Crime, Women, and Allan Pinkerton

Penny Richards author photoRelevant History welcomes Penny Richards, published since 1983 with just over forty books to her credit. Mostly contemporary romance, her books have won several industry awards, including a Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award, Reader’s Choice award, and a RITA nomination. Several titles have made various bestseller lists. An Untimely Frost, first book of the Lilly Long mystery series for Kensington Publishing, debuted August 2016. Wolf Creek Wife, fifth title in the Wolf Creek series for Harlequin Love Inspired Historicals, is also an August 2016 release. The second Lilly Long mystery, Though This Be Madness, is scheduled for May 2017. To learn more about her and her books, visit her web site, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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My new Lilly Long historical mystery series is about a headstrong, untraditional Shakespearean actress who becomes a Pinkerton operative. Since I’m an old(er) traditional, conventional woman, you can imagine my surprise when, during the course of my research, I found myself on a site about “women’s issues.” Until that moment, I hadn’t thought of Lilly’s driving ambition to help women who’d been victimized by unscrupulous men in those terms. To me, she was just a woman who’d been wronged by a slick, conniving man when her new husband stole her savings and left her high and dry, a woman who, at the age of eleven was hiding nearby when she heard her mother being killed by one of her many lovers.

After thinking on it a while, I realized that’s exactly what I was writing about, intentionally or not. I don’t consider myself a feminist, but I am all about balance and fairness, and anyone with at least a modicum of knowledge about the customs of the past knows that without the fearless females who led the way for a more open-minded treatment, we would not be where we are today.

Lilly is a woman who flaunts convention by seeking out a man’s job during a time when women were denied a voice in much of anything or “protected” by their husbands, (often chosen for them) who often considered them nothing more than second-class citizens or a means to get children.

Allan PinkertonAllan Pinkerton, the man who gives her a chance to make a difference, is the son of Isabella and William Pinkerton. Allan was born in a poor section of Glasgow, Scotland, called the Gorbels, an area known for its high crime and social injustices, so his decision to start his own detective agency makes a lot of sense.

Allan and his women
While researching the first book, I learned some interesting things about Allan’s attitude toward women, their capabilities, and his belief they possessed the intelligence and skill to be useful in his business, something he proved when he hired the first female detective, a young widow named Kate Warne. Kate pled her case by telling him she could “worm out” information in places his male detectives couldn’t. To Allan, whose motto was “the ends justify the means,” the idea was intriguing. He hired her the following day, and in the many years she worked for him, she never disappointed him.

There were others through the years that Allan used in exactly the way Kate had suggested, posing as wives to get close to another woman, infiltrating Baltimore society in hopes of gaining information, acting as spies during the war or just friends who aided and secured care for them.

Then, in late 1876, a somewhat funny debacle occurred within the agency. Allan’s son Robert, George Bangs, and Benjamin Franklin, once the police chief of Philadelphia, decided to band together and refuse to hire any more women, something Allan had ordered after Kate’s death. His reaction to their mutiny was to transfer Mrs. Angela Austin, a pretty actress who worked out of the Chicago office, to Philadelphia to prove that he was still in control and would be until his death. That ended that argument.

I’ve wondered if Allan’s willingness to work with women and to draw on the skills of various actresses was based, at least in part, because of his devotion to his hard-working mother, who, along with eight-year-old Allan, were the sole support of the family when his father died. Or perhaps it had something to do with how he met his entertainer wife, pretty Joan Carfrae, the soprano for the Unitarian Church choir whom he was immediately smitten with when he first saw her.

The Pinkerton code of ethics
Rates varied from $3.00 to $10.00 per day, and at the beginning of each assignment, the agent was given a small journal outlining the client’s problems and ideas about how to go about solving them. No client ever met the detective working his case, and undercover “stings” were often used, which is one of the times women operatives became invaluable. Allan’s feelings about women were further laid out in the agency rules he drafted, called General Principles. These unchanged, guiding principles are still the underpinnings of the agency today, though there have been some additions. Among the early regulations, which included things like not accepting rewards, gifts, investigating union meetings, or working for political parties was the promise to “…never investigate the morals of a woman unless in connection with another crime, nor…handle cases of divorce or of a scandalous nature.” These rules are still in place.

This standard, along with Pinkerton’s belief in a woman’s competence and usefulness, combined with Lilly’s personal experiences, are what motivated her and a other intrepid females to fight against the injustices, and limitations of the time and help them gain a more equitable position and louder voice in 1900’s society. It is this same sort of bold woman who is forging new paths for women today.

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An Untimely Frost book coverA big thanks to Penny Richards. She’ll give away a trade paperback copy of An Untimely Frost to someone who contributes a comment on my blog this week. I’ll choose the winner from among those who comment by Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Delivery is available in the U.S. only.

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The Winner of A Maiden Weeping

Lori Thomas has won a copy of A Maiden Weeping by Jeri Westerson. Congrats to Lori Thomas!

Thanks to Jeri Westerson for setting the record straight about lawlessness in England during the Middle Ages. Thanks, also, to everyone who visited and commented on Relevant History this week. Watch for another Relevant History post, coming soon.

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Lawlessness in the Middle Ages

Jeri Westerson author photoRelevant History welcomes back Los Angeles native and award-winning author Jeri Westerson, who writes the critically acclaimed Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Mysteries, historical novels, paranormal novels, and LGBT mysteries. To-date, her medieval mysteries have garnered twelve industry award nominations, from the Agatha to the Shamus. Jeri is the former president of the SoCal chapter of Mystery Writers of America, former vice president of Sisters in Crime Los Angeles, and frequently guest lectures on medieval history at local colleges and museums. To learn more about her and her books, visit her web site, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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The image is this: Pitchfork and torch wielding peasants; unbridled thievery on the streets; outlaws stalking the woods. Is this your idea of crime in the Middle Ages? For many it is. But how accurate is this?

Writing my medieval mysteries requires researching crime and punishment in that time period. It’s a thick field to winnow. But we are fortunate indeed that many court records of the period survive. The English loved their jurisprudence. In fact, many of the law terms we use today come down to us from medieval times. And it was never a simple case of “off with his head” or throw him in jail for a spot of torture. The law was as formal then as it is now. And terms were spelled out.

Spelling out murder
In the twelfth century, two kinds of murder were identified: Murdrum was a slaying done in secret, where the victim is taken unaware and could not retaliate. The other was simplex homicidium or simple homicide, a killing that was not planned or one that was accidental.

The term was stretched further to a third category: slaying in hot blood—a duel, or protecting the honor of one’s marriage—as “manslaughter.”

It is interesting to note that of the two hundred cases of homicide brought to the infamous Newgate prison in the period 1281-90, a verdict of guilty was returned only 21 percent of the time. Did this mean that the perpetrators were not guilty as charged? In some instances, bribery might get you out of hot water, and, of course, the higher up in rank you were, the better your chances of getting off. That is not to say that being a nobleman was a get-out-of-gaol-free card. Not always. If the crime was particularly heinous you might not be found innocent or even obtain a pardon by the king.

As far as juries were concerned, there seemed to be some argument about getting petty jurors from the neighborhood of the accused or getting them from farther afield. But when it seemed that more convictions were to be had from local jurors who might have known the accused, then that became the preference, truly a jury of your peers.

In the late fourteenth century, juries consisted of petty jurors, twenty-four knights or “other proven and law-worthy men who were not related to the subjects.” Many petty jurors were poor men, serving for payment and essentially shanghaied into the affair by the sheriffs.

There would be no Perry Mason moments at the trial. Witnesses rarely spoke at the trial itself, having given their testimony earlier to the Coroner or his clerks. The accused could challenge certain jurors, charging that they did not want them to sit on their jury.

And what did lawyers do? You had no right to an attorney then, but if you could afford one, he could certainly instruct you on how to argue your innocence, for it was up to you to speak up. Silence was construed as guilt.

The peasants are revolting
What you did have was a set of rules and procedures. Certainly there was lawlessness, but there was a citizen’s love of order as well. Were the peasants revolting (no jokes, please)? On occasion, and famously so. Wat Tyler rebelled against the low wages and high taxes imposed on the working man in 1381. It was one of King Richard II’s early challenges in his reign, and he met with Tyler in an open field to discuss the terms. Tyler was subsequently ambushed and the rebellion was brought down, and one is free to speculate whether Richard dealt unfairly with him or was wily as any king should be.

What about those scary woods? It certainly wasn’t wise to travel alone outside the city walls. If you went on a pilgrimage or to a market town, you generally traveled with a group, because it was true that outlaws menaced the forests, and travelers could fall prey to them.

But were cities and villages more lawless than we are now? I would argue against that prognosis. Even with the ultimate punishment of death for many petty crimes, crime did not cease to exist. People were as desperate then as they are now. My novels are set about forty years after the Black Death swept over Europe and took a third of the population. Many depravations followed. Imagine a third of the workforce suddenly missing. A third of farmers; a third of sheepherders and wool traders; a third of craftsmen and other tradesmen; a third of fishermen and apprentices. It took a long time for economic recovery and in the meantime, burglary, robbery, and murder increased. But after a time of economic recovery, these crimes did decrease.

When events happened so long ago, it is human nature to attribute a certain level of uncivilized behavior as compared with those in modern times. But though we might have a difficult time understanding the mores and culture of a bygone era, human nature and the same petty grievances haven’t changed all that much. Which is why a medieval mystery, while set long ago, can resonate with readers today.

For further reading (and I warn you, most of it is pretty dry), try the following:

o The Criminal Trial in Later Medieval England, J. G. Bellamy
o Public Order and Law Enforcement: The Local Administration of Criminal Justice, 1294-1350, Anthony Musson
o Crime and Conflict in English Communities, 1300-1348, Barbara A. Hanawalt
o Crime and Public Order in England in the Later Middle Ages, John Bellamy
o Verdict According to Conscience: Perspectives on the English Criminal Trial Jury, 1200-1800, Thomas Andrew Green

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A Maiden Weeping book coverA big thanks to Jeri Westerson. She’ll give away an ebook of A Maiden Weeping to someone who contributes a comment on my blog this week. I’ll choose the winner from among those who comment by Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Delivery is available worldwide.

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The Winner of The Guardian Stones

Nancy Anderson has won a copy of The Guardian Stones by Eric Reed. Congrats to Nancy Anderson!

Thanks to Eric Reed for a chilling look at the evacuation of British children during WWII. Thanks, also, to everyone who visited and commented on Relevant History this week. Watch for another Relevant History post, coming soon.

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Operation Pied Piper: the Evacuation of British Children

Relevant History welcomes back Mary Reed aka Eric Reed, pseudonym for Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, co-authors of the John, Lord Chamberlain, mystery series set in 6th century Byzantium. Murder in Megara, the eleventh entry, was published in October 2015 by Poisoned Pen Press. The Guardian Stones, a World War Two mystery set in rural Shropshire, England, appeared in January 2016 from the same publisher. To learn more about them and their books, visit their web site and blog, and follow them on Twitter (Mary and Eric.)

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This past month or two the news has been full of reports of evacuations from wild fires or floods, but they pale by comparison to the voluntary evacuation of about twenty percent of British children on the very eve of World War Two. Other evacuations occurred later, but this was the first event of its kind and the largest mass movement of civilians carried out in the UK.

Ministry of Health poster 2Planning for the event had begun in May 1938 as it became increasingly obvious the outbreak of hostilities was inevitable. Hansard, the official record of the proceedings in Parliament, reported work on the task in hand 2 February 1939. During a House of Commons debate on air raid precautions, in response to a question from the MP representing a Tyneside town, the Lord Privy Seal stated plans were then in preparation for evacuating Newcastle-on-Tyne and Gateshead schoolchildren.

Newcastle-on-Tyne being my (Mary) birth city, naturally I was interested how the situation was handled there, and details will serve as an example of arrangements put in hand all over the country.

Dress rehearsals
Staggering logistical problems faced those organising the nation-wide evacuation of children as part of the unfortunately-named Operation Pied Piper.

Just how complex these plans were can be gleaned by perusing “Evacuation of Civilian Population from Newcastle and Gateshead In The Event of Emergency.” The document was sent in mid-August 1939 to local authorities in Newcastle-on-Tyne and Gateshead by the London & North-East Railway, which was to carry out evacuation over the course of two days.

Schoolchildren accompanied by their teachers and helper-volunteers were to leave on the first day, with passengers on the second composed of what were termed special classes, these being predominantly mothers with children too young to attend school. Payment for evacuating trains was agreed between the railway and the Ministry of Transport.

To familiarise all concerned with what they should do and where they should go when the day arrived, a dress rehearsal was held in late August 1939 in the two cities.

The LNER booklet includes a chilling note that “Should hostilities begin before evacuation is completed the pre-arranged plan may require to be modified”. In the event, changes were not necessary but it was a close-run thing. The official order for evacuation to begin was issued in the late morning of 31 August 1939, and the first two days of September saw the removal of children from the two cities to rural areas of Westmoreland, Cumberland, Yorkshire, and Northumberland.

Only just in time: war was declared on 3 September 1939.

Even a glance at the LNER booklet provides a hint of the massive planning and coordination effort between local authority officials, schools, the police, railway personnel, and others needed to get children at risk away from Tyneside.

o District Evacuation Officers were made responsible for arrangements for the evacuation of schools in their specific districts. They were also to serve as liaison between individual railway stations and the schools being evacuated therefrom.
o Coloured armlets would identify the roles of those wearing them. Thus Newcastle-on-Tyne Evacuation Officers would wear blue armlets, and teachers white ones.
o All passengers were to be labeled or ticketed as proof they were permitted to travel on the evacuating trains.
o The railway’s Liaison Officers would have sole charge of entraining and would work with the Evacuation Officers when the official order to evacuate had been issued.
o Medical personnel were to be available at each station in case children become distressed.
o The public and mothers of the children evacuated on the first day were not to be allowed on the platforms during evacuation.

There must have been many tears at parting and in the temporary homes to which evacuees were sent. Their experiences were varied to say the least. Some met nothing but kindness, others were ill-treated, sometimes physically abused. Some who were homesick or unhappy at being sent away from their families absconded in an attempt to rejoin them, though others were reportedly relieved to be living away from their old homes due to bad conditions or neglect there. Indeed, a number of children arrived with less than the minimum of recommended luggage. Not every family could afford to send their children off with spare clothing, a warm coat, or even such basic necessities as a toothbrush and handkerchiefs.

Not all children were sent away
Ministry of Health poster 1Many parents kept their children at home because they did not want to be separated from them. Another factor in their decision was the difficulty and expense of the travel needed for them to visit their evacuated children. Some evacuees were brought back when they fell ill or had accidents and older children who had contributed to the family income returned as they were still needed to do so.

In response to a question put to the Minister of Health on 1 February 1940 concerning how many unaccompanied children had returned to certain cities, the Minister reported a January estimate had noted that of 28,300 children evacuated from Newcastle-on-Tyne, 14,000 were already back in the city. There does not seem to be any comparable figure readily available for Gateshead, from which 10,598 children had been sent away, but in both cities 71 percent of eligible schoolchildren were evacuated.

Birmingham, another major industrial city, sent over 25,000 schoolchildren to safer areas. In The Guardian Stones, published as by Eric Reed, we introduced a handful of trouble-making evacuee children from Birmingham whose behaviour made them not particularly welcomed by the residents of Noddweir, a remote Shropshire village near the Welsh border. The second book in the series is now being written and will take Grace Baxter, one of the main characters in The Guardian Stones, to wartime Newcastle-on-Tyne.

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The Guardian Stones book coverA big thanks to Eric Reed. They’ll give away an ebook copy of The Guardian Stones to someone who contributes a comment on my blog this week. I’ll choose the winner from among those who comment by Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Delivery is available worldwide.

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The Winner of The Blood Spangled Banner

Tate Jones has won a copy of The Blood Spangled Banner by Barbara Schlichting. Congrats to Tate Jones!

Thanks to Barbara Schlichting for the interesting look at the history behind America’s national anthem and First Lady Dolley Madison. Thanks, also, to everyone who visited and commented on Relevant History this week. Watch for another Relevant History post, coming soon.

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Our Amazing First Lady Dolley Madison

Barbara Schlichting author photoRelevant History welcomes Barbara Schlichting, author of the “First Ladies” mystery series. Barbara has an undergraduate degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in special education. She studied at Bemidji State University and currently resides in Bemidji with her husband. Dolley Madison: The Blood Spangled Banner, a mystery that ties modern-day clues with historical features, follows a descendant of Dolley Madison who owns the First Lady White House Dollhouse Store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Look for the release of Mary Lincoln: Words Can Kill in the fall of 2016. To learn more about Barbara and her books, visit her web site, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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As a substitute in the local school district, it is apparent to me that students nowadays have more to learn than I did at their age. Unfortunately, so much of what was learned and memorized in my day is not being taught today. Also because of cell phones and other electronic devices, information is easily researched and soon forgotten. I wanted to make history relevant and fun as well as bringing it alive, which I hope to do with this series.

Our nation’s first First Lady
Dolley MadisonDolley Madison was the most quintessential, bipartisan first lady to have ever lived in the White House. Her term began with Thomas Jefferson while her husband James Madison was secretary of state. She became Jefferson’s hostess for all state dinners and official functions since he was a widower. Jefferson called Dolley his first lady, which is how the title originated.

In the Madisons’ Washington home plus in her beloved Montpelier, Dolley opened her doors to all politicians, treating them equal. Her parties or soirees were famous, and people came from miles around to attend. All things were discussed, and because of her open-door policy, much was accomplished in the Senate and the Congress.

When Madison became president, Dolley moved her soirees to the White House. She entertained by serving cakes and wine, which made her famous around the world. Dolley’s humanity shined through, embracing everyone. She hosted the first inaugural ball. (Dolley did like a nip of snuff and alcohol). She taught everyone how to be civil and to respect each other by showing love to all.

By commandeering a wagon during the War of 1812, she saved vital state documents, the Presidents’ papers, silver, and china plus Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington. When the soldiers began singing our national anthem, they sang it for Dolley. After the war was over and the Madisons returned to Washington, Dolley rallied citizens and politicians by continuing with the soirees and promoting national unity.

After President Madison’s death, poverty forced her to sell her home, Montpelier, but she was happy to return to Washington, where she opened her doors again to politicians to discuss the day’s business.

The House of Representatives commemorated Dolley with a version of the Medal of Honor for her role in the War of 1812. The medal was cast in silver. When the telegraph was first invented, and Samuel Morse sent his famous message, “what hath God wrought?” Dolley was beside him. She was asked if she’d like to send a telegraph to the recipient, who was the wife of a U.S. Representative and a Baltimore cousin. Dolley asked Morse to send: “Message from Mrs. Madison. She sends her love to Mrs. Wethered.” This made her the first person to send a personal message. With Alexander Hamilton’s widow, Dolley attended the ceremony to lay the cornerstone for the Washington Monument. She passed away a year later and was eulogized as America’s First Lady.

Relatable history
My main character, Liv Anderson, treats the dolls as if they’re human by greeting them in the morning and saying “good night” in the evening. In between, she asks the dolls questions about what the president did or said during the day. I also relate the styles of clothes, the décor of the White House, and how it changed over time. In Dolley Madison: The Blood Spangled Banner, Liv comes up against a greedy killer who will stop at nothing to locate the original manuscript of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

I hope I’ve accomplished my goal in getting the reader to enjoy history and the love of the First Ladies. They’ve played a major role in the forming of this new nation and still are of great importance in today’s world.

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The Blood Spangled Banner book coverA big thanks to Barbara Schlichting. She’ll give away a trade paperback copy of Dolley Madison: The Blood Spangled Banner to someone who contributes a comment on my blog this week. I’ll choose the winner from among those who comment by Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Delivery is available in the U.S. only.

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The Winner of The Gilded Cage

P.A. De Voe has won a copy of The Gilded Cage by Judy Alter. Congrats to P.A. De Voe!

Thanks to Judy Alter for describing a historical riot that was similar to 21st-century protests. Thanks, also, to everyone who visited and commented on Relevant History this week. Watch for another Relevant History post, coming soon.

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The One Percent in the 1880s

Judy Alter author photoRelevant History welcomes back Judy Alter, a native of Chicago who lives in Texas but never lost her love for the Windy City and its lake. She is the author of over seventy books, fiction and nonfiction, adult and young-adult, including fictional biographies Libbie (Elizabeth Bacon Custer); Jessie (Jessie Benton Frémont); Cherokee Rose (Lucille Mulhall, first rodeo girl roper); and Sundance, Butch and Me (Etta Place). Today she writes contemporary cozy mysteries. She is the single parent of four children and the grandmother of seven. To learn more about her and her books, visit her web site and blog, and follow her on Facebook and Goodreads.

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In many ways, Chicago in the 1880s was a mirror image of industrial cities across the nation. It was a city of circles with the business district at the core, ringed by slums—hastily thrown up shacks and shanties, even places like the Patches where people lived outdoors on the river bank. Then came “the suburbs,” grand homes of the business barons. To the west were the Stockyards, where families lived in Packingtown with filthy streets and oppressive odors, infested in summer by mosquitoes.

Like the rest of the country, Chicago was threatened by worker unrest as laborers demanded an eight-hour day and better wages. There were 20,000 active anarchists in Chicago, led by a man named Parsons who had run for office to change the system from within. Defeated by ballot stuffing, he vowed to destroy the system, and called for strikes in his newspaper, The Alarm.

Prelude to violence
Trouble began in Chicago with the 1886 strike at the McCormick reaper plant. On 1 May 1886, a German anarchist named August Spies led 80,000 men up Michigan Avenue, where they laid down their tools. Factories were silent and empty. The city was prepared for violence, but the demonstration was peaceful. Still, nerves were on edge.

On 3 May, Cyrus McCormick used police and strikebreakers to prevent returning strikers from going back to work. They used Billy clubs and rifle butts to crack skulls and injured several, some severely. August Spies gathered the uninjured a distance away and began exhorting them about their rights. When the shift bell rang, striking workers drove the strikebreakers back inside and began smashing windows. Spies called for a peaceful meeting the following evening in Haymarket Square.

Again, the city was prepared for violence, expecting perhaps a bomb. Spies attracted only 2500 men this time. Mayor Carter Harrison asked riot troops to be on alert at the nearby police station but clearly ordered Police Chief Bonfield not to order his men to fire. A decade earlier Bonfield had ordered his men to fire at strikers, and Harrison did not want a repeat of the violence.

The mayor himself attended the rally, standing near Spies and ostentatiously lighting a cigarette over and over to call attention to his presence. Satisfied that the gathering was peaceful, he went by the police station to tell Bonfield to send his troops home. There would be no violence in Chicago that night.

The Haymarket Riot
Bonfield disobeyed. He marched his troops to the meeting, which had now dwindled to about 300 men whom he ordered to disband. Instead someone threw a bomb, Bonfield yelled “Fire,” and the police fired wildly into the crowd. At least seven policemen and one civilian died; many more were injured as men scrambled to avoid the bullets.

August Spies and seven other anarchists were arrested; seven sentenced to be hung, one to fifteen years. Two later had their sentences commuted to life in prison, and one cheated the hangman through suicide. But four men were hung. The Haymarket Riot became a landmark event in the history of America’s labor relations.

The Palmer mansionWhat does it have to do with the story of Cissy and Potter Palmer in my book The Gilded Cage? It is woven into the novel partly as the historical background and partly because it shows the difference in their reactions. Palmer condemned the protestors and claimed they should have stayed home. Cissy believed in taking philanthropy to those who need it. In the novel she bundles food and blankets to take to the families of the arrested men. Police, she told her son, would take care of their own—the families of those officers who died.

To me, this story has remarkable relevance in this day of social discontent and the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. It was either Edmund Burke or George Santayana (sources differ) who wrote, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” That’s one of the major themes of The Gilded Cage.

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The Gilded Cage book coverA big thanks to Judy Alter. She’ll give away a trade paperback copy of The Gilded Cage to someone who contributes a comment on my blog this week. I’ll choose the winner from among those who comment by Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Delivery is available in the U.S. only.

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The Winners of The Trouble to Check Her

Ashley McConnell and June have won ebook copies of The Trouble to Check Her by Maria Grace. Congrats to Ashley and June!

Thanks to Maria Grace for showing us the romance of elopement in history vs. the reality. Thanks, also, to everyone who visited and commented on Relevant History this week. Watch for another Relevant History post, coming soon.

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