A Survey of Women’s Issues: Revisited

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Today is Women’s Equality Day, so there’s no better time to ask the question: Do we still need feminism?

It seems some of the younger generations would answer a firm “no” to this question. A while back, photos began appearing in my Facebook feed of young women holding up signs reading “I don’t need feminism.” These young women claimed to admit we still need feminism creates a victim mentality and demonizes all men, encouraging man-hating among women. As someone from an older generation who writes about women’s oppression, this was disturbing, to say the least!

Women have had a lot to fight for: in the 19th century and 20th and (dare I say it?) even the 21st. It’s not the fight that has changed but the nature of the issues.

In the 19th century, organized suffragism was born of a group of brave women whose names are branded in history like Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. During this time, suffragists focused first on getting society to recognize women were equals to men (with limitations dictated by the separate spheres, of course — no use rocking the boat too much). But later, their focus shifted to one solitary goal: to win women the right to vote. Why was this so important? Suffragists were smart enough to realize that without the right to vote, they would never be able to implement changes into public policy that would carry through to future generations. 

When progressive movements took center stage at the turn of the 20th century, suffragism continued with women such as Jane Addams, Alice Paul, and Ida B. Wells. Women achieved success when the 19th Amendment was ratified in the United States in 1920. The Progressive Era increased awareness for many women that equality wasn’t just about the right to vote. It was also about psychological freedom and throwing off the shackles of 19th-century femininity limiting what women could and could not do and be. In that light, the New Woman was born: active, athletic, and freer in body and spirit than her mother and grandmother had been.

After the fight for suffragism and breaking the stereotype of the Victorian “angel in the house”, the post-World War” II generation brought back a more modern version of the angel. Betty Friedan labeled her “the feminine mystique”. Magazines, advertisements, and doctors advocated for a woman’s place in the home and her identity became tied to her relationships with others rather than her identity in and of itself. Friedan found these women in American suburbs living a life that fulfilled this destiny, but they were not happy because they suffered from The Problem That Has No Name. These women felt discontented and frustrated as if something was missing from their lives but they couldn’t define what it was.

Friedan’s book inspired others to speak out about their frustration and disillusionment, eventually leading to second-wave feminism in the late 1960s and 1970s with activists such as Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Bell Hooks, among others. These women, whose slogan was “the personal is political” went further into the political sphere than their 19th and early 20th century sisters. They zoomed in on social and personal oppressions, including issues such as domestic violence, rape, and reproductive rights. 

This meme is from Tumblr site called “Confused Cats Against Feminism” and is meant as a tongue-in-cheek attack against the anti-feminist movement of the 21st century. You can read more about it here

Photo Credit: Meme from the Confused Cats Against Feminism, taken 27 July 2014 by Jym Dyer: Jym Dyer/Flickr/CC BY NC 2.0

But the question still remains: Do we need feminism in the 21st century? My answer would be as firm as the “I don’t need feminism” movement: YES!

Why? Because many of the issues 20th-century feminists were fighting we are still fighting today. To give one example, 20th-century women fought for women’s reproductive rights, including a woman’s right to choose whether to have a baby or not. Earlier this year, the supreme court overturned the law (Roe vs. Wade) that legalized abortion. Whether you’re on the side for or against it, there is a deeper issue here of taking away women’s right to choose what they do with their bodies. That freedom is one women have been fighting for for years and will continue to fight as a basic human right.

Find out what Adele Gossling and her friends are fighting for in my Adele Gossling Mysteries! Both Book 1 and Book 2 are out now and Book 3 is coming in October.

If you love fun, engaging mysteries set in the past, sign up for my newsletter to receive a free book, plus news about upcoming releases, fun facts about women’s history and mystery, and more freebies! You can sign up here

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🥳Release Day Blitz for A Wordless Death!🥳

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Title: A Wordless Death

Series: Adele Gossling Mysteries: Book 2

Author: Tam May

Genres: Historical Cozy Mystery

Release Date: July 30, 2022

Adele Gossling is adjusting well to small-town life after the hustle and bustle of San Francisco. Despite her progressive ideas about women and her unladylike business acumen, even Arrojo’s most prominent citizens are beginning to accept her. Provided she sticks with the business of fountain pens and letter paper and stays out of crime investigation, that is…

But that’s just what she can’t do when Millie Gibb, the new teacher at the local girl’s school, is found dead and everybody in town assumes the homely, unmarried spinster committed suicide. After all, what enemies could a harmless, middle-aged woman have?

Adele and her clairvoyant friend Nin intend to find out. But can they prove Millie’s death was foul play based on a cigar stub, a letter fragment, and a cigarette lighter before the case is closed for good?

You’ll love this turn-of-the-century whodunit where a sassy and smart New Woman gives the police a run for their money!

“The characters are true to life, and the early methods used in criminal detection are fun to read.” – Amazon reviewer

You can get your copy of the book at a special promotional price at the following online retailers.


Excerpt

After the men had left, both her brother and the sheriff rose, brushing coal dust from their clothes. 

“No glass, I take it,” said Adele.

“No, but something much more interest,” said her brother. “Something in your line of work, Del.”

He showed her what looked like a fragment of a written document. The edges were crisp and charred and written on it was a small dark print she could barely read.

“That explains why there was a fire burning last night even though it’s been rather mild these past few days except for the wind,” he remarked.

“A discouraging lover, you think?” Hatfield raised an eye.

“It wouldn’t be uncommon,” said Jackson. “Though perhaps a little surprising.”

Adele did not fail to catch his meaning. “Miss Gibb might not have been a beauty, Jack, but many men appreciate intelligence and education more than giggles and curls.”

She was rewarded by Hatfield’s deep chuckle of approval.

“Love doesn’t usually go with money, though, does it?” Jackson said. “Whatever this letter contained, it had to do with a lot of money.” He showed the sheriff what he meant.

Here, the croak sounded from Mrs. Taylor and they all looked at her.

“Begging your pardon, sir,” said the woman. “I don’t get into the business of my guests unless —”

“Unless?” Hatfield head went up.

“It’s necessary, of course,” was her resolute answer.

“You know something about this?” he asked.

“Well, no, sir, not that in particular,” said Mrs. Taylor. “But more than once Millie had to ask to delay her payment here. Had a cousin who was rather in a bad way financially.” She looked embarrassed. “I don’t like to go ‘round telling the private business of my guests but —”

“That’s all right, ma’am,” said Jackson. “We’re police, not gossips.”

“Well, now that I see everything is all right —” But she still hesitated and Adele understood the woman’s concern. Her sense of decorum had gotten a jolt at the idea a room she only rented to women boarders was now being trampled over my male footsteps.

“I’ll make sure everything is all right, Mrs. Taylor,” she said in a low voice.

The woman rewarded her with one of her gummy smiles and departed without ceremony.

“Could be this cousin was asking for money again,” Jackson said.

“Why throw the letter in the fire, then?” asked Hatfield. “I’ve had more than one of Ma’s uncles write us for a few gold coins and even when I refused, I never threw the letter out.”

“Perhaps she didn’t want other people in the house to know she had a mercenary cousin,” Adele said.

“A relative that keeps asking for money is not a favorite relative,” Jackson agreed.

“The question is, could he be a relative that kills?” Adele murmured.

About the Author

As soon as Tam May started her first novel at the age of fourteen, writing became her voice. She writes engaging, fun-to-solve historical cozy mysteries featuring sassy suffragist Adele Gossling. Tam is the author of the Adele Gossling Mysteries which take place in the early 20th century and feature amateur sleuth and epistolary expert Adele Gossling, a forward-thinking young woman whose talent for solving crimes doesn’t sit well with her town’s Victorian ideas about women’s place in society. Tam has also written historical women’s fiction. Her post-World War II short story collection, Lessons From My Mother’s Life, debuted at #1 in its category on Amazon, and the first book of her Gilded Age family saga, the Waxwood Series, The Specter, remains in the top 10 in its category. Although Tam left her heart in San Francisco, she lives in Texas because it’s cheaper. When she’s not writing, she’s devouring everything classic (books, films, art, music) and concocting vegetarian dishes in her kitchen.

Social Media Links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tammayauthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tammayauthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/tammayauthor/ 

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Tam-May/e/B01N7BQZ9Y/ 

BookBub Author Page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/tam-may

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Technology, Railroads, and Women: Sacramento During the Progressive Era

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If you’ve been reading my books, you know my fiction is set in San Francisco and the Bay Area. I mention a little about my story with San Francisco in my author biography (which you can find by clicking on the About Pages on the menu bar above). San Francisco was the place of both my psychological and literary maturity back in the 1990s.

So why is this blog post about Sacramento? First, parts of Book 2 of the Adele Gossling Mysteries take place in Sacramento. And second, I became interested in Sacramento’s history unexpectedly.

Back when I was writing my Gilded Age family saga, the Waxwood Series, I had a chance to visit Benicia, California, a small coastal town not far from San Francisco. I was so fascinated by the lovely surroundings and the way Benicians took their history seriously that it became an inspiration for the town of Waxwood. I wrote about that here

What does Benicia have to do with Sacramento? In my research, I found out Benicia was, for a very short time, the state capital before legislators settled on Sacramento. In fact, Sacramento had to fight five cities for the honor of state capital, including Monterey, San Jose, and Benicia. 

Photo Credit: Sacramento State Capital building, 1910, postcard, Goeggel & Weidner, Publishers, San Francisco: greghenderson2006/Wikimedia Commons/PD US expired

What Sacramento had to offer might not seem like competition with the charm of coastal towns like Monterey and Benicia. And, in fact, the choice of Sacramento as the state capital was almost incidental and certainly very practical. After moving the capital around five cities within five years, legislators accepted Sacramento’s offer to use their home ground as a state capital — and it stayed there. Not a very exciting story but history is filled with stories that aren’t all that exciting.

What Sacramento had going for it at the turn of the 20th century, however, was something else. It took the Progressive Era ball and ran with it. For example, people were slow to embrace the automobile since its inception in the late 19th century, but in 1900, the first car appeared in Sacramento (for comparison, people started buying cars only when the 1908 Ford Model T made them more affordable.) The first automobile race took place during the California state fair in Sacramento in 1903 (the year the Adele Gossling Mysteries begins). People who have read Book 1 are familiar with the opening of Adele roaring down the main street in her Beaton Roundabout (a fictional car manufacturer) and causing a shock among the town’s Victorian-minded residents. You can bet if it had been Sacramento instead of Arrojo, people wouldn’t have turned a hair!

Another area of progress Sacramento embraced was worker’s rights and free commerce. Tired of the Southern Pacific Railroad domination (a company run by San Francisco giants like Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker), Sacramento politicians allowed the Western Pacific Railroad to build tracks in the city, giving many workers jobs and helping to put a halt to the SPR’s cartel over railroad transportation in the West.

And let’s not forget the women! We know women’s suffrage was a big issue for the progressives and women fought to gain the vote, which they did in 1920. But in Sacramento, as in all of California, women already had the right to vote in 1911. In the years following before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, women in California were already making strides with their vote, such as encouraging Chinese-American women to go to the polls (with the first going in 1912) and putting Native American suffragism on the political agenda. 

Sacramento may not be as famous as San Francisco, but if you want to read a bit about life in that city, take a look at A Wordless Death coming out at the end of this month. You can pick up a copy at a special price for preorder here. And how about Book 1? That’s on sale too! Get all the information here

If you love fun, engaging mysteries set in the past, you’ll enjoy my novella The Missing Ruby Necklace! It’s available exclusively to my newsletter subscribers and you can get it here. By signing up, you’ll also get news about upcoming releases, fun facts about women’s history, classic true-crime tidbits, and more!

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The Value of Words

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Words are important to me. I don’t think any writer hates words, even though we sometimes feel like a puppy tripping all over ourselves trying to get them right. 

When I was in high school back in the 1980s, my sister bought the Missing Persons album Spring Session M. The song I loved most was, not surprisingly, “Words” (if you’re into a bit of nostalgia or have no clue what I’m talking about, here’s the song). I find the lyrics “When no on listens/There’s no use talking at all” ironic now because, let’s face it, in the 21st century, we’re not doing as much talking as we did forty years ago. We’re texting and emailing instead.

Photo Credit: monkeybusiness/Depositphotos.com 

Since I’m fascinated by words, it makes sense some of my characters in my Adele Gossling Mysteries would be too. Book 2 of the series focuses on a murder victim who is a word freak. Millie Gibb, the English teacher at the local girls’ school, is rather lofty in the position she takes on words:

“May I ask what your book is about?” Adele asked. 

“The history to words,” said the woman. “They don’t appear out of the sky. Someone had to make them up. And in the case of the English language, many people put their hand in.” Her eyes still on the invisible shine, she advanced a little, the red returning to her face with the waxy shine. “One word can go through tens of thousands of evolutions.”

Millie’s point is well taken. When I was getting my bachelor’s degree in English in Israel, we had an influx of immigrants from Russia and Ukraine in our class. These students had the double challenge of not only learning Hebrew but English as well. One day, I chatted with one of them and asked her what language she found harder to learn, Hebrew or English (for those who might not know it, Hebrew is a challenge to learn because it uses an entirely different alphabet.) She said without hesitation that English was much harder. When I asked her why, she explained Hebrew has pretty consistent grammar rules (for example, there are certain letters in the alphabet that, if they come first in a word, are always pronounced differently than if they come in the middle or end of the word.) English, on the other hand, is all over the place, and one has to learn the exceptions to the rule because you never know when one will suddenly come up without any logical explanation. I found this view to be consistent with the EFL (English as a Foreign Language) business people I tutored later on in my life.

Adele understands the value of words too because she’s an epistolary expert. Keep in mind letter writing was still the main means of communication in the early 20th century, as telephones were still few and far between. Adele takes letters and writing very seriously, which you know if you’ve read Book 1 of the series. One of the reasons why she decided to open a stationery store was because she values words and their meanings.

You’ll be able to read all about Millie Gibb and her word obsession (and whether her fascination with words leads to her death) on July 30. However, you can snag your copy of A Wordless Death now at a special preorder price here 

If you love fun, engaging mysteries set in the past, you’ll enjoy my novella The Missing Ruby Necklace! It’s available exclusively to my newsletter subscribers and you can get it here. By signing up, you’ll also get news about upcoming releases, fun facts about women’s history, classic true-crime tidbits, and more!

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Creative License: Sherlock Holmes During World War II

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May is National Mystery Month, so what better way for us mystery lovers to celebrate than to take a look at one of the most, perhaps the most, famous sleuths in history: Sherlock Holmes?

I have to be honest here. I am not a great lover of the Holmes character. I find him too egotistical and woman-hating for my taste. However, there’s no denying Conan Doyle had something when he created this sleuth whose deductive reasoning and attention to detail wove intricate (and sometimes hard to believe) plots. I personally prefer sleuths who appreciate the value of intuition and psychology along with reasoning, such as Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, and, of course, the protagonist of my Adele Gossling Mysteries. 

Last month, I binge-watched the Sherlock Holmes films, but not the contemporary ones. I binge-watched the twelve Universal films and the two 20th Century Fox films. All were made in the late 1930s and 1940s and feature Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson. 

The series is pretty distinctive in several ways. Classic crime buffs are familiar with Rathbone playing many villainous characters so the series gave him a chance to play a good guy. Bruce, whose name might not be familiar to you, created the Watson character as the lovable but somewhat bumbling sidekick which set a precedence for the Watson character (and many sleuth sidekicks) for books, TV, and film after that. 

Photo Credit: Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson, cropped screenshot from Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, 1943, Universal Pictures: Patrick CecilF/Wikimedia Commons/PD US not renewed

But the most distinctive feature of the series is that most of them are not set in the late 19th or early 20th century when Conan Doyle wrote the Holmes books. They are set in the late 1930s and 1940s (that is, in times contemporary to when they were made). The series has an interesting history. Fox made the first 2 films which were actually set in the 19th century like the original books. These films weren’t very successful so Fox dropped the series. Universal picked it up and decided to change the setting to contemporary times. It was then the series became a huge hit and went on for twelve more films. 

Why did Universal decide to change the time period? When the third film in the series (and Universal’s first), Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, came out, it was 1942 and World War II was raging. They thought the audience would identify more with a contemporary Holmes than a Holmes far removed from the war’s troubling times by fifty years. Audiences identified with the scenery of London and Europe featuring bombed-out buildings, air raids, and blackouts.

Universal took it a step further. The screenwriters revamped many of Conan Doyle’s plots to make them fit with the war. Instead of London underworld criminals. Holmes was fighting Nazi spies. For example, the fourth film in the series, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon is based on a Conan Doyle short story but features a secret code Holmes is trying to keep from falling into German hands. 

Universal’s creative license was very effective not only in making the series more successful than Fox’s version but also in inserting messages to boost the morale of British and American audiences. Many of the films end with Holmes imparting philosophical messages to Watson that are essentially telling audiences not to lose faith and good will triumph over evil in the end. 

I’ll admit I’m a purist when it comes to films based on literature. I initially resisted seeing the series because so many of the films were set in contemporary (relative) times instead of when the books take place. But once I started to watch them, I got hooked on how the films show the life and struggle of citizens living during World War II. I highly recommend giving them a chance. You can find most of them on YouTube here

And if you want more mystery, check out my Adele Gossling Mysteries here. The first book in the series, The Carnation Murder, is out! You can find out all about it and pick up your copy here

If you love fun, engaging mysteries set in the past, sign up for my newsletter to receive a free book, news about upcoming releases, fun facts about women’s history and mystery, and more freebies! You can sign up here

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