Easter is this Sunday so, in light of my new series set in the early 20th century, I wanted to give this holiday another look. The cartoon below got me thinking about my blog post last year which talks about Easter in the Gilded Age and what Easter was like just a quarter of a century later.
Just to situate you, the Gilded Age is roughly the last quarter of the 19th century while the Progressive Era is generally thought of as the first few decades of the early 20th century up until World War 1. These aren’t hard-and-fast boundaries, but generally, that’s what we’re talking about.
It seems like a subtle difference, but change was very rapid during this period in America, unlike the 21st century where things seem to be evolving at turtle-speed (until COVID came along, that is). What changed in the attitudes toward Easter?
The cartoon above gives us a good idea. It pits a Gilded Age woman against a New Woman of the early 20th century. The Victorian woman, all feted up for Easter, points at a lavish hat sitting on top of the Maypole as if to say, “And where’s your Easter bonnet, my dear?” The New Woman, dressed in more sensible garb, looks at her with some amusement as if to say, “Madame, I have bigger fish to fry. Off to the suffragist parade!”
In my blog post last year, I wrote about how the holiday turned into another reason for Gilded Agers to show off their excesses and wealth by way of the Easter bonnet, Easter parade, and other holiday traditions. Progressives, however, had a totally different agenda. By the turn of the century, America the prosperous had become America the problem-filled nation that needed fixing. This is why reforms such as workers’ rights, women’s rights, and environmental issues became such a big part of the political and social agenda of the time.
Progressives took themselves seriously and their attitude toward Easter changed because of this. They saw it as a time of renewal. In the framework of Progressive Era priorities, this makes sense. Change is about renewal and change was the word of the day in the early 20th century. Renewing the nation, so to speak, was the passion of the progressives, so the symbolism of spring Easter represents fit right into that.
My protagonist in The Adele Gossling Mysteries fits right into that spirit of renewal and change. She’s unabashedly a New Woman and stands up for women’s rights, sometimes a little too passionately, in the eyes of her more conservative brother and Arrojo townspeople. Her fight for women to be heard and recognized extends not only to the living but to the dead. It’s her motivation for getting involved with crime. She wants justice for every woman, even those that can no longer be heard.
Take a peek at The Carnation Murder, Book 1 of the series, for just 99¢ on preorder now at this link. It’s been chosen by Barnes & Noble as a Top Indie Favorite!
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