This week in History: John Brown at Harpers Ferry

John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry shook the Anthony family’s roots when on this day in 1859 he broke into a federal arsenal in Virginia and was captured.

Lucy and Daniel Anthony had raised Continue reading

“Impressively Crafted” Novel Now on Kindle

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:

Synopsis:

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.

Critique:

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.

Why do young women fall for older men?

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.

 

 

How losses form bonds between lovers

 

This week marks the sinking of the whaling ship Ocmulgee, owned by Annie Osborn’s father. Thirty years earlier, Daniel Read (D.R.) Anthony’s father went bankrupt, causing him to lose his business and have to start over in another city. I believe that the sadness of those troubles may have formed a bond between Annie and D.R..

Read more about the Ocmulgee here.

What Annie Missed

The Osborns’ loss could have had a two-pronged effect. First, Annie’s family may have had less money to pay for her “coming out” to society and attracting a mate who lived closer to their Vineyard home. Second, seeing the repercussion of such a loss may have made her want to get away from herseafaring community. Why else would a captain’s daughter be willing to leave everything familiar to start life anew with Daniel in Leavenworth?

How Loss Shaped Daniel

The Panic of 1837 caused Daniel Anthony Sr. to lose his entire business and bankrupt the family. This prompted 18 year-old Susan to quit her private education and take up teaching, where she learned self-reliance. Like his sisters, D.R. also had to end his private education, but he had fewer years of expert instruction than his older siblings. He finished his education at a normal school and helped his father in the mill instead.

Throughout his several terms as mayor of Leavenworth, he made bids for the post of governor. But he never realized that high position. Would he have achieved his dream if he had had the benefit of a law degree?

 

 

 

Defenseless town massacred

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.

Personal Experience

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.

 

 

Dauntless Book Two, New Character

I am being teased by an elusive character who wants a role in Book Two of The Dauntless Series, and I don’t know what to do with her yet. Perhaps you will have a clue.

I imagine her in Leavenworth–a wild-haired woman dressed in lumpy, mismatched layers. One day she is sitting on a bench watching trains go by. Later she leans against the wall of the general store. One afternoon she enters an empty cafe and gets fed. No money changes hands. A couple weeks later, when she asks for a handout in a different restaurant, the owner tells her to come back after the rush hour. Everyone recognizes her but no one really knows her.

I smell tobacco on her clothes (a disgrace for 19th century women). I hear her humming under her breath and repeating snippets of the conversations around her. She makes pithy observations to herself. When she discovers that Annie has married Daniel, she takes an immediate dislike to both of them. I call her Iris.

Iris is a nuisance. I try to write about Annie, but Iris fills my field of vision. I need to deal with her, but I don’t have enough information. Yet.

How Elusive Character is Connected to the Story

At the end of The Truth About Daniel (Book One of the Dauntless Series), the new Mrs. Anthony leaves her familiar world with a husband she barely knows. When he confesses that there have been other women, she is disappointed but not surprised–after all, he is 40 and she is 20.

I have a feeling Iris wants to tell Annie Anthony something about Daniel’s past, but the message must be teased out of the cryptic one-liners of a wandering mind.

How did Iris get this way? Does Daniel have something to do with her disturbed condition?  Is her hatred of him justified? Or is someone trying to use Iris to destroy Daniel?

If you have any clues about Iris, chime in on the comment section of this blog. Or email me at Jeanne@Verbalimagespress.com. Your insights might give my overworked imagination a rest. Or your inspiration may find its way into Book Two!

 

 

Susan B. Anthony comes to life at VoteTilla

Join me as I portray Susan B. Anthony as part of the Votetilla celebration next week! Bring your school-age kids for living history!

Votetilla is a weeklong celebration of New York State’s ratification of the 19th (Susan B. Anthony) Amendment in 1917. I love that this event actually occurs on boats on the Erie Canal, since that is how the Anthony family arrived in New York State in 1845.

How Votetilla Works

Sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House and numerous other organizations, the boats get underway in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of women’s rights, and stop in numerous canal towns (including Fairport and Pittsford). After disembarking in Rochester, It culminates with a festive street parade to the Susan B. Anthony House on Madison Street.

I enjoy re-enacting Susan and have been doing it for more than 20 years, ever since I volunteered at her house as a docent. This talk covers the highlights of her life including her illegal vote and trial and her relationship with Frederick Douglass. Enjoy the talk against a wonderful backdrop of  authentic 19th century images.

Centennial Edition of Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All

In 1994, I published a children’s biography of Susan by the name of Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All. Watch this space for a special centennial edition with updates to commemorate the 19th amendment granting women the vote across all the states in the U.S.

Male Counterpart of Susan B. Anthony?


How similar was Susan B. Anthony to her brother Daniel? Why should serious students of our famous suffragist take note of him?

Despite the times Daniel went on trial for murder during a street fight, suffered court-martial, and was accused on horse-stealing, Susan admired her oldest brother D.R.. According to her authorized biography by Harper, (p. 1339),

She had the most profound admiration for his commanding intellect, his business ability, his courage, aggressiveness and determination, and a strong pride in his achievements and the place he had made for himself in the history of his adopted State. But far deeper than this was her love for him because of his long years of devotion to her . . . . She felt that always and under all circumstances she could depend on him for whatever she needed….

Did she always feel that way? When I consider that she she made this comment about him late in life, I have to wonder. There were surely moments when she agonized at the scrapes he got into during his younger years. (For example, there was no way to excuse his horse thefts.) Remember that Harper wrote this shortly after D.R.’s death at the age of 80. By then, Susan had the accumulated wisdom and tolerance of hindsight.

Two Apples From the Same Family Tree

Susan’s affection and respect for her brother Daniel Read Anthony demonstrates why he deserves more than a nod from people with a serious interest in the famous suffragist. Yes, they had many differences. He was male, she female. He married, while she remained single. He made his home in Leavenworth, KS while she made hers in Rochester, NY. He had a terrible temper while she could be quite diplomatic. Nevertheless, reflecting Susan’s generous viewpoint in old age, Harper sweeps away all these contrasts with this comparison of the two siblings:

He was much more like her than was any other member of the family and their similarity of characteristics had long been a matter of public comment. (ibid)

 

Taking Harper at face value, she implied the following: if you want to know a male counterpart of Susan B. Anthony, look to Daniel Read Anthony.

Some readers will be aghast at this comparison. Comments?

 

The Anthonys’ Quaker Roots

 

Quaker Meeting House, Adams. Photo by Jeanne Gehret

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of presenting “All for Suffrage: Susan B. Anthony’s Kin” at Susan’s birthplace museum in Adams, MA, near the border of New York State.

After my presentation, my friend and I received a private tour by Adams Historical Society president Eugene Michalenko of the East Hoosuk Quaker Meetinghouse not far from Susan’s home. That is where Susan’s Aunt Hannah Hoxie (her father’s sister) sat on the “high seat” sharing spiritual insights during meetings. Hannah was regarded by the congregation as a gifted speaker in an era when women outside of Quakerism rarely spoke in public.

The high seat turned out to be on the top row of pews facing the congregation, nearest the center. Hannah’s central position connotes some importance. Measuring about 45×45 feet, the building features separate doors for men and women, who held their own meetings and kept separate records.

Once inside, a movable partial wall divides the two sides, with women and children sitting on the side with a huge open fireplace. (How kind those Quaker gentlemen were!) The dividing wall was removed during worship; thus, Hannah could be seen (and heard) by both men and women.

The Meetinghouse website includes more photos and describes many tenets of Quaker beliefs, including their opposition to war. Annually Daniel Anthony, Susan’s father, greeted the taxman by telling him that he refused to support a government that wages war and if he must extract the tax, he should riffle through Anthony’s wallet and take it himself.

Later, Susan’s brother D.R. Anthony ran afoul of Quaker pacificism when he killed a rival publisher in a streetfight in Leavenworth. By that time, the Anthonys belonged to the Rochester, NY Meeting, and a delegation wrote to D.R. questioning his adherence to the beliefs of his ancestors. Read more about that conflict in my book The Truth About Daniel, published in January.