When you were a teen, what did you plan for your life’s work? Is that even close to the profession you actually have? One of the things I wanted was to be a newspaper reporter—a goal I achieved much later. Like women of my fictional character Lorraine Stuart’s day, I was assigned “soft” or “fluff” reporting: weddings, theater, city council meetings (yawn), and human interest. I especially loved the human interest stories. Unlike Lorraine, I was content with my job. In fact, I loved it and the interesting people I met through reporting.
Lorraine Stuart, heroine of Bride Brigade book six, wanted to write. She worked as a librarian while writing and submitting work for publication. To increase the likelihood of having her stories published, she used the pseudonym L. S. Truharte.
In 1873 when this series is set, a woman might be published in fiction, such as Louisa Mae Alcott. She might also be published for recipes and household advice. In general, women were not considered for serious news reporting or for magazine stories. Using a pseudonym increased the possibility of a woman’s work being accepted for publication.
One of the outlets Lorraine found was Frank Leslie’s Monthly Magazine and his weekly newspaper. Although Lorraine Stuart is a fictional character, Frank Leslie is not. His publications were popular across the nation. In reality, Mr. Leslie accepted stories from women. However, writing using initials instead of a gender-revealing name increased the chance of reaching publication and reader acceptance.
In the 1880s, a woman achieved change for newspaper reporting. Nellie Bly was the pen name of American journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane. She was a ground-breaking investigative reporter—the kind of work Lorraine Stuart craved.
In my opinion, the most chilling of Nellie Bly’s reporting was an exposé in which she took an undercover assignment for Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper, The New York World. She agreed to feign insanity and be incarcerated to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island. After ten days, Bly was released from the asylum at The New York World's behest. Her report, later published in book form as TEN DAYS IN A MAD-HOUSE, caused a sensation and brought her lasting fame.
TEN DAYS IN A MAD-HOUSE also brought about changes in the care of the insane by the Department of Charities and Corrections and new regulations concerning the examination of patients to insure only the genuinely mentally ill went to the asylum. Nellie Bly was also known for an 1889 record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days, in emulation of Jules Verne's fictional character Phileas Fogg from AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS.
Lorraine Stuart longed for recognition of her work, although she didn’t want to go to Nellie Bly’s lengths in investigative reporting. Like me, she wanted her stories to be read and appreciated. (As a writer, most of my characters include a bit of me.)
Grant Pettigrew, like newspapermen of his time, believed women could only report gardening, social events, and recipes. Actually, he’s a very good man but stubborn about changing his mind and representative of his time. He’s invested much of his savings and a great deal of sweat in his newspaper and can’t afford to pay for anyone to work for him—or so he thinks.
Here’s the summary of LORRAINE, Bride Brigade 6:
How to escape marriage to an odious man . . .
Leave the state!
Lorraine Stuart joins a group of women traveling to Tarnation, Texas, a town with numerous bachelors but no unmarried women. She longs to meet a man who will admire her and the writing ability that has her published in several publications, by a pseudonym, of course. Just her luck, out of all those in Tarnation, she falls for the most stubborn man she’s ever met. But the handsome newspaper owner is the only one who makes her heart flutter.
Grant Pettigrew has worked hard to establish the Tarnation Gazette. He is intrigued by Lorraine but he won’t let a woman write for his newspaper. Besides, he can’t afford to hire anyone yet. The redhead is gorgeous and ignites dreams of family, but he’s never met a more obstinate woman.
Will two immovable forces join to form a forever love?
Here’s an excerpt from the reception at which Lorraine and Grant first conversed:
[Lorraine is speaking] “Apparently I came at a good time. I hope to be settled in my own home long before the railroad arrives.”
[Grant answers] “I’m sure you will be if that’s your wish. With only seven women and sixteen men plus others in town, you’ll be wed in no time.”
She hoped so. “Only if I find the right man. Other people may marry for fondness or merely to have a companion, but I’m going to hold out for love.”
“Guess that’s what most of you young ladies want.” A wistful expression crossed his face. “I wouldn’t mind falling in love myself. With the odds against me, I’d probably fall for a woman who’s interested in someone else.”
She took his arm as they walked back to the house. “Aw, poor Mr. Pettigrew. You look so downtrodden that I almost feel sorry for you. Almost.”
He smiled down at her. “Have a care, Miss Stuart. You’ll hurt my sensitive feelings.”
“Hmm, why do I doubt you?”
When they entered the house, several men had left and others were bidding goodbye.
Mr. Pettigrew bowed to her. “I apologize for monopolizing you, but I enjoyed the time we spent together.”
A man she thought might be Zane Evans clapped Mr. Pettigrew on the shoulder. “We’ve almost outstayed our welcome, Grant.”
Lorraine watched as the two friends said goodbye to their hostess before leaving.
Prudence stopped beside her. “You certainly spent a lot of time with that one man. He must have been interesting.”
“Yes, but also annoying. He thinks women can’t write for publication without gushing adjectives.”
Prudence giggled. “What a thing to say to you of all people.”
Casting a look around, Lorraine pulled her aside. “Shhh. You’re the only one here besides Lydia who knows.”
“I don’t understand why you want to keep your success a secret. I’d be telling everyone if I’d published stories in Frank Leslie’s Magazine and Frank Leslie’s Weekly Newspaper plus the New York Times and other places. Heavens, I’m rooming with a celebrity.”
Lorraine tapped a finger against her chin. “I need a way to prove to that man I’m a good writer. Just wait until he reads something of mine and doesn’t know a woman wrote it.”
“I expect he has, don’t you? I’ll bet he subscribes to both of the Frank Leslie publications. Wouldn’t it be funny to find out he enjoyed a story before he learned you wrote it?”
Lorraine only smiled in answer, but she shared Prudence’s opinion. She’d bet Grant Pettigrew had read many stories by women and didn’t realize he had. Like her, many other women used initials or a man’s name as a pseudonym. She wondered if Mr. Pettigrew had read L. S. Trueharte’s work.
If you haven’t read this series, I hope you will. Writing the story of the seven women and their hostess has been a pleasure. On Friday, August 25, the last of the series, PRUDENCE, will be released! In the meantime, here’s the buy link for LORRAINE: http://a.co/2kNIctF
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