Making Progress: Thanksgiving in the Progressive Era


It’s that time of year when Thanksgiving is upon us (at least it is if you’re in the US). Last year, I reposted Thanksgiving in the Gilded Age. But this year, since I’ve been diving into the Progressive Era with my Adele Gossling Mysteries, I was curious to see whether the turn of the century in comparison to the last quarter of the 19th century really made that much of a difference in how Americans celebrated Thanksgiving.

It turns out it did. The Gilded Age was, remember, all about excesses, money, and showing off when it came to the holidays. Wealthy Americans especially thought of the holidays as a time to get into their best dress and parade themselves in hotel dining rooms or swank restaurants for a multi-course Thanksgiving meal that included non-traditional Thanksgiving fare such as oysters and lobster (if you don’t believe me, take a peek at the picture of the menu in last year’s Thanksgiving blog post.) 

Photo Credit: Cover of Puck magazine showing a mother making a pumpkin pie in the kitchen while her four children look onward, emphasizing the family nature of Thanksgiving, 1903, chromolithograph, created by L. M. Glackens: / Flickr/Public Domain Mark 1.0

But the Progressive Era was when Americans were starting to get a grip on all those excesses and realize their country needed to make some changes. Reform was the order of the day, including workers’ rights, women’s rights, and environmental concerns. There was also more emphasis on intimate social circles (family, friends), probably because the modern era brought up concerns of people being fragmented physically and mentally from their roots (something I daresay we struggle with today in the 21st century.)

To that end, Thanksgiving became more of a family affair. Magazines and books came out with Thanksgiving recipes to help encourage Americans to stay home for the holiday. The recipes were much more what we consider traditional Thanksgiving foods, such as turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. The menu from 1902 on this site still has some oddities, such as oysters, but it looks much more like the kind of Thanksgiving meal we feast on these days than the menu in my previous blog post.

Progressives carried their reform into the holidays as well. One thing we see with turn-of-the-century Thanksgiving which was less prevalent in the Gilded Age was the idea of giving thanks and gratitude by helping others. Missionaries and other charitable organizations hosted large Thanksgiving feasts for the poor all over the country. In addition, holiday gift boxes became popular just as they are today (my local Sprouts Market prepares gift bags with food every year that customers can purchase and have the store give to a family in need).

Here’s wishing everyone a joyous, warm, and happy Thanksgiving this year!

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Celebrating American Nurses During World War I


I have a special place in my heart for nurses because my mom was a nurse back in the 1980s. She worked in the ER of our local hospital for a while and then became a home healthcare nurse. Though she retired from the profession when my parents moved back to Israel, she still to this day uses her medical expertise to advocate for family members and friends and help them maneuver through the Israeli healthcare system.

So today, on Veteran’s Day, it seemed fitting to honor war nurses. I wanted to take a look especially at World War I since this war is in the time frame of my Adele Gossling Mysteries (well, not yet, but it eventually will be.) Although called the Great War, it’s more like the Forgotten War these days (usurped by World War II).

Photo Credit: Nurses in Rouen, France during World War I preparing to go to the front lines, from Good Housekeeping, Oct 1918: Picryl/Copyright: No known restrictions

World War I saw a lot of bloodshed and tragedy (if you want to read more about this war, you can read this blog post) and even though Americans didn’t get into the battle until about a year and a half before its end, American soldiers still saw plenty of fighting and nurses did plenty of healing. Sadly, many of these nurses didn’t get the honor and credit they deserved.

Linnie Leckrone was one of these. She was a nurse in one of the toughest situations during wartime: She was part of a unit that helped soldiers who were under constant artillery attack. She helped many soldiers under gas and shock in the most frightening conditions. However, where many men who came home from the war received a hero’s welcome, Leckrone got nothing when she came back to her hometown of Portage, Wisconsin. However, all is not lost, as in 2007, Leckrone received a posthumous Silver Star medal for her bravery and courage, which her daughter accepted.

Unlike, Leckrone, Lenah Higbee did receive her due. Higbee actually joined the US Navy Nurses Corps in 1908 and endured a lot of caustic remarks for doing so. But Higbee, dedicated to her work, persevered, and eventually became the second woman superintendent of the corps. Her work during World War I helping wounded Navy soldiers earned her the Navy Cross and her name on a battleship!

Not all nurses during World War I worked on the front lines. Working behind the scenes was Anna Caroline Maxwell, who is often referred to as the American Florence Nightingale. Earlier in the 20th century, she helped establish proper training and education for nurses by establishing the US Army Nurse Corps, and during the war, she not only trained nurses in their duties but helped them prepare psychologically for the rigors of war. The French awarded her the Medal of Honor for Public Health for her work.

War isn’t just about the men. It’s also about the women who heal them, so let’s salute all veteran war nurses on this day!

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🥳Release Day Blitz for Death At Will!🥳


Title: Death At Will

Series: Adele Gossling Mysteries: Book 3

Author: Tam May

Genres: Historical Cozy Mystery

Release Date: October 29, 2022

Teddy Roosevelt is running for president and even Arrojo can’t deny progressive reforms are here to stay. Rebecca Gold, one of the era’s New Women, chooses just this time to set up her own law practice in Arrojo and lands the affluent Thea Marsh as her first client.

When Thea dies unexpectedly, the trail of suspects leads to her own family. The beloved and favored eldest son, Theo, is accused of the crime. Could such a placid man really be guilty of matricide?

The police think so. So Rebecca turns to her new friend in town: businesswoman and fellow suffragist Adele Gossling. Adele has already proven herself to be adept at helping the local police solve crimes, much to the shock and chagrin of the town’s conservative citizens. Despite promises never to involve herself in crime detection again, how can she refuse a friend in need?

Will Adele make a case against Theo’s guilt for the police out of a stained teacup, a fountain pen nib, ashes that should have been in the fireplace, and daisies that should have been fresh? Or will Theo go to the gallows and the real murderer escape justice?

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

What reviewers are saying:

“Entertaining page-turner!”

“Intrigue that will draw you in and make you want more.”

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


Within fifteen minutes, her brother sauntered into the shop, the silver deputy sheriff’s badge shining in the sunlight. “All right, Del, why the hush-hush?” 

“Does the sheriff know you’re here?”

“I told him I was going to the Bush farm to check on that stolen horse,” he said, amused. “Those girls of yours insist you have a murderer locked in your storeroom.”

Adele laughed. “I’m afraid they let their imaginations run away with them. No, no murderer, Jack.”

“Not yet,” Nin said.

“Are we playing guessing games now, Miss Branch?” he asked in a stiff tone.

“I never guess, Mr. Gossling,” she answered. “I take evil and death in any way it comes.”

He crossed his arms, looking at his sister. “Well?”

She told him all Rebecca had said about her employer’s death as the woman sat silently with her hands in her lap. It was as if Jackson’s badge made her nervous again.

He looked at Rebecca. “It would be better, Miss Gold, if you would tell the sheriff of your suspicions, just as my sister suggested.”

“I promised Theo I wouldn’t,” she insisted. “I promised him there wouldn’t be any scandal.”

“But if Thea Marsh didn’t die of natural causes —”

“I didn’t say that wasn’t true!” she insisted. “I merely said I had a feeling about it.”

He sighed. “I understand your trepidation. But there’s a procedure to these things, you know.”

“Fiddlesticks!” Nin burst out. “Don’t you believe in helping a friend?” Rebecca gave her a grateful look.

“When there’s no crime involved, I’m the first to help anybody,” Jackson’s tone was crusty. “But if there is a crime—”

Adele took his arm. “We need your professional and astute eye, Jack. If there is nothing in it, no harm done. If there is something, Rebecca will convince the family to go through the proper channels.”

“They won’t have much of a choice,” he remarked.

“Then you have no reason to object a look around Mrs. Marsh’s room, do you?” She gave him a sharp look. 

“I have no objection as long as there is a method to it,” he insisted. “One simply can’t go bursting into a room with a magnifying glass hollering ‘murder afoot!’”

“Don’t tell me the Anspatches never entered a room permission.” She eyed him.

He looked away and she was sorry she had spoken. But then, he said, “I suppose it can’t do any harm to look around as long as the family consents, and we’re very careful. But only if we have their full consent, Del.”

“That you have, deputy,” Rebecca said in a relieved tone.

And I have your full promise if there is anything in the least suspicious, you go to the sheriff.”

“You have my promise.” She bowed.

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 cozy mysteries set in the past. Her mysteries empower readers with a sense of “justice is done” for women, both dead and alive. Tam is the author of the Adele Gossling Mysteries which take place in the early 20th century and feature sassy suffragist and epistolary expert Adele Gossling. Tam has also written historical fiction about women defying the emotional and psychological confinements of their era. 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 yummy vegetarian dishes in her kitchen.

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Amateur Doctors: Forensic Pathology in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries


It’s well known that mourning practices were an art form in the 19th and early 20th centuries. When I did quite a lot of research on mourning for my Gilded Age family saga, the Waxwood Series, there was no shortage of information. These rituals and fascination with death is the subject of a future blog post.

Indeed, when it came to mourning death, early Americans were experts. But when it came to explaining death, that was a different story. It’s understandable when we think of how uncomfortable any discussion of death makes many of us feel. I have a friend who builds alters to honor the dead, and she’s always saying how difficult it is for her to talk about what she does because she’s afraid of getting into morbid territory and making people squirm. 

Photo Credit: Woman in mourning, carte de visite photograph, 1860s, Nashville, Tennessee: Et0048/Wikimedia Commons/PD US expired

And yet, in cases where death isn’t obvious (such as from illness or accident), it’s the law (then and now) to investigate the cause to determine if foul play was involved. For this, a medical examiner is called in and a pathologist (who may or may not be the medical examiner) conducts an autopsy on the body. 

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, you couldn’t even say American forensic pathology was in its infancy. More like it was in the womb. The role of the medical examiner was pretty ad hoc and didn’t even officially exist until the 1930s. Examiners were not explicitly trained in pathology and often were local doctors who were good at treating the living but had little experience examining the dead. They were amateurs in pathology, though there’s no doubt many of them did the best they could. 

In addition, medical examiners and pathologists were, like policemen and mayors, government-appointed, and as such, they were subject to the kind of corruption that ran rampant in the 19th and early 20th centuries (until the Progressive movement called for reforms). In other words, these men could be bribed to cover up evidence for various reasons. Maybe the victim was a well-respected citizen of the town and the pathology brought up something that pointed toward a less-than-stellar life the influential family didn’t want to be made public. Or maybe the examination of the victim showed foul play that would require important people to be involved in the case who didn’t want to be involved. The examination might even implicate someone important to the town in a dastardly crime so evidence needs to be covered up or distorted. I’m reading a true crime book right now about the death of a woman in the early 20th century where the writers surmise this is exactly what happened.

Pathology (whatever little of it there was in the early 20th century) plays a role in Book 3 of my Adele Gossling Mysteries, though not in a corrupt or gruesome way. A doctor is asked to write out a new death certificate because what looked like an accident proves to be anything but. It was possible to retract the death certificate if further examination suggested otherwise. This is what starts the investigation into Thea Marsh’s death in the book.

Death At Will is coming out at the end of this month, but you can grab your copy now at a special preorder price here. And did you know Book 1 of the series, The Carnation Murder, is now free? Get your copy here

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An Ugly Page Out of California History: Eugenics and the Latino Community


Today marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. Having lived in San Francisco’s Mission District for a time, I always loved the cultural vibe of its large Latino population. I remember taking a walk one day during Hispanic Heritage Month and seeing the parade on Mission Street with the amazing display of pride and beauty of Latino culture.

Photo Credit: One of the many amazing murals in San Francisco’s Mission District, The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, San Francisco, CA, taken 23 February 2012 by Wally Gobetz: wallyg/Flickr/ CC BY NC ND 2.0

But in addition to the joy, we also have to acknowledge the shame that those of us who are not Latino share in the history of oppression and persecution. As much as I love California, it is not a state free of this shame. My intention for this blog post was to write about Latina women in the early 20th century (which I will still do at some point). But my research led me down a much darker path in California’s history: When the law of eugenics was embraced in 1909 and led to the sterilization of many Latino women and men.

Eugenics, for those who might not be familiar with the term, refers to the idea that it’s possible to create a perfect society (a super-society, per se) by taking measures and putting in laws to prevent those considered “undesirable” from creating more “undesirables.” If it sounds uncomfortably like something Hitler and the Nazi party would embrace, it’s because this is exactly what they did. To this end, one of the ways the Nazi party put this law into action was by legalizing sterilization. In the courtroom drama Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), there is a heartbreaking scene where Montgomery Clift’s character takes the stand and attests to the trauma and shame of being forced to be sterilized (you can view the scene here). This was a reality in Nazi Germany, but sadly, it was also a reality for the Latino community in California in the first part of the 20th century.

In 1909, the government passed a law legalizing sterilization of “undesirables” and California embraced this law, targeting non-white men and women, but especially its large Latino population. The theory was crime and poverty would decrease if these people were limited in procreation (sounds like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, doesn’t it?) In the first half of the century, nearly 60,000 people were sterilized in the United States, mostly in mental institutions and asylums where doctors had the decision-making power for those under their care. Many of these people were told sterilization was reversible to help persuade them to cooperate. About a third of these were in California and the majority of those were Latino men and women.

The Latino community in California began to fight back. For example, ten women in Los Angeles filed a lawsuit to gain compensation for being manipulated and coerced by hospital staff to get sterilized in 1975, though, sadly, they lost. Thankfully, the law was repealed, though not until 1979. In 2021, California set aside a budget of $7.5 million dollars exclusively to compensate families whose members had fall victim to the eugenics program. 

If you’re looking for more of a glimpse of California history (the good, the bad, and the ugly), check out my Adele Gossling Mysteries series. Book 1 and Book 2 are both out and you can preorder Book 3 (coming out on October 29) here

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