell,
courtesy of Wikicommons

Now, you’ve probably never heard of Grinnell. He was born in 1849 and died in 1938, so that’s no surprise. But to me, he’s the kind of man that should have been studied in History classes all those years ago. Grinnell was a key figure in the early conservationist movement, a naturalist, anthropologist, and someone who recognized early on that the West was disappearing and needed to be preserved and documented as much as possible.

Grinnell was born in Brooklyn and went to school at Yale, but his passion was for the open lands of the West. He began traveling West as a young man, even going along with one of Custer’s expeditions against the Indians as a naturalist. (Not THAT expedition, though) His experiences instilled in him a great need to preserve the land, and, along with Teddy Roosevelt, he was one of the founding members of the Boone and Crocket Club. He also organized the first Audubon Society.

But where I owe my debt of gratitude to Grinnell is in his relationship with and connection to the Native American tribes of the West. At a time when their land was being taken away and the government of the people who flooded into their lands persecuted them, Grinnell lived amongst the Native Americans and earnestly sought to learn their ways. His book, The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Lifeways, was an essential resource for me in writing Trail of Dreams, because it details every aspect of life amongst the Cheyenne at the end of their way of life as they knew it.

Portrait of a Cheyenne brave, from the Smithsonian collection, courtesy of Wikicommons

Portrait of a Cheyenne brave, from the Smithsonian collection,
courtesy of Wikicommons

Grinnell was accepted amongst the Cheyenne. They were the ones who gave him the name “Bird” in honor of the fact that he would come and go, like a migratory bird. He would spend entire seasons living with them, talking to them, and experiencing life as the Cheyenne knew it. You can tell from reading his book that he really listened to all of the stories that the people had to tell him. They trusted Grinnell and were open with him.

When you read Grinnell’s book, which was published in 1923, the most remarkable thing about it is how personal it sounds. He tells the stories of the Cheyenne with a closeness that speaks to the relationships he had with these people. Half the time he writes as though reporting anthropology, but then he’ll slip into retelling anecdotes about specific men and women, their triumphs and their foibles, as though you’re sitting around a campfire smoking with him. Those kinds of details drive home how real and how human these voices from the past are, and how much they lost.

Another thing that I find so important about Grinnell’s work is that he was driven enough to publish it and many more articles. He began publishing in journals in the late nineteenth century, and was prolific in the early 20th. Sometimes we forget that, even at the time when official policy was far more destructive toward the land and the Native Americans, not everyone agreed with what was going on. It was a good reminder for me to see that there were men and women who worked tirelessly to preserve the way of life and the untouched land that was being bowled over by progress. Not only did I enjoy reading about that, I’ve tried to bring it into my Hot on the Trail series through some of the characters, namely Dean Meyers and Aiden Murphy.

So as nice as it is that you would read my books, I hope that you’ll pick up Grinnell’s The Cheyenne Indians when you have a chance. This is History the way it’s meant to be told. Real. Alive. Human.

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