Hearts Through History Romance Writers

The Role Of Female Authors Throughout History

Remember how you reacted when you found out that poet George Sand was a woman? You were probably in high school and astounded by the revelation. How about Harper Lee? Come on, show of hands. How many of you were misguided into believing the author of To Kill A Mockingbird was a man? Or, more recently, do you remember when J.K. Rowling morphed into Robert Galbraith?

It seems women in the publishing world have been attempting to level the playing field for hundreds of years by creating pen names that are ambiguous. When dime novels—the first form of mass marketed books—came into existence in the 1800s, the playing field was no different. If possible, the odds were stacked even higher, as the topics in these books normally contained tales of swashbuckling heroes, gunslingers, gold miners or explorers, and generally harsh surroundings. Things that refined ladies would never know of, much less be able to write about.

The Dime Novel, or the Penny Dreadful, as these books were referred to in England, were the precursor to today’s paperbacks and e-books. Although these dime novels didn’t have as their primary focus the world of romance, they did set the stage for the romance industry, as they were responsible for introducing reading for pleasure to the masses.

Dime novels in America were rough-and-tumble books, mostly about the Wild West. The plots were sensational and melodramatic, making for great reading among the streets of relatively tame east coast cities.

These books were printed in a four by six inch format, and were about a hundred pages in length, with a die-cut cover image that usually contained a spot of color. And thanks to the advancement of the printing industry at the same time the growth of education in America was happening, the dime novel was able to take advantage of both and become a major force in publishing. They filled a void in American literature for several decades, as the education of the working class created a need for reading material. They were published as frequently as every two weeks, and the characters developed in them often went from one tale to the next. The first known dime novel was written by a woman—Mrs. Ann Stephens—and was entitled “Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter.” Risque, tantalizing reading in 1839, to be sure.

imagesWith millions of dime novels being printed each year, the search for quality authors and stories grew. The fertile imaginations of woman molded from the same cloth as Mrs. Stephens led to the formation of many memorable characters, such as Harry Hawk, the hero in the dime novel I created for my book, The Duplicitous Debutante.The author of the Harry Hawk series is a well-bred young lady, Rosemary Fitzpatrick, who invents the name, F.P. Elliott, to disguise her true identity.

The Duplicitous Debutante is the sixth book in the Amazon best-selling Cotillion Ball series, and will be available from Crimson Romance and through Amazon and other e-book outlets, in the fall of 2014.

Author Bio:

48988_1025007027_4423_nBecky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it present day middle America or on a covered wagon headed west in the 1850s. Contemporary and historical romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Contemporary and Historic RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at beckylowerauthor@gmail.com. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com

Skimmity Riding


“Come in, come in,” implored Elizabeth; “and let me shut the window!”
“She’s me—she’s me—even to the parasol—my green parasol!” cried Lucetta with a wild laugh as she stepped in. She stood motionless for one second—then fell heavily to the floor.

—Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Skimmington ritual by Rowlandson Note the items of clothing hoisted above

The Skimmington ritual by Rowlandson
Note the items of clothing hoisted above the participants

Rumors of a relationship between Lucetta and the mayor of Casterbridge had got round and the former, pregnant with her first child by her husband, had seen an effigy of herself, along with that of her paramour, being paraded in the street below.
SPOILER ALERT:  The shame was so great that she died.
The skimmington ritual Hardy describes in his tale from the West Country is a tradition that goes back a long way in rural society. Punctuated by loud, raucous noise, villagers would parade objects identifying those whose behavior was found to be offensive, in a procession designed to humiliate them.
While Lucetta’s shame was due to having an intimate relationship with a married man, many cases showed the skimmington employed to police “domestic” relations; particularly spousal beatings.
The ritual was also called “skimmity riding.” Skimmity is thought to come from the term describing a cheesemaking ladle employed (apart from skimming cheese) by a wife to beat her husband. A husband’s weakness was frowned upon, whether he was being scolded or cuckholded. So, too, was frequent wife-beating, and those riding would beat one another with ladles and spoons in the most “ludicrous processions,” stopping at the offender’s house to make their point.
In Wales the procedure(!) was called the Ceffyl Pren, or wooden horse. The miscreant was paraded around, tied to a wooden frame. Scottish accounts name it “riding the stang,” a plainly uncomfortable means of conveyance for the shamed, particularly when that person was a man.

Riding the Stang --  Regency era engraving by Robert Havell, Sr.

Riding the Stang —
Regency era engraving by Robert Havell, Sr.

Interesting ditties accompanying the skimmington were recorded for posterity in 1892 by G. F. Northall in his English Folk-Rhymes:
“With a ran-a-dan-dan, at the sight of an old tin can,
For neither your case nor my case do I ride the stange,
Soft Billy Charcoal has been banging his wife Ann,
He bang’d her, he bang’d her, he bang’d her indeed,
He bang’d the poor creature before she stood in need.”
Wife (and husband) beaters everywhere–take heed!

Truly a Feminist!

Rest assured, dear friend, that many noteworthy and great sciences and arts have been discovered through the understanding and subtlety of women…  The Book of the City of Ladies by Christina de Pizan

Christine de Pizan and Son

Christine de Pizan and Son

Born in the late 1364 Christina de Pizan is the first woman known female author who made a living by writing. Truly a feminist, she penned love ballads, books supporting and extolling the powers and virtues of women, and a work about Joan of Arc. She was a widow who supported her three children and her mother all by writing about women.

Christine de Pizan was born in Venice in 1364 and moved to Paris in 1368 where she lived with her father, the astrologer to Charles V. She grew up in the French court and in 1379 married Charles V notary and secretary, Etienne du Castel.  The death of Charles V in 1380 her father lost his appointment and soon died. Christine and her husband took on the responsibility of her mother as was customary at that time. In 1389 Etienne passed away leaving her with three children, her mother and no protector.

She turned to her writing as a means of support. Her first writings were ballads written in memory of her husband. Love poems were in fashion at the time so she continued to write them.

In 1396, the earl of Salisbury took Christine’s fifteen year old son, Jean, into his house. While her son was with the earl, Christine started to study the Latin poets and composed roughly fifteen important works, mainly prose between 1399 and 1405.

When the earl passed away in 1400, Jean moved to Philip of Burgundy. Christine wrote about Charles V and his court. Her work included historical and philosophical threads. Jean introduced her to his benefactor and she continued her writing.

In 1405 she wrote her own biography and attracted the attention of Henry IV who asked her to make his court her home. Galeazzo Visconti of Milan also sent her an invitation for residence. She France was her home. She preferred to stay those who favored her, Charles VI, the dukes of Berry and Burgundy, the duchess of Bourbon and others.

La Cite des dames

La Cite des dames

A champion of women, her 1405 work, Dit de la rose, describes members of the order of the rose who vow to defend the honor of women.  Epitre au dieu d’amour, written in 1399, was a defense of women against satirist Jean de Meun. It was the precursor to a long dispute between Jean de Monteuil and Gonthier Col. Christine two books in 1407, La Cite des dames and Le Livre des trois vertus.  During the French civil wars she wrote a Lamentation and Livre de la paix but after the fall of Agincourt she retired to a convent. In 1429 she came out of retirement and wrote a song in honor of Joan of Arc. She died quietly as the age of 66.

Her Cite des dames has many interesting portraits of contemporary life. Her Livre des trois vertus provides details of domestic life in 15th century France that doesn’t appear in any other historical works.

Dolly Varden

Dolly Varden by Frith

Dolly Varden by Frith

Sometimes the name of a character becomes synonymous with things quite removed from the story in which she sprang.

The Dolly Varden was generally known as a type of polonaise: a “petit casaque: that was really a tunic draped only in the back and tight-fitting. The material itself distinguished this polonaise from all others:

“..of chintz or cretonne over bright silk petticoat, either plain, flounced or quilted. Later, for winter, the Dolly Varden may be of fine flannel or cashmere printed in chintz pattern, with black silk, satin or veleveteen petticoat, often quilted or lined with eiderdown.” —  English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century, Cunnington (1937)

Chintz or cretonne feature strong prints, generally of flowers or other bold patterns–the kind that could easily fall into the “florid” category.

Have you seen my little girl? She doesn’t wear a bonnet.
She’s got a monstrous flip-flop hat with cherry ribbons on it.
She dresses in bed furniture just like a flower garden
A blowin’ and a growin’ and they call it Dolly Varden

— Dolly Varden songsheet, reprinted from Dickensandshowbiz.com

There’s even a crab and fish named after her.

Originally Dolly Varden was a Dickens character in Barnaby Rudge. She was a coquette, very young, the daughter of a doting papa and alluring to most males, from the apprentice Tappertit to Joe, the strapping son of a landlord. In his masterful way, Dickens introduced this character by such a provocative illustration of her clothing, readers were immediately captivated by her looks before she had anything to say:

“..in a smart little cherry-colored mantle, with a hood of the same drawn over her head, and on the top of that hood a little straw hat trimmed with cherry-colored ribbons, and worn the merest trifle on one side–just enough, in short, to make it the wickedest and most provoking head-dress that ever malicious milliner devised.” — Barnaby Rudge, Dickens

I’ve never though of milliners as being malicious, nor head dresses being wicked.

The Victorians, greatly concerned with character and characters, instantly knew Dolly Varden by her dress. They were “provoked” enough to take her with them in their daily lives, long after her story ended, and found ways to put her name on most anything that reminded them of her colorful nature.

Barnaby Rudge was never considered among Dickens’ best works, but Dolly Varden is one of his finest characters.



The Reality of Gilded Age Marriages: Title for Money

this media file is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923. This may not be in the public domain in other countries.

9th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough by John Singer Sargent 1905

In Downton Abbey Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, married Cora Levinson, the daughter of a dry-goods millionaire from Cincinnati, after a whirlwind courtship during Cora’s first season in London. While it was ostensibly a marriage of convenience (Cora’s money for Robert’s title), the Crawley’s fell in love within their first year of marriage and we all have witnessed the “happily ever after”, at least in terms of their marriage.

Not surprisingly, Robert and Cora’s bliss is not based on the majority of American heiresses’ experiences, though the marriage of convenience to a British aristocrat was very much a fact of life for American heiresses of the late 19th and early 20th century. More than 100 American heiresses married British aristocrats from the latter half of the 19th century into the early part of the 20th century. The American heiresses came from families of mid-west manufacturers and western mine owners, southwest cattle ranchers as well as northeast railroad barons. They included some of the wealthiest families in the country at the time—names like Vanderbilt, Whitney, Gould, Drexel, and Colgate.

To be sure, many married younger sons of Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts, Barons and Baronets, but a considerable number became Duchesses including, Jennie Jerome (married to the 7th Duke of Marlborough), Lillian Price Hammersley (8th Duke of Marlborough), Consuelo Vanderbilt (9th Duke of Marlborough), Consuelo Yangza (8th Duke of Manchester), Helena Zimmerman (9th Duke of Manchester) May Goelet ( 8th Duke of Roxburghe), Aimee Marie Suzanne Lawrence (9th Duke of Argyll).

Earls, like the fictional Earl of Grantham, were particularly popular with at least twenty-three American heiresses who eventually received the title of Countess. The title of Baroness went to seventeen wealthy American young women. An American born Marchioness was somewhat rarer with, by my count, only four American women being able to claim that title during the time period while an American born Viscountess was the rarest with only three American women sporting that title during this period.

The cause of these, mostly, marriages of convenience, was related to many of the issues explored in the Downton Abbey series. As we see Robert struggle with diminishing land rents so too were most of the aristocracy in Britain, caused by a flood of agricultural goods from other countries, mainly the United States. Many landed estates faced bankruptcy. Work was not an option for a British aristocrat whose culture frowned on work as beneath them, not to mention that their limited education and experience of the world had left them unprepared to do so.

It is hard to imagine in 21st century America where working for your wealth has always been held up as the ideal (though inherited wealth in the United States is outstripping wealth creation at present). In Britain the exact opposite was true. Those who did not have to work for their wealth were exalted.

Add to this the fact that estates had to be passed down to the eldest male heir, regardless of the number of children, male or female, a Lord had. We see this problem in Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Bennet has been blessed with five girls but no male heir to inherit. The flip side of this is that the male member of the aristocracy who inherited the land and perhaps a castle or two, could not easily find a female member of the British aristocracy with a sizeable enough dowry to save his land and castles precisely because a British woman could not inherit her family’s estate. The responsible nobleman had to think not only about his needs, but about preserving the estate for the next generation as this was his sole purpose in life.

In America, things were very different. America was in the throes of the Gilded Age. Railroads needed building, goods were required for ever expanding horizons, gold and silver were being mined to an astonishing degree. Land was plentiful and there for the taking by most anyone. While it wasn’t easy to get rich, many people were getting rich. And many were leaving their fortunes to their daughters since women could inherit in America and there was, initially, enough money to divide up estates so that a daughter could get her fair share from a doting father.

What many of these newly wealthy American families did not have was the respect of American high society, or Mrs. Astor’s 400. High society was anchored in New York by the original Dutch families and those who had settled before or shortly after the Revolutionary War, families like the Asters and the Stuyvesants, and they were not letting anyone in, particularly flashy nouveau riche.

Money was not what matter. What mattered was what family you came from and how long it had maintained wealth. What was a Vanderbilt or Gould to do to gain entrance to this society? Building behemoth houses didn’t do it. Going to the best places like Saratoga or Newport didn’t do it. What was the benefit of having money if you had nowhere to show it off? What would trump “Old New York” families? The answer was the British Aristocracy.

And so seasons in Saratoga Springs and Newport where littered with sons of Dukes, Earls, and Barons seeking a pretty face, an amiable disposition, and a rich social climbing future father or mother-in-law. And London seasons were sprinkled with American heiresses seeking to add their DNA to the next generation of aristocrats.

In fact there are very few British aristocrats who can’t trace an ancestor or two to an American great-grandmother. Even the British Royal Family through Princess Diana now has American blood running through its veins as Diana’s maternal great grandmother was a daughter of Franklin H. Work (1819–1911), a well-known stockbroker and protégé of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Not surprisingly, most marriages of convenience did not transform into the kind of loving marriage that Robert and Cora developed. The reasons were many starting with the oldest reason of them all—money. Few Dukes, Earls and Barons knew how to live within their means—which had become more limited as crumbling estates soaked up dowries. And, while there were plenty of servants, the houses were drafty, the days long, the food more meager and ill prepared than American heiresses were used to.

British society was not particularly welcoming to American transatlantic transplants. These young wives were far from home and it wasn’t easy for families to pop over the ocean for a visit. Loneliness and isolation were real issues.

Husbands often took advantage of British society’s high tolerance for discreet adultery among married aristocrats so many husbands were unfaithful to their wives. In addition, once an American heiress married her Lord, he literally was her master under British law. She could not own property, could not have even her own pin money. While many settlements were written with paragraphs where father’s provided accounts for their daughters, the reality was that if the husband chose to rifle his wife’s accounts, under British law he would have been able to.

As more of these marriages turned sour and father’s realized they were marrying off their daughters to reprobates with no ambition, Anglo-American alliances looked less and less attractive. In addition, America was taking its place in the world. No longer wounded by a devastating civil war, it was forging a dynamic future and with it, America’s upper class was holding its head higher. More mobility was happening in society, as well, as New York took its place among the best cities in the world.  On the other side of the Atlantic, the British Empire was losing its colonies and its influence was waning and with it the allure of the romanticized notion of nobility. The bloom was off the British rose.

Care to share your knowledge about America’s Gilded Age?

Sources: http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/node/1907208 To Marry and English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace, Workman Publishing, New York

Portrait-Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consuelo_Vanderbilt  Note: This media file is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923. This may not be in the public domain in other countries.

Anne Carrole writes about men who have grit, integrity and little romance on their mind and the women who love them. You can check out her contemporary romance, Falling for a Cowboy, and western historical romance, Saving Cole Turner, at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com or Kobobook.com. You can friend, follow, or find Anne on Facebook, Twitter, www.annecarrole.com , or at the western historical facebook fan site, Love Western Romances.

Happy Beltane

beltane4May 1st, Beltane (bright fire), is an ancient pagan festival marking the end of the winter half of the year in the Northern hemisphere. With the winter over, the lengthening of the days, and the first planting completed, farmers celebrated with great bonfires of purification and transition into the new growing season, all in hopes for a good harvest.

Beltane provides a gateway between our own Earth and the magical Earth of Faerie. The true inner powers of the Earth reveal themselves and the curtain between the worlds is especially thin during Beltane.

The pagan rites, led by druids, the priests for their time, centered on protecting people, livestock and the land from the spirit world which they felt was particularly close at hand during this season and encouraging fertility. It was a call to awaken the body from its winter hibernation.

The turning points of the Celtic year were marked by four great “fire festivals, Beltane, along with Samhain (Nov. 1), Imbolc (Feb. 1), and Lughnassadh (Aug. 1). Ancient records tell us that all hearth fires, throughout the country, would be put out on Beltane eve. One by one the druid would re-ignite them from the “need fire,” one of a pair of bonfires on top of a hill lit on Beltane eve. The villagers would drive their cattle between the fires to purify them and bring good luck.  The villagers also passed between the two fires for purification and to ensure their own good fortune and fertility.

Another custom associated with Beltane is the “bringing in the May.” Here the young people would gather in the neighboring fields and forests Beltane eve and gather flowers to adorn themselves, their families and their houses. They would proceed through the village and stop at each house leaving flowers in exchange for the best food and wine. As they went along, they would bless the flocks and fields of those who were generous and wish ill on those who did not.

Later on, the May Pole was added to the bringing in the May. It was a phallic symbol that represented fertility. The village revelers who went out in the fields and forest would cut down a tree, bring it back into the village, decorate it with flowers, and dance around the May Pole.

Over time the holiday, first associated with the farm laborers, became synonymous with International Worker’s Day and took on a political meaning with demonstrations and celebration of union workers and other groups. The May 1st demonstrations in Australia led by the Stonemasons Society in 1856 and the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886, eventually led to the adoption of the 8 hour work day. In addition, May 1st has long been associated with various socialist, communist and anarchist groups. May Day celebrations in communist countries feature elaborate military parades.

Today, to Wiccans and those in other Pagan circles, Beltane is a happy time filled with laughter that includes the May Pole, bringing in the May, and other activities symbolic of fertility.