My reason for writing this blog is to share fascinating details that make up the backstory for my novels in The Dauntless Series. These include the activities and personalities of Susan B. Anthony and her family–especially her gun-toting brother Daniel and his wife Annie:
- To view them in the context of the culture of the states where they settled: Massachusetts, New York, and Kansas.
- To spend a few moments with the people who inspired them, from Quakeress Aunt Hannah Hoxey (who defied early Victorian custom by speaking in public) to Frederick Douglass (an Anthony neighbor who burst the bonds of slavery) to feminist Clarina Nichols (who established an abolitionist newspaper that preceded D.R.’s newspaper dynasty).
- To learn how they were affected by the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, and the waves of reform that swept upstate New York with such fire that the area became known as “the burned-over district.”
Since 2012, I’ve been writing historical fiction about the Anthonys. While the tone of this blog differs from that in The Truth About Daniel (the first in the Dauntless Series), these online writings give a view of the scope and breadth of the research that underpins my book-in-progress.
Writing can be a lonely profession. So imagine my excitement when I discovered other historical authors using the term “cultural biography” to describe a similar literary process. Here’s David Reynolds, author of John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights (Alfred A. Knopf publisher):
The special province of the cultural biographer is to explore this relationship, focusing on three questions: How does my subject reflect his or her era? How does my subject transcend the era-that is, what makes him or her unique? What impact did my subject have on the era?
Quoting Emerson, he continues,
The ideas of the time are in the air, and infect all who breathe it. . . . We learn of our contemporaries what they know without effort, and almost through the pores of our skin.” The cultural biographer explores the historical “air” surrounding the subject and describes the process by which the air seeped through the pores of his or her skin.
What was in the air surrounding the Anthony family that made them so noteworthy? That’s what I’m exploring in my twice-a-week posts.