Besides being a writer, I’m a woman, a wife, mother, grandmother and most recently a great grandmother. And I’m a human being, an American, a daughter of pioneers.
Last week, we all saw history made by Hillary Clinton, and whether we agree or disagree with her political viewpoint, whether we think a woman should be president, she accomplished for all women what has never been done before. She proved that we as women can be anything we want to be. I’m paraphrasing from her Exit speech, but I couldn’t have said it better.
As a writer, I see this opening up possibilities for what I write, who I write about and how I present my characters. For when we are shown what we are capable of being, what our society will allow us to become, it opens an entirely new frontier for all of us. Not only in our writing but in our lives.
Over the past 23 years that I’ve written and been published, I’ve seen the role of women in novels and stories evolve from the meek to the mighty. Some could say this has happened much too slowly, some could add that the female role has become a bit ridiculous in some instances. Women who fight and conquer monsters might seem to some to be outrageously impossible. Yet isn’t that what has been done since that day in 1920 when the lowly female of the species was at last allowed to cast her vote? It was once outrageously impossible. A monster which women conquered.
I can’t help but point out, being a writer of much that is western in fiction and non fiction, that the first time women were allowed to vote and hold public office took place in Wyoming as early as 1848. I have long wondered why this happened there, of all places. Could it be that because women were in such short supply on the western frontier, they were deemed more important? Or more probably, there weren’t any men who would consider holding these offices, and so it fell to women. Let’s hope it was because the women were stronger and more stubborn, having survived what they had.
I know that is true of such job offerings as post masters of small towns on the early frontier. The pay was so small that no man would apply for the job. It was also work that could be done from home while tending to the washing and ironing, the scrubbing and cooking, the birthing and raising of children. Today, women are fulfilling all sorts of jobs, not because it’s easy, but because it’s difficult.
My favorite quote, and here again I’m paraphrasing: Women who behave are soon forgotten. In other words, if we don’t raise all holy Ned, then our names and our deeds will soon be forgotten. Take my very distant cousin, Clara Barton. She did what most other women of her day disapproved of. She cared for the sick, including the male of the species. My grandmother was so infuriated by such actions that she would not lay claim to our relationship to this courageous woman who began the Red Cross in this country. Barton dedicated her life to seeing that soldiers and indeed all those who fell ill or were injured, received the care they deserved.
Women who move beyond the limits set by their culture often gain other women’s disapproval. My book, Fly With The Mourning Dove is about a strong and determined woman, who from early childhood enjoyed the freedom of ranch life. A difficult life lived on the high desert of New Mexico where women were breaking out of the mold in so many ways. Artists Georgia O’Keefe, Mabel Dodge, who dared marry the man she loved who happened to be not only a Tewa Indian, but a man who worked as her chauffeur. She and her husband went on to build The Sagebrush Inn in Taos. Edna Smith Hiller, who lived the life I wrote about, faced plenty of adversity, much of which the book doesn’t touch on. During her 92nd and 93rd year, she shared her stories with me, the great adventures of her life, going back to the age of six. Her memories were precise, her stories amazing, and she recalled so much of the early Anglo settlements in New Mexico around Taos and Santa Fe.
This admirable and amazing woman is also a distant cousin, and today, at 94 she has a hand in managing two of the ranches that have been in her family since the homesteading days after World War I. As far as Anglos and this United States are concerned, New Mexico is young compared to other states. In the near future I will share some of her life after we closed the book when her husband went away to World War II, and I wrapped up her story with an epilogue of her thoughts in the present.
Many readers have asked for a second book to finish her story, but she tells me she simply isn’t up to doing that. However, I know some of her story and will share it here in this blog soon.
I’ve strayed a bit from the beginning of my post, and I’d like to finish with some thoughts on how I felt watching and listening to Hillary Clinton make her exit speech. I live in the state in which she spent some of her young married life. I know what she and Governor Clinton did for the children and the poor in our state. To keep this from beginning a political argument, I will leave it at that. But I am proud to have lived long enough to not only see a woman gain enough of the popular vote of this country to have become a presidential candidate, but to also see an African American/Caucasian actually be elected as a Democratic Presidential Candidate.
No matter what we may think of their views and their stand on the issues, we must applaud a country that has at last gone blind when it comes to race and/or gender, and to support both candidates as members of the human race and as Americans.