Friday, May 25, 2012

"The Outlaw’s Secret Bride" and 19th Century Native American Education

L.G.C. Smith

This week marks the re-release of my first historical romance, originally published by Avon Books in 1990. Now titled The Outlaw’s Secret Bride, it’s available as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Smashwords. TOSB, a classic western romance set in the Black Hills of Dakota Territory in 1880, is the story of an eastern schoolteacher who meets an outlaw she can’t resist. She tries hard, but he doesn’t give up. I chose the setting because my family is from South Dakota, and I made the heroine a teacher because both sides of the family are chock full of South Dakota teachers. I had just started my doctoral studies when I began writing The Outlaw's Secret Bride (originally titled Spellbound, and published under my pen name, Allison Hayes), so I wanted to be practical. I figured writing about a place I knew fairly well would help me manage the writing, the research it required, and a heavy course load.

Writing historical romance ended up shaping my academic work in language education more than I anticipated. The tensions between the Lakota people and the US government played out in many aspects of South Dakota history. Education was a particularly fraught endeavor, illustrated in The Outlaw’s Secret Bride when the hero, Drew, introduces Emily, the heroine, to Red Cloud, the famous Lakota leader. Red Cloud astutely identified how disastrous the wrong sort of education could be for his people. Thanks to the research for the novel, I began studying early attempts to educate Lakota children. Red Cloud was right: the education brought by white Americans relied heavily on coercion and the adamant rejection of Lakota language, culture and values.

Occasionally educators, usually missionaries, developed bilingual primers to help teach reading and writing to Native American children. I discovered some of these buried in the University of California library stacks and analyzed them for a research paper in the same year that TOSB was first published. This is from a section looking at a little primer called Model First Reader. Wayawa Tokaheya. Prepared in English-Dakota by S.R. Riggs, an Episcopal missionary to the Minnesota Sioux throughout most of the nineteenth century. It was published in 1873 for use in western Minnesota. My interest lay in exploring what Dakota and Lakota children might have been taught in schools using this book. It serves as a back drop for understanding the kinds of conflicts my teacher heroine encounters when she arrives in Dakota Territory and falls in love with a man who has embraced the Lakota people.

 “The content of the more advanced lessons introduces domestic animals (dogs, cats, geese, sheep, lambs, horses, and pigs) and several wild animals, including zebras, parrots, bears, and deer. The animals are often pictured as pets in cages, houses, or playing with children. These are not contexts in which Indian children would normally have interacted with animals. Page 64 has a drawing of three children, Howard, Della, and Gertrude riding in a miniature wagon drawn by two prancing goats. On the previous page the goats were pictured in a mountain scene with tall pine trees behind them. The message that even children can tame the wilds is not subtly conveyed in the sentences that tell us that these goats will not run away or hurt the children, that they are very gentle, and that they like Howard. Howard, of course, is equally fond of the goats.

 This sort of image may have struck the fancy of American middle-class children, but it must have seemed strange to Dakota children who very likely hadn’t ever seen goats, much less miniature wagons for children to play in. More significantly, animals are portrayed as playmates, means of entertainment, or as badges of membership in a stable, well-ordered agricultural society. There is little of the sense of respect for animals or an understanding of the roles they play in supporting human life and sharing an environment that is more characteristic of Dakota relationships with animals. It would not have been difficult to cast the relationships of people to farm animals in this sort of light (and in fact, many white farmers and ranchers probably held more Indian-like attitudes toward their animals than one would guess from Victorian school texts). If the images and values presented in this text were not directly related to the experience of Dakota children, it must also be kept in mind that they would have found little better match in the minds of large numbers of urban school children in the rest of the country. The Model First Reader taught an ideal, archetypical view of American culture based in rural gentility.

     An image of even more cultural dissonance for Indian children than Howard and his sisters with their pet goats appears a few pages later. On page 67 there is a drawing of a black bear chained to a tall pole. The sentences are as follows:

1. This is a black bear. De wahanksica heca.  (The normal gloss for bear is 'mato')
            2. It is not a lamb. He tahinca cinca heca.
            3. It looks ugly. He owanyang sica. ('Sica'  means bad, not ugly per se.)
            4. He is chained to the pole.   He can kin en iyakaskapi.
            5. Can he climb the pole? Can kin he adi okihi he.
            6. Yes, he can climb to the top. Han, oinkpa hehanyan adi okihi.
            7. I will not go near the bear. Wahanksica kin ikiyedan mde   kte sni.

Aside from the alien visual image of the chained bear, the words make it clear that the bear is to be regarded as wild, potentially dangerous, and to be avoided by children. The Dakota translation emphasizes that the bear is inherently bad and should be handled accordingly. If it cannot be completely controlled, it must be avoided.

This is in marked contrast to traditional Dakota perceptions of bears as the second member (the other being humans) of the two-legged category of animals. Bears were thought of as potential healers, teachers, and generally wise creatures. Dakota children would have had to have been foolish not to have known that bears could be dangerous (especially if unreasonably provoked by chaining them to a pole), but they were taught a respect for animals, rooted in knowledge about their behaviors, that is clearly lacking in this text. The image and the sentences about the chained bear were very likely confusing for Dakota children because they represented direct contradictions to traditional Dakota values.”

I have two nieces almost finished with Kindergarten this year. Both are making great strides as fledgling readers. It’s pretty easy for one of them, but not so much for the other. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to learn to read from books that had so little to do with their lives. A great teacher can work wonders with almost any materials, but I wonder what the students who used these books thought of them.

Reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures for many of us. What were some of the first books you read yourself? Were you one of the lucky people who just figured it out easily? (I wasn’t.) Did you have a special teacher who helped you learn to read? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of The Outlaw’s Secret Bride. I’ll draw a winner on Saturday, June 2nd and post it here. Open to US and Canadian residents.

P.S. If you post a review of The Outlaw’s Secret Bride to any of the ebook retailers, email me the link at, and I’ll send you a free copy of one of my other books. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gladiators and Football players

American Football and Gladiators
I’ve gone to quite a few professional games with my husband and each time I go I think how this experience is so like the gladiator games during the Roman Empire.

Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City MO                                    The Colosseum, Rome Italy

The most obvious resemblance is the arenas.  In football stadiums, a fan purchased a seat for the day. In Rome’s Colosseum‘s 55,000 seats were free—first come first serve.  The wealthy and powerful senators sat close to the arena, while their wives were delegated to the upper tiers with the slaves unless they were invited to the special boxes as the imperial box.  Ordinary citizens had the middle seats. That’s not that different in the football stadium because the seats closer to the field are the most expensive as well.

Both had training camps. The gladiators came from any one of the many schools called a Ludus where they trained as football players do as well. People could own a gladiator, or as we see today, become a sponsor who paid for the training or for the games itself. The Ludii had specific colors as football players have in their jerseys. In addition, medical personnel cared for those injured in either sport. Galen, an early famous doctor, learned much of his medical skill from his time caring for gladiators.

Both teams protected themselves with protective covering as helmets, shoulder pads, leg and hand bindings. Gladiators specialized in certain types of weapons. And football players have a…football. Both sets of athletes trained for specific activities:

Football: Quarterback, Running Back, Center, Receiver, Tight End, Wide Receiver, Guards, Tackles, Linebacker, End, Safety, Corner back, kicker.

Gladiator: Thracian ,Myrmillo, Secutor, Retiarius, Eques, Velites, Sagittarii, Scissors, Holomachus, Venatores. The one exception. The gladiators had women fighters- the Gladiatrix

And, they had attendees to care for them.

These events also start in similar manners.  Gladiators parade onto the field in their colors, were given their weapons under much pomp and ceremony. Football players arrive and warm up, the National Anthem plays, and fans begin cheering.

Music accompanied all activities. Gladiators heard deep throated, tubas, trumpets, hydraulic organs, singers. and flutes.  Football players have PA systems playing ads and recorded music.  

Both activities started in much the same manner. Football entertains their crowds with a mock-fight with mascots. Gladiator matches start the day with possibly mock-fights between “midgets.” Both use animals in some way. Football shows off their mascots as lions, bears, and wolves representing the teams. And, gladiators fought wild real animals as lions, bears and wolves.  

Football starts with a kickoff, the teams play until halftime involving usually marching bands and performers, and then teams play until the set time runs out.  

For gladiator matches begins with the men trained to fight animals.  Then halftime comes, which is used for executions as Christians and runaway slaves etc. Then the professional gladiators fight during the afternoon.  This can last into the night if the fights are long. One unique fact is the Colosseum in Rome could be flooded by the Tiber for naval battles.

During both events, referees enforced the established rules. However, in the gladiatorial competitions, the spectators determined who is victorious by the infamous thumbs-up and thumbs-down, yet sponsor of the games having the final determination. Football has a score that determines the winner.   

Both had favored athletes who were very well paid, over and above that of educators of either time. Students then as now were obnoxious about their favorites so simply getting them on task to learn anything other than who was to fight in the coming games was nearly impossible.

Now, a few years ago, I was attending a 101 Honor banquet for professional football players and coaches. I was sitting beside one of the honorees and I have to say there was not a soft spot on the man.  I asked him if he ever felt like a gladiator when he walked onto the football field.

He was stunned to be asked that question and then answered, “Well, we don’t kill anybody.”  

And that is the biggest difference of all between American football and gladiatorial contests.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Persuasion - Vivienne

Though Pride & Prejudice was my favorite Jane Austen novel for a long time, Persuasion is becoming my favorite as an adult. It speaks of mature love, what it means to sacrifice, and also the importance of learning from your mistakes.

Most of my Regency stories feature a lost-love theme where characters who were once lovers or friends meet years later and rekindle their romance. What draws me to Persuasion, and to these kinds of stories, is the belief that we can always learn from our mistakes and that love can grow and change over time. I also believe that when you truly love someone, a part of them stays with you, even if the relationship ends.

When Anne Elliot lets her friend and others talk her out of marrying Frederick Wentworth, she sacrifices herself for her family and friends. She does what is expected of her and she values pleasing others over pleasing herself (which is arguably Anne's greatest flaw). But after she does what everyone wants, Anne retreats into her role as the devoted sister and daughter and becomes nearly invisible.

Captain Wentworth carries the hurt of Anne's rejection for years and even if part of him wants to stay angry with Anne, when he sees her again, the old feelings come back. He doesn't let on at first, and even attempts to find a new match, but circumstances force him to deal with his feelings for Anne. He comes to realize that he cannot live without her and when he proposes this time, it is with a new respect for her and a deeper affection.

Though I really enjoy love-at-first sight stories, there is something about lost-love and friends-to-lovers stories that always get me. It's like the click of a key in the lock or the last puzzle piece being put into place.

What is your favorite reunion or lost love story from history or literature? 

*Answer in the comments to win a copy of my novella, Lady Northam's Wicked Surrender.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Take two aspirin ...

Navaho medicine man
Last week, I was researching painkillers for a story I'm working on. Long before antibiotics and anesthetics, even before laudunum, pioneers depended on plants and animals to treat injuries and illnesses. Unfamiliar with the plants and animals of the old west, the pioneers learned from the medicine men of Native American tribes nearby and passed their remedies down from generation to generation. Do any of these treatments actually work? Some of them have been proven to have scientific value, but I'm not about to experiment and see for myself. While I don't even know what some of the ingredients are in these "receipts", some are barbaric and gross (not to mention it's probably illegal to use them nowadays.

For influenza: Take one ounce of cinnamon, half ounce of coves, half ounce of hemlock bark, half ounce of gum arabic, mix all together in one quart of boiling water, take half teacupful, three or four times an hour, till you are in a profuse sweat, then take less as the occasion requires. make a mucilage of elm, or blue flag, and drink plentifully, also sweat the throat with sage and hops, bath the feet in saleratus, and vinegar, and keep warm. This is a good receipt and seldom fails. (Author's note: seems to me the cure is worse than the illness.)

For coughs: Take one ounce of meadow cabbage, one ounce of lobelia, half ounce of indian turnip, one fourth ounce of blood root, handful of hoarhound, one fourth ounce of elecampane, and the weight of the whole of purified honey, pulverize the ingredients and mix them up, and let the patient take what the stomach will bear, until well. (Note: anybody know how much a "whole of purified honey" weighs?)

For rheumatism: Take one ounce of cayenne pepper, four ounces of ginger, two ounces of cinnamon, two ounces of cloves, one ounce of gum guiacum, one ounce of gum myrrh, one gallon fourth proof spirits, let them stand by the fire ten days before bottling, then place them in corked vessels and take one wine glass full three times each day, before eating. Rubefacient for the surface, boil one pound of red pepper, in one gallon of vinegar and wash every night just going to bed, also wear flannel next to the skin continually. (Note: three glasses of booze every day and you wouldn't even notice the rheumatism, not to mention the lack of a social life from the smell.)

For cracked hands: In the first place wash your hands in warm water, then rub on common soap thoroughly, and scour yoru hands about two minutes with house ashes; then wash them again in warm water. This repeated a few times will effect a cure and keep the hands soft and pliable. (Note: to think I spend millions of dollars on hand lotion and all I need is ashes. Quick, light a fire.)

Ointment: Take four pounds of mice dung, pound them, and put them in a new pot glazed inside, add to it one pound of fresh butter; boil the whole during this time, and strain it through a linen, and in this liquid, put two ounces of turpentine, and finish boiling the whole. This is a wonderful ointment. (Note: first, eeeeeewwwww!! Second, how many mice would it take to come up with four pounds of dung? Can you say "eeeeekkkkkkkk?")

One thing is certain - modern medicine might not be perfect, but in the case of medical treatment, the "good old days" left a lot to be desired.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Nifty Little Purse - The Regency Reticule

One of the most common fashion accessory used by the Regency lady was the reticule--a small fabric pouch.  These dainty purses were made of fabric (net, silk, brocade, etc.)  and adorned with designs embroidered with silk or metallic threads. Some reticules were elaborately decorated with intricate stitching and beadwork. It was not uncommon to also include a tassel at the bottom as an added decoration.  Most used a drawstring closure or small clasp, the latter becoming popular toward the end of the era.  Reticules could be fashioned in fabrics to match a lady's gown or slippers and were often made at home.

Since these purses were small, they didn't hold a lot.  A proper lady might have carried a fan, a few coins, scent bottle, handkerchief or even a letter.

Prior to the reticule coming into fashion, valuables were carried in small 'pockets' sewn into a lady's gown.  The notion of carrying such items at your wrist, in public view, was considered absurd by some people, thus earning the reticule the name 'ridicule'. 

Below are three fashion plates showing reticules - two tasseled and one with what appears to be an embroidered design.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Anniversary of Canada's Titanic by Anna Markland

I have blogged about this tragedy before, but since the catastrophe of the Empress of Ireland occurred in the month of May 1914, I thought visitors who may not have heard the story before might be interested in reading about it.

On its 100th anniversary, the sinking of the Titanic continued to fascinate people around the world. But another shipwreck, almost equal in human tragedy, has slipped from popular memory, even though the vessel helped build modern Canada.

The Empress of Ireland sank in May 1914 in the St. Lawrence River after colliding with the Storstad, a Norwegian coal ship. A total of 1012 passengers and crew died, compared with the Titanic’s 1514.

The loss of the Empress of Ireland remains the largest maritime accident in Canadian history.

The Storstad After the Collision
Unlike the Titanic, which went down on its maiden voyage, the Empress of Ireland regularly plied the Atlantic Ocean. Between 1906 and her sinking, the Empress completed 95 round trips, mostly between Liverpool, England, and Halifax or Quebec City. She was one of two Canadian Pacific ships plying the Atlantic between the UK and Canada, bringing thousands of immigrants, most drawn by the prospect of free land on the Prairies.

For years, the remains of the Empress lay on the river bottom off Rimouski, Quebec, where it was picked over by souvenir hunting divers. It was designated a national historic site in 1988, but it wasn’t until 11 years later that the Quebec government tightened regulations to stop souvenir collecting. A small museum dedicated to the Empress now operates in Rimouski for half the year.

The Empress of Ireland played a huge role in forming modern Canada. It’s estimated approximately 500,000 Canadians are descendants of passengers who arrived on the ship. It is Canada’s Titanic.

The day before the tragic sinking, the Empress of Ireland had left Quebec City, bound for Liverpool. Sailing in fog, she was struck near Rimouski by the Storstad, which sliced an enormous gash in the starboard side of her hull. Water rushed in and the ship listed severely, allowing more water to rush in through open portholes. With the ship on its side, some survivors squeezed out of portholes on the opposite side of the ship. But most passengers were trapped inside and drowned. The ship sank in 14 minutes.

According to author Derek Grout in Empress of Ireland, The Story of an Edwardian Liner, those 14 minutes would make few people proud.

“There were no gentlemanly cries of ‘Women and children first!’ In the dark of night it was a free for all and surviving the sinking was a matter of luck at best.”

A board of inquiry would later blame the crew of the Storstad, but Norwegian authorities conducted their own investigation and disputed these findings. A Canadian documentary, The Last Voyage of the Empress, re-enacted the collision and concluded the fog was mostly to blame, but Empress Captain Henry Kendall was not without fault.

A salvage operation shortly after the collision recovered the ship’s mail and 212 bars of silver, worth about $1.1 million today.

Within months of the sinking, World War One was underway, and the thousands of men dying in the trenches every day soon overshadowed the casualties of the Empress of Ireland.

Some believe Canadian Pacific wanted to keep things quiet. With ships on the Atlantic, a railway and hotels spanning Canada, and more ships on the Pacific, it was possible to circumnavigate the globe without leaving the care of CP. The company was reluctant to air details of the sinking.

In 1971, David Brinnin, an American poet, literary critic and travel writer, dismissed the significance of the Empress of Ireland wreck. Brennin wrote that the dead were nothing better than “a lot of middle class Anglo-Saxons and a long roster of Salvation Army officers and executives from one end of Canada to the other.”

The Salvation Army was in fact devastated by the loss of many of its officers from Canada, and holds a memorial every year.

So in 1998, when maritime historian David Zeni published his book on the ship, he titled it The Forgotten Empress.

A few small tales have lived on. According to James Croall, writing in the 1978 book Fourteen Minutes, the ship’s cat, a yellow tabby “of doubtful antecedents”, fled down the gangway just as the ship was leaving. A steward ran after him and brought the cat back, but again the animal bolted and was left behind.

Efforts are underway to ensure that when the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland rolls around in 2014, Canadians will be more aware of this nationally important maritime disaster.

This story struck a small personal chord for me. Many years after this tragedy, I sailed to Canada as an immigrant aboard the CP’s Empress of England. We too left from Liverpool to Quebec City to begin a new life.

It also occurs to me this would be a great background story for a romance novel!

Anna Markland is the Canadian author of two medieval romance series, The Montbryce Legacy, and Sons of Rhodri. Book I of the Legacy, Conquering Passion, is still available for only 99 cents on Kindle.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What's In a Name, Anyway?

Since this is a blog on history and/or historical romance, I thought it pretty apt to give a little information about how my pen name came about because there is both historical and personal relivance to it for me. :) I'm still in the process of researching my father's side of the family, but I know much more about my mother's side. I take great pride in my families. It's so cool to imagine how they might've lived, loved, struggled and overcome obstacles of their time. I've even gotten ideas for books based on some things I've learned. They might seem insignificant, but there's a romance story everywhere if you look closely as I'll explain later. :)
My real name obviously, isn't Abbey MacInnis. It was actually my Mom who thought of it for me. :) Koodos to her for that. :)
Abbey MacInnis comes from the maiden names of my grandmothers, both born and raised in Canada, but who, for various reasons migrated to the Detroit area and found husbands and started families of their own. My mother's family come from Antigonish Nova Scotia. I have second and third cousins who live all throughout Canada. My grandmother was the youngest of seven. She came to the US to take care of her older sister who was ill. Antigonish was mostly a farming community in the 40's and earlier, so jobs were hard to find.
My father's mother's family came to Detroit pretty much for the same reason. The car industry was booming then. People from all over North America were coming to Detroit to find work.
Abbey comes from my father's side of the family. That side is British and German. I'm still trying to research my father's side of the family, but one story I recall hearing from my grandmother before she passed away was that a Great Great grandfather (not sure how far back it goes), came from England in the 1700's. He was a physician who helped settle the territory.
I know a bit more about the MacInnis side, my mother's family. :)
They came from Scotland and settled in Nova Scotia, which in essence means "New Scotland." They arrived in Canada in the 1800's. My Great Great Grandfather spoke Gaelic. This too, is something my grandmother, my mother's mother has shared with me, so it's led me to conclude that perhaps my Great Great Grandfather might've come from Scotland. Or that perhaps his father did. :)
Here's where it gets really cool. :) My Great Grandfather, (still on the MacInnis side), served in WWI. Here's an original wood-framed black and white photo of him in his uniform.

One story my grandmother told me was one she wasn't supposed to overhear, but even as a kid, my Grandma was awesome even then. :)
She overheard her father talking to someone that he saw a German soldier. He was supposed to kill him, but the man was praying, so he didn't. I thought that was very honorable. Turns out that the two men crossed paths in a church after the end of the war, both recognizing the other.
The war took a toll on my Great Grandfather. He'd traveled from England to France to Germany on foot. Obviously conditions in the trenches were horrible, but he survived and returned to Nova Scotia.
Here's where the romance of my very long post comes in. :) I don't know if my Great Grandfather courted his wife before or after he returned from the war. I'm going to write a book centered around this though. Only a lake separated my Great Grandfather and Mother from each other. So instead of walking around the lake, he'd swim over to court her. How cool is that? :)
They married and raised a family. The Casket was the local paper. My Great Grandfather was a contributor to it for several years. I like to think that's where I got my love for writing.
On my trip to Nova Scotia in 2000 for our family reunion, I actually visited the house where my Grandmother grew up, and the grave site where her family's buried. It was a trip I'll never forget, and one I hope to repeat during my lifetime.
I'm so happy to have shared the meaning behind my pen name with you. :) I feel I'm honoring both sides of my family, and am proud I have ancestors who fought for their happiness and freedom and who lived good lives. :)

Abbey MacInnis is a published author of Contemporary Western romance. Along with Contemporary, she writes Historical, Paranormal and erotic romance. Whether she’s being swept off her feet by a Medieval knight, regency rake, or cowboy or cop, her heroes are always strong men who’ll love their women unconditionally.
On most days, Abbey can be found at her computer, penning her latest tale. A tale where love, respect, and passion combine to create a satisfying and happy ending. She invites you to step in to the pages of her romances, to leave your worries behind and get swept up in her world.
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Friday, May 11, 2012

Move Over Baa Baa Black Sheep

There's a new hero in town! To my surprise, I learned that women flew planes for the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. Wow! This is a tribute to those brave women who stood against not only the enemy of our country, but who followed their hearts and stood strong when this country really was a man's world. 

The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) predecessors: The Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) organized separately in September 1942. And they were the pioneering organizations of the civilian female pilots, employed to fly military aircraft under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. The WFTD and WAFS were merged on August 5, 1943, to create the paramilitary WASP organization. The female pilots of the WASP ended up numbering 1,074, each freeing a male pilot for combat service and duties. They flew over 60 million miles in every type of military aircraft. The WASP was granted veteran status in 1977, and given the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
Twenty-five thousand women applied to join the WASP, but only 1,830 were accepted and took the oath. Out of these, only 1,074 of them passed the training and joined.

Move over Deanie Parish in front of P-47 Thunderbolt on the flight line at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, in 1944.
Take a look at this fabulous cover of Life Magazine. Shirley Slade, WASP trainee—Life magazine feature story.

How's this for a rag tag team? Photo by Lois Hailey, Class of 43–3 in January 1943—start of training

Frances Green, Margaret (Peg) Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn leaving their plane, "Pistol Packin' Mama," at the four-engine school at Lockbourne AAF, Ohio, during WASP ferry training B-17 Flying Fortress

Each WASP had a pilot's license. They were trained to fly "the Army way" by the U.S. Army Air Forces at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. More than 25,000 women applied for the WASP, and fewer than 1,900 were accepted. After completing four months of military flight training, 1,074 of them earned their wings and became the first women to fly American military aircraft.

However, the women were not trained for combat, their course of instruction was essentially the same as that for aviation cadets. The WASPs thus received no gunnery training, and very little formation flying and aerobatics, but went through the maneuvers necessary to be able to recover from any position. The percentage of trainees eliminated compared favorably with the elimination rates for male cadets in the Central Flying Training Command.

After training, the WASPs were stationed at 120 air bases across the U.S., assuming numerous flight-related missions, and relieving male pilots for combat duty. They flew sixty million miles of operational flights from aircraft factories to ports of embarkation and military training bases. They also towed targets for live anti-aircraft artillery practice, simulated strafing missions, and transported cargo. Women in these roles flew almost every type of aircraft flown by the USAAF during World War II. In addition, a few exceptionally qualified women were allowed to test rocket-propelled planes, to pilot jet-propelled planes, and to work with radar-controlled targets. Between September 1942 and December 1944, the WASP delivered 12,650 aircraft of 78 different types.

Thirty-eight WASP fliers lost their lives while serving during the war –- all in accidents -- eleven in training and twenty-seven on active duty. Because they were not considered military under the existing guidelines, a fallen WASP was sent home at family expense without traditional military honors or note of heroism. The army would not even allow the U.S. flag to be placed on the coffin of the fallen WASP.

All records of the WASP were classified and sealed for 35 years, so their contributions to the war effort were little known and inaccessible to historians. In 1975, under the leadership of Col. Bruce Arnold, son of General Hap Arnold, the WASP fought the "Battle of Congress" in Washington, D.C., to have the WASP recognized as veterans of World War II. They organized as a group again and tried to gain public support for their official veteran recognition. Finally in 1977, the records were unsealed after an Air Force press release erroneously stated the Air Force was training the first women to fly military aircraft for the U.S.

This time, the WASPs lobbied Congress with the important support of Senator Barry Goldwater, who himself had been a World War II ferry pilot in the 27th Ferry Squadron. President Jimmy Carter signed legislation #95–202, Section 401, The G.I. Bill Improvement Act of 1977, granting the WASP corps full military status for their service. In 1984, each WASP was awarded the World War II Victory Medal. Those who served for more than one year were also awarded American Theater Ribbon/American Campaign Medal for their service during the war. Many of the medals were accepted by the recipients' sons and daughters on their behalf. 

Because of the pioneering and the expertise they demonstrated in successfully flying military aircraft, the WASP records showed that women pilots, when given the same training as men pilots, were as capable as men in non-combat flying. 

On July 1, 2009 President Barack Obama and the United States Congress awarded the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal. Three of the roughly 300 surviving WASPs were on hand to witness the event. During the ceremony President Obama said, "The Women Airforce Service Pilots courageously answered their country's call in a time of need while blazing a trail for the brave women who have given and continue to give so much in service to this nation since. Every American should be grateful for their service, and I am honored to sign this bill to finally give them some of the hard-earned recognition they deserve."[16] On March 10, 2010, the 200 surviving WASPs came to the US Capitol to accept the Congressional Gold Medal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional leaders.

All I can say is "Wow." Well, I can add, "Thank you, ladies."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

We're Here ! -- Now What??? by Jennifer Jakes

So as promised, I'm continuing the post about the YUKON or KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH of 1897-1899. Today we're talking about the routes the men and women had to take - carrying their heavy loads of supplies listed last month.

Most prospectors landed in either the port of Dyea (Alaska) or Skagway (Alaska). They could then take either the Chilkoot or the White Pass trails to the Yukon River. Then they would sail down-stream to the Klondike *We'll discuss water travel next time. If the men landed in winter, then the freezing rivers meant they didn't get to the gold fields until summer. Out of nearly 100,000 gold seekers, only between 30,000 and 40,000 of the stampeders made it to the Klondike.
Waiting for spring thaw at Bennett Lake, 1898
The people who landed at Skagway had to make their way over White Pass before traveling to Bennett Lake. The trail started with a gentle-enough slope, but it progressed over several mountains with narrow paths, the wider parts covered with boulders and sharp rocks. So many of the horses that were used to help carry all the supplies died, the men named the ravine area Dead Horse Gulch, and the route Dead Horse Trail. But what if you couldn't afford a horse? Especially if you'd heard the stories of Dead Horse Trail! Well, men divided up their belongings into bundles that could be carried -- or into heavier loads that could still be pulled by hand on a sled. But no way was 1 man pulling or carrying the 1000 lbs of supplies. So what did he do? He walked back and forth, moving a little at a time. A prospector would end up making about thirty round trips, a distance of at least 2,500 miles before he had moved all of his supplies over the pass and to the end of the trail.
Those whose ship made port at Dyea traveled the Chilkoot Trail. They had to cross the Chilkoot Pass to reach Lake Lindemann, which fed Lake Bennett located at the head of the Yukon River. Chilkoot Pass was higher than the White Pass, but for whatever reason, more people used it.The trail passed up through camps until it reached a flat ledge. This was just before the main climb; beyond this point the route was too steep for animals. (Makes me wonder what they did with their horses if they had them?) Anyway, this point was known as the Scales, where supplies were weighed before stampeders could enter Canada. (Customs, anyone? Do you have anything to claim?) It could take as much as a whole day to climb the 1,000 feet of the pass, back and forth, carrying small bundles or pulling your sled. Packers were men you could pay to carry or help carry your supplies. . But....they could charge up to $1 * $27 now* PER POUND !!

Avalanches were common up in the mountains. On April 3, 1898, an avalanche claimed the lives of more than 80 people travelling over Chilkoot Pass.
Next time we'll talk about the various other land routes and the sometimes deadly water routes to the GOLD!!!
Visit Jennifer Jakes at her WEBSITE or her BLOG

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Good Medieval Wife

One of my favorite research books is The Good Wife's Guide: Le Menagier de Paris, A Medieval Household Book. This book was translated by Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose, but was originally written in the medieval era as a tool for wives.

I thought I would share with a few guidelines about being a good medieval wife... How do you add up?

  • Arise at daybreak and say your prayers. Take care with dressing and doing your hair so that no one will mock you.
  • When traveling to town or church, make sure you are suitably accompanied by your gentlewomen--and avoid the company of those that would be considered suspect. In other words, don't ride to town alone with a man who is not your husband, or even a woman with a bad reputation.
  • Attend mass daily and go to confession often. When you're at church--do not look at anyone or anything other than your prayer book and or Jesus.
  • Care for your husband's person. This means making sure he has clean linens, removing his shoes before a fire, making sure he has plenty of food and drink and be sure to lay out his clothes the following morning.
  • If your rooms are infested with flies, hang sprigs of ferns from the ceiling so they will settle there. To kill them mix milk and hare's gall bladder in a bowl, those pesky flies who drink it will perish.
  • Do not assume authority or command over your husband, else he fell you with one hand.
  • Keep your husbands secrets.
  • Remain chaste--or else... Some rather vulgar and scary stories to scare women from cheating... One in particular about a woman who was impaled through the groin on a post.
  • The book also teaches woman how to prepare menus, down to ordering meat from butcher shops and how it should be prepared and multiple dishes to serve and how to arrange them.
  • Do not abandon your heart to any of the Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath, Greed, Lust, Sloth, Pride, Envy and Gluttony. Instead, capitulate to Humility, Devoutness, Magnanimity, Contemplation, Fear of the Lord, Gentleness, Pity, Justice, Modesty and Equity.
Would you make a good medieval wife? In reality, if I were living during this time period, my answer would be NO. I'd probably be whipped daily, starved and a horde of other atrocious things because I am a total independent control freak, lol. But I am surprised to see that most of the guidelines are things women do now anyways, including myself. I arise at daybreak. I take care of my household. I avoid the Seven Sins. I'm a vegetarian so I avoid the meat market... but I do get fly traps if we ever get any during the summer, and I do keep my husbands secrets. 

I'd love to give away a signed copy of my medieval romance, A LADY'S CHARADE, to one lucky commenter (US & Canada only). Leave a comment to win! I will draw names on Friday.

From across a field of battle, English knight, Alexander, Lord Hardwyck, spots the object of his desire—and his conquest, Scottish traitor Lady Chloe. 

Her lies could be her undoing…

Abandoned across the border and disguised for her safety, Chloe realizes the man who besieged her home in Scotland has now become her savior in England. Her life in danger, she vows to keep her identity secret, lest she suffer his wrath, for he wants her dead. 

Or love could claim them both and unravel two countries in the process…

Alexander suspects Chloe is not who she says she is and has declared war on the angelic vixen who's laid claim to his heart. A fierce battle of the minds it will be, for once the truth is revealed they will both have to choose between love and duty.

Eliza Knight is the multi-published author of sizzling historical romance and erotic romance. Visit her at or

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pirates, Privateers, and a Historical Romance Giveaway

I’m going to talk a bit about what I think is a very fun subject, pirates. My upcoming release from Total E-Bound is a collaboration with the wonderfully talented KyAnn Waters. An Improper Wife is a Georgian Historical set in 1798. Our heroine Lady Caroline Wilmont is the niece of British privateer Phillip Etherton, who was also the infamous pirate Peiter Everston.

For those who may not be certain of the difference between privateer and pirate, here’s the perfect definition of privateer from Wikepedia:

A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers. They disrupted commerce and pressured the enemy to deploy warships to protect merchant trade against commerce raiders. The cost was borne by investors hoping to profit from prize money earned from captured cargo and vessels.

As for pirates, we all know that they were men who attacked ships and took their booty. In essence, privateering was government sanctioned pirating, though, unlike pirating, the ships were not to be sunk, and crewmembers were to be taken hostage, not killed. All goods taken while privateering was booty of the government for whom the privateer worked. Not surprisingly, many privateers didn’t turn over the booty to their government, or they simply pirated on the side. ROFL. Talk about moonlighting!
Now, governments didn’t so easily give up their share of the booty.

The letter of marque of a privateer typically limited activity to a specific area and to the ships of specific nations. Typically, the owners or captain would be required to post a performance bond against breaching these conditions, or they might be liable to pay damages to an injured party.
So, if the government caught you breaking the contract, they imposed fines.

Would it surprise you to learn that the United States employed privateers?

During the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress and some state governments (on their own initiative), issued privateering licenses, authorizing "legal piracy", to merchant captains in an effort to take prizes from the British Navy and Tory (Loyalist) privateers. This was done due to the relatively small number of commissioned American naval vessels and the pressing need for prisoner exchange.

About 55,000 American seamen served aboard the privateers. They quickly sold their prizes, dividing their profits with the financier (persons or company) and the state (colony). Long Island Sound became a hornets' nest of privateering activity during the American Revolution, as most transports to and from New York went through the Sound. New London, Connecticut was a chief privateering port for the American colonies, leading to the British Navy blockading it in 1778-1779. 

Between the end of the Revolutionary War and 1812, less than 30 years, Britain, France, Naples, the Barbary States, Spain, and the Netherlands seized approximately 2,500 American ships.
During the War of 1812. the British attacked Essex, Connecticut, and burned the ships in the harbor, due to the construction there of a number of privateers. This was the greatest financial loss of the entire War of 1812 suffered by the Americans.

One other very interesting tidbit about privateering and the U.S.

No letter of marque has been legitimately issued by the United States since the nineteenth century. The status of submarine hunting Goodyear airships in the early days of the second world war has created significant confusion. According to one story, the United States Navy issued a Letter of Marque to the Airship Resolute on the West Coast of the United States at the beginning of World War II, making it the first time the US Navy commissioned a privateer since the War of 1812. However, this story, along with various other accounts referring to the airships Resolute and Volunteer as operating under a "privateer status", is highly dubious. Since neither the Congress nor the President appears to have authorized a privateer during the war, the Navy would not have had the authority to do so by itself.

There is so much history here that I could go on for pages. But I won’t! Hopefully, you had a bit of fun in reading about privateers and pirates. I know there’s a book in here somewhere for me. (But that’s not surprising for a writer, is it?)

Btw, for any who may wonder if women played any part in pirating, take a look at Charlotte Badger and Catherine Hagerty.

Felon Charlotte Badger and convict Catherine Hagerty were among other convicts who seized the colonial brig called Venus while it was docked at Port Dalrymple so that the captain could attend to some business delivering official dispatches.

A proper young lady should never attend a Masque...Aphrodite is no lady.

Betrothal to the callous Lord Blackhall painted a future devoid of love. Upon his death, Lady Caroline Wilmont is promised to the younger brother. Caroline refuses to allow her first taste of desire to be at the hands of a man who would rather have any woman but her. This, her last night of freedom, is to be a memory of lust that she can take with her throughout her loveless marriage. As Aphrodite, Caroline attends a masque determined to find a man to initiate her into the intimacies of erotic love.

Taran Robertson, Viscount of Blackhall, makes no secret that he despises his obligation to marry the Sassenach heiress chosen for him by his father. As a last foray before his wedding, he attends a masque. However, the spirited vixen he meets and seduces has secrets...secrets that just may reveal he’s to have an improper wife.


If you would like a digital copy of An Improper Wife, leave a comment. I'll choose a winner on Monday, May 7.