Meet Abigail from Jane Kirkpatrick’s Something Worth Doing

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today. I’m happy to be here too! I travel a lot despite the stagecoach discomforts, the sometimes-smelly trains and of course, on horseback and walking, so it’s nice to have a little respite here with you today and put my tired feet up. Thanks for asking me to stop by.

Tell us something about where you live. I live in Oregon but I was born in Illinois and crossed the Oregon Trail in 1852 with my parents and siblings. I was asked to keep the diary of our crossing (I was 16 and love words!) and later I used the diary to help me write my very first novel. I’ve written over 20! My husband and six children have lived on farms (one I named Hardscrabble and it was!) and then we moved to Lafayette, Oregon where I taught school and later Albany, Oregon where I ran a millinery and owned a school and then Portland where I was one of the few women in the country to start and operate a newspaper supporting women’s rights for 17 years. We lived on a ranch in Idaho for a time too. We Duniways did get around, sometimes because of poor choices we made.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name? My name is Abigail Jane Scott Duniway. My family called me Jenny. I never knew why my parents gave me that name but my mother did admire Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, a signer of the Constitution and later President of the US. Perhaps she indirectly affected my life with that name as women and the rights of other minorities became my life’s calling in response to Micah’s question what does the Lord require?  “To seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with my God.”  I have to work on the humbly part though. That name, Abigail, gave me a sound base from which to seek justice for women.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work? My most important occupation is being a faithful wife and mother. But my calling is to help the downtrodden especially women. My husband and I both felt strongly that helping women get the vote would be the best way of helping women deal with the way the laws discriminate against us. There are laws forcing us to turn over our egg money to husbands or fathers who may well drink it up; or making us pay the debts of fathers and husbands who deserted us. Or not being able to take jobs to support our families because we’re women or like my sister, who was widowed, becoming a teacher but who got paid half of the previous teacher – who was a man. My work of fighting for women’s rights is invigorating, frustrating, inspiring, draining but most of all rewarding.  I get to travel to other states and territories, speak before legislatures; listen to the stories women tell me about their lives. Sometimes I go to court with them. Sometimes I visit them in prisons to offer hope. I also write for a living: novels, articles and then editing my newspaper.

I have a full plate. Novels are considered ideal ways to change people’s hearts and minds so writing them an hour at a time at 4:00am before I get ready to serve the boarding house girls who live with us and then off to work on the paper or off to give a speech, or listen to my one daughter Clara Belle play the piano while I’m stitching a dress for the millinery – I rarely have a minute to myself. In your time, you’d call me a workaholic I guess. In my time, I was often considered strident, maybe a little pushy, but absolutely passionate about my cause to change the lives of women for the better. By the way, I traveled around the Northwest with the famous suffragist Susan B. Anthony and she camped with my family at the Oregon State Fair in 1871. Now that was an adventure!

Who are the special people in your life? My mother was…but she died on the trail along with my youngest brother. Both of Cholera. My mother hadn’t wanted to go west but my father had the bug as they called it. She gave birth to 12 children and I think she was weakened on the journey. She told me once that she was sorry I was a girl because girls had such hard lives. She inspired me to do what I could to make girls’ lives easier.

The other special person in my life is my husband Ben. He is the kindest of men, generous, puts up with me. He invented a washing machine! He has a beautiful singing voice and he’s the diplomatic one who has to smooth over his wife’s sometimes intemperate tongue. I wrote a column for awhile called “The Farmer’s Wife” that was funny and pointed about martial life etc. It was published widely in Oregon and surrounding territories. Sometimes he was the brunt of my stories and he never complained. He was also badly injured in a horse accident and his chronic back pain affected our lives. But he was always there for the family when I traveled and was sometimes gone for months at a time, he was the father and mother of the household. I never could have accomplished what I did without his support.

I have friends, too, of course. Shirley is one such friend though she lives in California. I get to see her on my buying trips for the millinery. And we are both suffragists. And my children are incredibly special to me. One girl and five “potential voters.” I know, I can be a bit much about the voting. 😊

Do you have a cherished possession? My mother’s earrings. I had my friend Shirly and two of my sisters pierce my ears on the trail after my mother died. It was a way of stating I would try new things despite the pain, especially if it meant working on behalf of women trying to make a woman’s life better. It was how I keep her with me and honor her life.

What do you expect the future will hold for you? A big challenge I have is convincing my brother – who is the editor of the largest newspaper in the Northwest and my business competitor– that he should support the right for women to vote. My newspaper, The New Northwest, strongly supports that effort and we have our first vote (only men get to vote!) in 1883. Pretty exciting. My sisters and I are meeting with Harvey, the only surviving boy in our family, to try to convince him to endorse the petition. If the vote fails, we will keep trying. That’s what my future holds – working on behalf of women getting the vote. Falling down and getting up again.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story? I confess, I have a hard time learning from past mistakes. I work at it, I do. And I’ve discovered that I am at times envious of my brother and others who seem to have an easier life which is not very Christian of me. I have come to see though, that it’s in the challenges that we discover who we really are. I’ve had a rich, full life and while I always thought I’d want easier days, when we moved to the ranch in Idaho and I had all the time in the world to rest and write, I found myself missing the excitement of what I called “the still hunt” working for rights without losing my femininity or credibility as a woman. I never participated in a parade or rumbled through a saloon decrying men. I worked quietly and encouraged the same in the organizations I helped start and run. I have few regrets and that to me means a great deal as I grow older. And I can see looking back that it was in the trials that I discovered who I really was.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you? At a time when women were not supposed to be public, I began giving speeches.  I gave more than 1500 in my lifetime from New York to California and in between. Some of them are now posted on this thing called the internet. I never read them when I delivered them, hough I wrote them out. But my passion for the subject enabled me to talk for more than an hour, inspiring, encouraging and praising the work of women as wives, mothers, daughters, workers. You can read some of them at www.asduniway.org

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better! It’s my pleasure! I love chatting with people. I hope you’ll find my story Something Worth Doing worthy of your time. I 

About the Author 

Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of more than thirty books, including One More River to CrossEverything She Didn’t SayAll Together in One PlaceA Light in the WildernessThe Memory WeaverThis Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have won the WILLA Literary Award, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award. Jane divides her time between Central Oregon and California with her husband, Jerry, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Caesar. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com

Meet Mary Sullivan from Jane Kirkpatrick’s One More River to Cross

In 1844, the Stevens-Murphy company left Missouri hoping to be the first wagons into California. Mostly Irish Catholic, they sought religious freedom and education. All went well—until October when a heavy snowstorm forced the party to separate in four directions. Each group risked losing those they loved as they planned their escapes, waited for rescue . . . or even their own deaths.

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Thank you!  The men and women in this story chose me to be the main speaker today. I’m Mary Sullivan, but you should know that there are nine other women who are a part of this amazing story based on real people and a real incident in 1844-45.

Tell us something about where you live.

So, where do I live?  I lived in Canada before heading west and I spent a grueling winter in the Sierra Nevadas. Now I live in California but getting there wasn’t easy! This story is set mostly, though, in the mountains. Now the pass where we wintered is known as Donner Pass. A couple of years later that disastrous party had a terrible time. We were there before them in an equally terrible winter near Lake Tahoe but we had a very different outcome.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name? 

Many in my family were named Mary or derivatives of Mary like Maolisa. One of my fellow travelers bore that name. It has an Irish connection which most of us on this Stephens-Murphy-Townsend wagon train have. Many, like Maolisa Murphy, came from Ireland to Canada then to Missouri and finally to those incredible mountains in the west. We all wanted a new life and an opportunity to worship freely in what was known as Alta California.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work? 

 Like most women of my time, I am a homemaker and had to make adjustments in being my mother’s helper after she and my father died of dysentery just days before we headed west from Iowa. My brother John and two little brothers and I were left orphans.  John, however, wanted me to be sure I behaved like a proper lady. But my real skills are not in knitting or cooking but in working with the oxen and in solving problems and using my physical strength like walking long miles in snowshoes to reach help.  Women can do those things and still be a lady. And I love to read and I helped another young woman — a wife — learn to read. Very gratifying. So is making sure my little brothers have night time stories of encouragement and faith

Who are the special people in your life? 

My brother John who is two years older than me and my two little brothers ages eight and ten. I’m a little shy but because of this journey I’d made new friends including Sarah and Ailbe and Ellen and Mrs. Patterson and…and then I also met Peter. That’s a whole new story!

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

I want to make my mother proud even though she isn’t on this earth anymore. And I want to do that by being true to myself, by speaking up and offering ideas even when others might say a woman should be silent. I also want to keep my brothers and the other children who are waiting for rescue to trust that they are not alone. I want to keep their spirits up.

What are you most afraid of? 

That we will die here in these mountains before I have a chance to live.

Do you have a cherished possession? 

The Aron wool sweater that Sarah showed me how to knit. I took apart the sweater my mother made for me to learn how to do this “womanly” thing, to make my mother pleased that I did learn a woman’s art.

What do you expect the future will hold for you? 

I may not be able to wait for rescue but rather will start out to bring a rescue team to us. The risk is great but I will do what I must for my brothers and my friends.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story? 

Oh my goodness!  I’ve learned that friendships are the fuel that keep us warm in time of trials. I’ve discovered that leadership involves listening more than talking. I’ve witnessed the power of faith in struggle and how helping others in a challenging time is a way to help oneself. I’ve also come to accept that I can be different from other women — liking the outdoors more than cooking and sewing, being physically strong and still be a lady. I also realize that tending and befriending is a better response to stress than fight or flight!

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you? 

I was in the background when this story began. Ellen Murphy, a real beauty, was important in this story of One More River to Cross  but she chose a different route out of this winter deluge. Then Maolisa was pretty important because she didn’t realize that she was about to deliver a baby. Now there’s a story! She thought she had another two months! Then Sarah Montgomery’s story took front stage as she came to terms with being abandoned by her husband who stayed behind to guard his weapons. At one point, all the women had moments of abandonment. I came to love each of these women (and a couple more I haven’t even told you about). When we shared things like where our feet had taken us or how we prepared a memorable meal, all ways to help us deal with starvation and the cold and the eight feet of snow, and our fears, I realized how tragedy had brought me into a family of women whom I didn’t know I needed. Now, when things get difficult I pray and I reach out to friends who help to support and sustain me until I can hear God calling me to a new direction. 

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of more than 30 books, including Everything She Didn’t SayAll She Left BehindA Light in the Wilderness,The Memory WeaverThis Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have won the WILLA Literary Award, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Jane lives in Central Oregonwith her husband, Jerry. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com.

Book Review: Everything She Didn’t Say by Jane Kirkpatrick

Everything She Didn’t Say

by Jane Kirkpatrick
Revell, 978-0-8007-2701-7
September 2018

Reviewed by Cindy Thomson
Everything She Didn't Say-Book Cover
Jane Kirkpatrick’s newest novel is based on the diaries of Carrie Strahorn, a woman who during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century accompanied her railroad employee husband as he wrote promotion for westward settlers and later helped him build several new towns when he became an investor. Carrie wrote her own published pieces for magazines along with her account of their adventures in the American West.

It’s hard to imagine how pioneers grappled with establishing settlements in deserts, and the accounts of how they rode on stage coaches in Indian territory very much exposed with little to defend themselves with gave me shivers. Carrie’s longing for a family and how she resolved issues in her marriage made her a character readers will root for, even though modern readers can’t truly relate to the magnitude of her struggles.

Kirkpatrick takes the view that Strahorn probably gave a tidy version of her experiences in her memoir and in letters to her family, so she imagined what life had really been like for her based on historical accounts. There were parts of Carrie’s actual writings that do give the reader the idea that she’s not telling the whole story. These appear at the end of the chapters and are what Kirkpatrick built upon. The author is a master at this kind of storytelling. I’m a Jane Kirkpatrick fan. I love how she brings life to real historical figures, people that I probably never would have learned about if I hadn’t read her novels. The historical notes at the end of the book are not to be missed.

It did take me awhile to get into this story. If that’s the case for you, I recommend you keep reading. For me the pace really picked up in the last third of the book. The problem sometimes with telling the story of a real-life person is that there any many things that occur during a lifetime, and some of those things don’t move the story along at a pace fiction readers expect, and yet they really happened so the author wants to include them. Overall, I enjoyed the story. If you are a historical fiction fan, and it’s likely the readers of this blog are, I think you will enjoy Everything She Didn’t Say.

I was given a review copy by the publisher with no obligation to post a review. I have given my honest opinion.

Meet Carrie Strahorn from Jane Kirkpatrick’s Everything She Didn’t Say

Everything She Didn't Say-Book CoverName:  Carrie Adell Green Strahorn

Parents: Dr. John W and Louisa Babcock Green

Siblings:  Mary Green Waters (older); Hattie Green

Places lived: Too many to mention!  Born in Marengo, IL.  We did have permanent homes for only short times in Omaha, NE; Caldwell, ID and Spokane, WA. But we lived in Denver, Bellingham, San Francisco, Butte, Cheyenne, etc.

Jobs: companion of railroad promoting husband traveling the west to identify locations for the Union Pacific Railroad to bring their tracks to. I wrote articles/letters for newspapers back east and had a pen name of A.Stray.  That’s a story in itself, don’t you think? I also helped start a Presbyterian church which was the work of my life.

Friends: My husband Robert and my sisters are my closest friends. It’s very hard to have long-term friendships when one travels all over the west by stage and train. Friendships take time and commitment. I am committed to helping my husband in his efforts.

Enemies: I don’t have any unless you identify some of the town fathers who disliked my husband because the railroad didn’t come to their town. I’m also my own worst enemy – my self-doubt desire not to disappoint Robert. I always go along with what he wants and that isn’t always wise.

Dating, marriage: Graduate of University of Michigan in the 1870s; I didn’t date much being busy with my singing. I traveled to Europe on tour. I met Robert as he was the fiancé of my college roommate who shared my name. When she died before their marriage, Robert and I found each other ut he called me Dell after that, perhaps not wanting to use the first Carrie’s name. We were married September 19, 1877.

Children: none though in later life I claimed the sons of our chauffer as my own on the census. Actually, the census recorder got it wrong but I let it stand. I adored them. And I almost adopted a set of twins Kate and Kambree — but Robert didn’t want that to happen, said it would be too difficult with our traveling life.

What person do you most admire? I admire Pace Caldwell. She’s the wife of former senator Caldwell who was removed from the senate because he bribed a competitor not to run so he could win. He lived in Kansas. Pace held herhead up high, continued to love and support her husband. She kept her dignity. That was admirable and I called upon that when Robert had his own financial fall. Pace kept getting up and starting again despite disappointments and betrayals.

Overall outlook on life: I live in a “happy lane” and see the adventure of  life as unique and full of grace. I want to celebrate it, downplay any personal disappointments. Presbyterians have a phrase about “seeing a way clear” that means we believe God has shown us a way forward, that we can “see our way clear.” I look for that.

Do you like yourself? Most of the time. I’m a bit overweight but it’s those rich dinners when we’re having to dine the bankers and politicians that Robert must engage with in his railroad promotion. I’d like myself better as a mother so I did find some ways in later life to be a surrogate mother to some college girls. And I adore my nieces. I like myself best when I’m with my sisters and my family.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? Oh, I wish I’d insisted about the twins we could have adopted. We could have adjusted our traveling; in later life I stayed at home more anyway. So yes, I would have become a mother.

How are you viewed by others? They admire me, I know. Especially after the book came out, my memoir called Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage in two volumes covering 1877-1880 and 1880-1898. Some people said I was a better writer than Robert. I think I was more conversational. He had to write reports on soil conditions, landscapes, rail line routes, stuffier things. I wrote about people and I never complained. I never named someone in a story who had a negative role to play. I hosted wonderful parties and made people feel welcome and when I set my heart on something – like getting a Presbyterian church for Caldwell – I persevered. People admired my persistence and some said my grace in times of trial.

Physical appearance: I’m 5’5”, a tad overweight. Curvy, I’d call it.

Eyes: blue

Hair: frizzy chestnut color

Voice: melodious. I’m a singer

Right- or left-handed? right

How would you describe yourself? I’m a Victorian lady who wears my long skirts, corset, bustle, and a hat, usually straw with feathers and dried fruit as decorations when I’m out in public. But I’ll ride astride a horse (with a discreet skirt to put on over the split one as soon as I step off the horse). I have a pleasant voice, wear round glasses that are often dirty as I’m so busy engaging in life I doesn’t notice. I adore my husband, have a wry sense of humor, long for the roots of home and children and am grateful for the adventurous life God’s given me.

Characteristics: Strong-willed, people pleaser, passionate, will try anything once. Loving of family and my close friends.

Strongest/weakest character traits: Never quite once I’m committed; try to please people at my own expense.

How much self-control do you have? Lots.

Fears: Not being useful, not finding my life’s purpose

Collections, talents: I can sing and do in choirs of the west when we stay in a town for a few months. I collect treasures from some of our adventures like being the first woman to go into a gold mine. I saved a piece of ore.

What people like best about you: I’m game for anything. Once.

Interests and favorites: I love to read, that’s my greatest pastime when I’m not off on some adventure like riding on the cow chaser of a railroad engine over the Dale Creek Canyon. I’m also drawn to landscapes – the oceans, mountains, rivers and lakes of the West.

Food, drink: I don’t imbibe though have twice tasted champagne . Once when my memoir was published and another sip when we took our 6 month tour of Europe.

Books: Emily Dickinson’s poetry

Best way to spend a weekend: With Robert riding horseback in the mountains

What would a  great gift for you be? Diamonds. I do like diamonds.

When are you happy? When my sisters and parents come west to visit and I can show them the landscapes that I love.

What makes you angry? Seeing children suffering. And when Robert misled our friends in an investment. I was very angry about that.

What makes you sad? Not having a grandchild.

What makes you laugh? My dogs! Bulldogs are so funny!

Hopes and dreams: To be remembered as a generous, loving person.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? Getting my husband on that cow chaser. He didn’t enjoy it one bit!

Greatest success: Convincing a pastor we’d called Caldwell to stay when he at first said he didn’t think he was up to the task. He was and he did.

Biggest trauma: Dealing with closed in spaces.

What do you care about most in the world? That children be treated with dignity and respect and loved by their parents.

Do you have a secret? I don’t always tell my husband what I’m thinking.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? They’re kind and generous people

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? That I don’t get to see them more often.

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be: I did it already. I wrote a memoir celebrating the west.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: Humiliating thing? Having to escape at night across Puget Sound in a borrowed wooden boat because my husband had misled investors. We had to borrow money for the stage. Worst. Night. Ever.

Thank you, Carrie, for visiting with us here on PASTimes. We’ve learned a lot about you!

Jane Kirkpatrickis the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of more than thirty books, including All She Left Behind,A Light in the Wilderness,The Memory Weaver,This Road We Traveled,and A Sweetness to the Soul,which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have won the WILLA Literary Award, USABestBooks, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Jane lives in Central Oregonwith her husband, Jerry. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com.

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