Thursday, September 25, 2014

Origins of Women's Rights in America

             We’ve all heard of feminists and women’s rights over the years. But most people do not realize just how early in America’s history women began to argue for equal rights between men and women. Indeed, even Wikipedia fails to give justice where just is due as to America’s contribution to Women's Rights in their article on the topic. (Please note, I'm sure there are more authoritative sites, but for this purpose, Wikipedia serves...)
            In fact, Judith Sargent Murray provided one of the first American voices in this debate. Back when I was studying for my Master’s in English, I came across her essay, “On the Equality of the Sexes,” which was first published in Massachusetts in 1790, though written years earlier. Her claim that women should have equal education as men sparked many ideas in my brain! One such idea was a group of three 18th century women who decided to not marry but provided for themselves. The result is my new A More Perfect Union series, with Emily’s Vow and Amy’s Choice releasing in the next few weeks!
            Emily Sullivan vows to not marry because she fears dying in childbirth (keep in mind the difficulties women faced with regard to contraception, especially when children were vital to running a household). She decides to write comportment essays, championing ideas similar to Murray’s, and to persuade her father to help her secure a shop where she can sell embroidered accessories. Neither option meets with approval by her father, who wants her to marry patriot spy Frank Thomson, the man Emily wishes to avoid at all costs in order to protect her heart. When she lands in trouble due to her father’s privateering, Frank must choose whether to save her or complete his mission.
            Amy Abernathy is a renowned storyteller whose heart shattered when the love of her life slipped out of town without saying goodbye. Never mind Benjamin Hanson had a very good reason, to serve as the Continental army, she never wanted to face such pain again. When he returns suddenly, she flees the town to help her sister in her confinement, only to end up kidnapped by renegades and relying upon Benjamin to rescue her. Only she ends up rescuing the other women in the manor house under attack along with him when he faces the wrong end of a renegade’s rifle.
            Meanwhile, Samantha McAlester must prove her midwifery and healing talents are as successful as young Dr. Trent Cunningham’s medical techniques and practices. But she’s nursing not only Benjamin’s recalcitrant infected gunshot wound but a secret that threatens to undermine her reputation and thus acceptance by the townspeople. All while Trent rocks her confidence and her emotional equilibrium. Can they find a way to work together to cure Benjamin before it’s too late?
            Each of these women possesses an inner strength challenged by the difficult circumstances and restrictions placed upon them by social mores and expectations. Those limits were very different then from what women today work within. In part, we must thank our early American female ancestors for speaking up and beginning the long, weary march toward feminism and women’s lib, on to the means for breaking various “glass ceilings” during our own lifetimes.
            In that vein, I’m reminded how my own parents bucked tradition in the late 1960s to 1970s with their chosen careers. My mother worked as an accountant for Koester Bakery in Baltimore and then for a bakers and tobacco workers union in Kensington, Maryland. My father, in contrast, had a photography studio and a couple of apartments he rented out on our property, so he worked from home, took care of the yard, made dinner every evening, and was there when I came home from school to keep an eye on me. (Not an easy job, from what I hear!)
           Do you have a story to share about how the evolving changes in women’s rights impacted your life? What other changes are desired or needed to make women definitively equal to men as far as equal opportunities and rights? Talk to me and I’ll choose one commenter to win a signed copy of Emily’s Vow (digital or paperback, winner’s choice)!

Also, I’m looking forward to the Southern Magic Reader’s Luncheon on November 1, and hope you’ll consider joining us for a fun and book-filled day! Here’s more info for you on that great event!

            For the month of September, Southern Magic celebrates their Readers Luncheon being held November 1 in Birmingham, AL. NYT bestselling author Sylvia Day is the keynote speaker.  Come back and visit every day. Each post will be giving away a book or gift card! At the end of the blogfest, a grand prize winner of a Kindle Fire HD will be picked from everyone who comment during the month and be announced September 30.
            To register for the luncheon, go to Each attendee will receive a bag of books and author swag, sit at a table with one or two published authors, and opportunities to win baskets full of goodies.

And please, stay in touch via social media or, better yet, subscribe to my newsletter, Betty’s Broadside, at As a thank you, each quarter I’ll draw one name at random to win a gift. And most important, I promise to not overload your inbox, but only send out a broadside when there is news worth sharing.

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Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!


Rita Bay said...

Great stories allow. Certainly not your usual story.
When I was in my early 20s, I couldn't get a loan to buy a home because I was a woman, even though I was an RN with a good job. A female bank officer (one of the first at that bank) went to bat for me and I got the loan and paid off the house in three years. The last straw? When I sold the house years later, my husband had to sign the papers also, even though the house was paid for before I met him. Laughable now, but it put women at a tremendous disadvantage at the time.

Rita Bay said...

That should be great stories all. Sorry!

Charlotte said...

When I was a child I didn't know anything about equal rights for women. At our house mama worked right along beside daddy in the fields,shingling the roof,cutting hogs and the numerous other chores required on a small farm to feed thirteen children. Daddy helped her with the domestic chores like cooking and laundry, tending the needs of the children etc. My siblings and I pretty much grew up with the learned truth, if you want to eat and have a roof over your head you work, no matter the job description.All of us inherited both the masculine and feminine characteristics from our parents. It was later in school when I learned the plight of women to exist in a man's world. I look back through our family history and and admire a long line of very strong, brave and independent women. Perhaps it was the area and time in which these women lived that called for team work on the part of their husbands, or could be the Irish red hair or the Creek and Cherokee black hair coming out. I am very grateful for those who came before who fought for women's right. Your books sound wonderful can't wait to read. I just started reading "Traces". Best Wishes.

Betty Bolte said...

Rita, I can appreciate the frustration of being denied the loan and then having to get a second signature by your husband in order to sell it when you bought it. Hopefully, that was more a matter of showing he agreed so there wasn't any legal contention later. Thanks for your comment!

Charlotte, it sounds like you grew up in a strong, loving family all right! I do think that different cultures, like your Creek and Cherokee heritage, have different views of women and their roles. That's a very good point! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy Traces!

bn100 said...

No stories to share

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Betty Bolte said...

Winner!!!! Rita Bay! Woo hoo! Please send me an email at with your preference of a digital or paperback of Emily's Vow. As soon as it's available, I'll send it your way.

Shadow said...

Fantastic sounding stories! Ive always liked looking into our history on all that women have accomplished. I still believe were a bit away from being true equals with men. I grew up with two parents who were believes that there was no such thing as a woman or mans place. My parents were great with sharing household chores, working, raising us kids. I never quite realized sexism till my dads father came to live with us. Boy, he was an ass! Hes definitely an old soul who believed women had a place behind the stove. He tried forcing my brother to do manly chores and my sister and i to do womens. Lets just say we gave him a "what for" and he left soon after. lol Im a firm believer that everyone should be treated equally. My parents definitely raised us right. Thanks for sharing! Definitely gonna check out your books!