After the holidays I got bitten by the decluttering bug, resulting in a massive cleanup effort in my office. Removal of some furniture gave me a new view of my beloved books, plus some favorite objects in purple, the color of suffrage.
In the 19th century, before modern medicine, you could easily die from what you inhaled or drank. This was particularly true if you were a baby. That is because they did not yet understand the nature of infectious disease or have the means to prevent it.
I was always puzzled when I read that the average lifespan for Americans in the 1800s was about 45. After all, all of Susan B. Anthony’s siblings and most of her friends lived well beyond what we consider middle age. Finally, I asked my friend Terry Lehr for help. She is a former nurse and author of an upcoming book on the flu epidemic of 1918. Terry explained that it was extremely common for children to die before they were five years old, and this brought down the average age considerably. (Click here for an overview of 19th century medicine that focuses on the highly-contagious puerperal fever.)
Infectious Diseases Varied By Season
Cold weather brought respiratory diseases spread through the air, especially pneumonia, influenza, and diphtheria, which was called “the strangling disease” because sufferers frequently developed a membrane in their throats that cut off their airways.
Warm weather, while easier on the lungs, was harder on the digestive tract. Illnesses–especially cholera, but also typhoid fever and dysentery–could reach epidemic proportions, killing thousands of Americans during bad seasons and causing others to evacuate affected towns. Rivers, streams, and ground water, polluted with feces, carried the illness across the continent. Closer to home, babies were particularly susceptible to germs in spoiled milk because it was a disproportionate percentage of their entire diet.
What does this have to do with this website on the Anthony kin? Because as I’ve been visiting Anthony grave sites and reading letters and diaries, I keep coming across sad remembrances of family members who succumbed to such diseases. At least one of those deaths will darken the pages of the sequel of The Truth About Daniel.
Photo of the Anthony burial plot in Rochester by Jeanne Gehret.
We are pleased and honored that The Truth About Daniel was recently featured in Life in the Finger Lakes Magazine. The review praised the novel’s good pace, handling of critical historical events, and “careful attention…to mores and manners of the time.” See the complete review here, titled “Endurance, Determination, and Resolve.”
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Today there’s a Kindle ebook offer of these two books for 99 cents each. If you’ve followed this blog, now’s the time to get them so you can enjoy the stories in their entirety.
- Click here for Susan B. Anthony (Be sure to get the updated purple edition. the other was published in 1994)
- Click here for The Truth About Daniel on Amazon Kindle
Tomorrow they go up to $1.99, and after that, they’re regularly priced at $2.99. Please tweet, like, and share at the top of this post. Thank you!
Three Susan B. Anthony events feature Jeanne Gehret, author of two books about the Anthony family. These programs honor the centennial of woman suffrage in NY state. Signups are essential at the libraries:
- Tuesday, 7 pm., Perinton Historical Society, “All for Suffrage: the Kin of Susan B. Anthony” discusses how Susan’s entire family supported her reform work
- Thursday, 7 pm, Brighton Memorial Library, “All for Suffrage: the Kin of Susan B. Anthony” 585-783-5300
- Saturday, 1 pm, Irondequoit Public Library, “Failure is Impossible” (re-enactment of Susan B. Anthony) 585-336-6060
Click here for a fuller description of those programs. Hope to see you there!
Books by Jeanne Gehret:
It’s so rewarding when a professional book reviewer “gets” the book that you’ve worked on for several years. That happened recently when Midwest Book Review praised The Truth About Daniel. And to celebrate, we made the book available on Kindle! Click here to get a copy on your own device. And PLEASE review it. Reviews convince Amazon that it’s worth publicizing.
Here’s what Midwest had to say:
Jeanne Gehret became acquainted with Susan B. Anthony’s family in 1992 when she docented at the reformer’s house museum. After writing Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All in 1994, she curated an exhibit at the Rochester, NY museum and began portraying Susan in costume. She blogs at http://SusanBAnthonyFamily.com
In “The Truth About Daniel” she turns her talents to writing the first volume of what promises to be an impressively entertaining new series of historical novels called ‘The Dauntless”.
Annie Osborn was fascinated by everything about Daniel Read Anthony including his service as a Civil War colonel who battled slavery; his courage and endurance settling the wild West; and his family ties to Susan B. Anthony, Annie’s own heroine. Nevertheless, she has doubts about his suitability as a husband. Did he risk his life for unselfish reasons or because he enjoyed danger?
From the fiery conflict of Kansas to the prim parlors of Martha’s Vineyard, “The Truth About Daniel” portrays lovers who forge new bonds through their willingness to take chances as author Jeanne Gehret deftly weaves historical strands about D.R. Anthony to delve into his improbable choice of a bride, a socialite half his age from the whaling capital of Martha’s Vineyard.
As a novelist, Jeanne Gehret has a genuine flair for deftly creating memorable characters and embedding them into an original and consistently entertaining story. The descriptive writing brings a bygone era in American History to vivid life. An impressively crafted and consistently entertaining read from beginning to end, “The Truth About Daniel” is unreservedly recommended, especially for community library Historical Romance collections and the personal reading list of the dedicated Antebellum romance fan.
You don’t hear much about May-December romances these days. But history is full couples made of young women with older men, especially in centuries when so many women died in childbirth.
That was the case in the family of Anna Osborn. Her father was twice a widower, and his third wife (Annie’s stepmother) was 13 years younger than he. Each wife bore him several children, bringing the total number of Osborn offspring to eleven.
Varying Explanations for Women’s Choices
According to an article in The Guardian, women are genetically programmed to recognize a man with genes strong enough to be attractive and display wealth at an advanced age. According to this theory, evolution favors a strong older man over a younger one.
Or is it more than that? Perhaps it is because older men have more sophisticated tastes, seem more sure of themselves, and are looking for serious relationships, as this more recent article suggests.
In the chapters of The Truth About Daniel concerning Annie Osborn’s courtship, she evades the clumsy pursuits of Richie, a man her age. Richie doesn’t know enough to douse his cigar in a lady’s presence and still appears boyishly lanky. He dances badly, works for his father, and has done nothing heroic. How can he measure up to Daniel Read Anthony with his war-hardened physique, strong profile, and willingness to save people in a burning building?
When Annie learns that Daniel has also committed himself to the same risky undertaking as she, she falls in love with a man twenty years older her senior. She senses Daniel’s value to society in contrast to Richie’s lightweight existence.
Neither can Richie match Daniel’s experience as a mayor and postmaster. He lacks Daniel’s acquaintance with influential people, notably his sister Susan B. Anthony and her cohort—people that Annie has only read about before.
Unlike Richie and Annie, who have lived their entire lives on an island, Daniel has traveled halfway across the continent. Perhaps the best thing of all is that he’s willing and able to take Annie there.
Happily Ever After
No novice at the game of courtship, Daniel keeps his wealth to himself until after he is engaged to Annie. As mayor, he may have known too many women who wanted to marry a man for his money. Fortunately, Annie reacts with pleasant surprise, showing that not all young women are looking for sugar daddies.
A band of 400 proslavery ruffians–many teenagers–led by a madman named Quantrill conducted the Lawrence Massacre in 1863 in Kansas on this day. Most of the the town’s men were off fighting for the Union. As a result, 180 died and the town became ashes.
Daniel Read Anthony knew the town of Lawrence like his own child because he helped to establish it. Therefore, he suffered its loss. In this excerpt from The Truth About Daniel, he visits just a few days after the attack:
Early on their fourth day in Lawrence, D.R. and Chas rode by the homestead of Martin Townsend, a farmer from Vermont who had settled in ’fifty-four. They found him pouring water from a bucket into a stone trough for a pair of oxen.
“Marty!” D.R. hailed him before swinging down from the saddle.
As the man turned, D.R. took in his friend’s face covered with grime and a four-day stubble. He asked Townsend how he had escaped.
“The day before the raid, I took my team a few miles outside of town to help my cousin. On my way home, I saw the town on fire and heard that Quantrill was singling out men old enough to bear arms. So I hid in the ravine where raiders wouldn’t go.
“I felt like a coward leaving my wife and children inside, but how would they have farmed if I turned up dead?” His house was ablaze, he said, but he was relieved to see his family out front. He gestured to a crude tent partially supported by a scorched tree. “We all survived, thank God, but this is all I have left of my home.”
D.R. wanted something to do, but there were no tools, not even an extra bucket. “Apparently Quantrill’s raiders didn’t come to fight, but to murder and steal.”
“They never would’ve gotten away with it if so many of our men weren’t off to war.”
“So what happened when the army finally did come?” asked Chas.
Townsend leaned on his shovel and gestured toward the road. “The ruffians turned tail and ran south. Cavalry followed them right through town and out again.”
D.R. pictured how he would’ve handled the operation. The Jayhawkers and the Seventh Kansas were trained to grip their horses with their knees and shoot with both hands at once. Having faced Quantrill’s raiders in Missouri, he knew many of them to be teenagers with no training at all. At least the army will have extracted its toll on them, he consoled himself. Hopeful of a good report, he asked, “How many did Quantrill lose?”
Townsend sighed deeply. The anger blazing from his eyes contrasted with his dusty face. “One,” he replied.
“One!” roared D.R. “They caused all this damage and got away with only one casualty? What the hell was the army doing?”
Next time: Read how the Lawrence Massacre of 1863 fueled a Union retaliation.
Read more about this fateful day in Lawrence at History.com.