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Posts Tagged ‘in the company of like-minded women’

My guest today is Elaine Russell, whose book Across the Mekong River I read and reviewed a few years ago and highly recommend. Today, she is here to celebrate the release of her new novel, In the Company of Like-Minded Women, which focuses on the struggle for women’s rights in the early 20th century. Please give her a warm welcome:

The level of political discord and despicable behavior in 2018 has sadly reached new heights (or maybe lows), prompting large numbers of American women to speak out, run for office, and organize for social justice. I thoroughly enjoyed stepping back over a hundred years to write about another generation of brave women—those who fought for women’s suffrage, access to professional careers, and other basic rights for women and children. The so-called “New Woman” demanded an equal voice, but faced incredible opposition from the men in power and moneyed business interests.

In the Company of Like-Minded Women explores the bonds between family at the start of the 20th century. Three sisters are reunited in Denver, Colorado, after a rift many years before. Mildred and Eva travel from Lawrence, Kansas, to visit Lida and her two children in Denver in June 1901. Lida, widowed two years before, has just graduated from medical school and begun working as a doctor. Eva, only twenty-five, begs Lida to help her overcome the opposition of Mildred and their mother to a match with the handsome Mr. Dearman of Boston. The women’s rights movement and Lida’s progressive friends provide the backdrop as the story unfolds.

Colorado led the charge for women’s rights when Republican, Democrat, and Populist women banded together to win a stunning victory in 1893, which granted women the vote in Colorado—twenty-seven years before national suffrage was approved. In 1901, the rest of the country watched with intense interest to see how this played out, challenging Colorado women to defend their accomplishments since obtaining access to the ballot box.

The story is told in three voices in alternating chapters by Lida (the middle sister), her 16-year-old daughter Sara Jane, and Mildred (the oldest sister). The following is an excerpt from Sara Jane:

I could barely contain my excitement. Aunt Eva’s predicament called to mind the dime novels that my best friend, Rose O’Malley, and I had taken to secretly reading after she found a stash hidden in the armoire in her mother’s sewing room. The romantic novels told complicated sagas of hopeless liaisons filled with improbable plots and unbelievable coincidences. We had found several rather sensational and shocking. Only Aunt Eva’s story wasn’t cheap or unsavory like those books. Her tale was more like a Jane Austen novel of thwarted romance and secret rendezvous, certainly nothing illicit.

The thrill of being privy to Aunt Eva’s intrigue offered an escape from my sheltered world and the dull, monotonous routines and sorrows of the past few years. My aunt had taken me into her confidence, and I could not disappoint her. I thought of Saint John, the patron saint of discretion, whom I had read about the previous week. He had died at the hand of King Wenceslas IV of Bohemia rather than divulge the confession of the king’s wife, Queen Sophie. Such loyalty was to be admired. I would pray to Saint John to help me keep Aunt Eva’s secret.

Mama bit her lip before speaking. “I can talk with Mildred on your behalf.”

Aunt Eva grabbed Mama’s hands. “I don’t want to burden you, but you’re my last hope. You must meet Mr. Dearman first, so you can argue in earnest on his behalf. If we can only convince Mildred to give him a chance. She’s never even talked with him.”

Mama blinked several times. “But how will I meet him?”

“I’m expecting a letter…” Aunt Eva began, but she halted at the sound of heavy, uneven footsteps descending the stairs. She wiped away her tears and took a ragged breath.

Aunt Mildred loomed in the doorway. “What is going on? Eva, have you been crying?”

“It’s only a cinder from the train in my eye. I’ll run some water over it.” Eva bolted from her seat and brushed pass Mildred.

“What has she been telling you?” Aunt Mildred’s tone implied wrongdoing on Eva’s part and perhaps on my and Mama’s as well.

I gave Aunt Mildred my most serious look, frowning slightly. “She was talking about her illness.” This was mostly true. Eva had mentioned concerns over her health.

“Did you sleep?” Mama asked calmly. “Come have some coffee and a roll.”

Aunt Mildred blinked several times. “I didn’t sleep at all. That dreadful feline of yours is somewhere upstairs mewling like a hungry calf.”

I cringed. “I’m sorry, Aunt Mildred. She must have gotten locked in Cole’s room.”

Cole clattered from the kitchen across the dining room and front hall, sliding to a halt next to Aunt Mildred. He lifted his clasped hands toward her face. “Look, Aunt Mildred! I found a frog in the bucket by the water tap outside.”

Aunt Mildred gave a short yelp and clutched her chest with one hand. “Get it away from me. Right now.” She stumbled forward and collapsed onto the green velvet armchair, causing it to shudder with a worrying groan.

Mama jumped up. “Cole, take that back outside.”

“But, Mama, I want to keep him. Just look.” He scooted forward and tripped over the edge of the Persian carpet. His arms flew out as he hit the rug, and the frog sailed through the air. “Jesusmaryandjoseph!” The words slipped out as one from Cole’s lips.

The poor creature landed on the fireplace hearth and remained still as if stunned by its sudden freedom. It was only three inches long at most, a rubbery, gray-green blob with bulging black eyes. Harmless looking, really. I felt rather sorry for it. Cole lunged for the frog, but it hopped across the carpet and under Aunt Mildred’s chair.

Aunt Mildred leaped up, emitting staccato shrieks while shaking out her skirt and lifting her feet as if dancing one of Katherine’s Irish jigs. The frog proceeded to hop into the entry and down the hall toward the library. Cole sprang up and down in hot pursuit, always a moment too late.

There were murmurs and a scuffle. Eva appeared around the doorway with a bemused expression brightening her face. She gently held the frog in her hands. “We’ll be back soon. Cole is going to show me his yard.”

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About In the Company of Like-Minded Women

In the Company of Like-Minded Women explores the complexities of bonds between sisters and family at the start of the 20th century when women struggled to determine their future and the “New Woman” demanded an equal voice. Three sisters are reunited in 1901 Denver following a family rift many years before. Each sister faces critical decisions regarding love, work, and the strength of her convictions. The success of Colorado women in gaining the right to vote in 1893–twenty-seven years before the passage of national suffrage–and their continued fight for women’s rights, provides the background as the story unfolds.

Buy on Amazon: Paperback | Kindle

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About the Author

Elaine Russell

Elaine Russell is the award winning author of the novel Across the Mekong River and a number of children’s books, including the young adult novel Montana in A Minor, the Martin McMillan middle grade mystery series, and the middle grade picture book, All About Thailand. Elaine lives with her husband in Northern California and part time on the Island of Kauai.

Connect with Elaine: Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway

Elaine is generously offering two copies of In the Company of Like-Minded Women to my readers (U.S. and Canada). To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, October 21, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

To double your chances of winning, check out Elaine’s guest post on Savvy Verse & Wit, where Serena is also offering a giveaway!

Thank you, Elaine, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

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