The difficulty in writing about women is that we are often not taught about those who came before us. As the saying by George Santanyana goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, it seemed that the world was overrun with rules about what a “good girl” could and couldn’t do. I thought my grandmother was an aberration because she insisted upon working beside my grandfather in a real-life game of Monopoly until I went to Washington State University and began taking classes in a subject I’d never even heard of before, “Women’s Studies.”
That decision changed my life. By learning my history and that of the women who came before, the stories I told rose to a new level. Writing stories about women whether it’s a romance or a young adult novel always poses a challenge, even when I’m sure I already know the answers either as Josie Malone or Shannon Kennedy. I write mainstream western romance as Josie and young adult stories as Shannon.
In my book, A Man’s World, the main character disguises herself as a man in 1888 Washington (State) Territory. She successfully masquerades as a man throughout the story, fooling everyone but the hero. Surprisingly for most readers, this wasn’t an unusual occurrence in “the old West.” Women might be expected to dress appropriately, but there were always those who didn’t.
During the Civil War, Albert Cashier was born Jennie Irene Hodgers in 1843. In 1862, Hodgers disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry Regiment under the name Albert Cashier. The regiment was under Ulysses S. Grant and fought in over 40 battles. Cashier managed to remain undetected as the other soldiers thought she was just small and preferred to be alone. Cashier was captured in battle but managed to escape back to Union lines after overpowering a guard. She fought with the regiment through the war until 1865. After the war, Cashier continued to live as a male, convincing everyone around her. For forty years Cashier worked as a church janitor, cemetery worker and street lamplighter, she voted as a man, and claimed a veterans pension. In 1910, she was hit by a car and broke her leg. A doctor discovered her secret but agreed to keep quiet. In 1911, Cashier moved to a soldier’s retirement home. After her mind began to deteriorate, attendants gave her a bath and discovered her true sex. She was forced to wear a dress from that time on. Cashier died in 1915 and was buried in her military garb. Her tombstone carried the words: “Albert D. J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf.” – when she was finally traced back to Jennie Hodgers, a second tombstone was erected with both names on it. http://listverse.com/2008/09/04/top-10-men-who-were-really-women
Another famous woman who lived as a man was Charley Parkhurst, renowned stagecoach driver in California and I referred to her story in A Man’s World. Everyone knew that “Mountain Charley” Parkhurst was one of Wells Fargo’s most colorful stagecoach drivers. But until the day he died, no one knew his secret. Weighing close to 175 pounds and around five feet seven inches tall, he had broad shoulders and was beardless. Charley had big arms, a rather sharp, high-pitched voice and early on had learned to hold his own. He preferred sleeping in stables with the horses rather than going out with the boys. A patch over one eye was evidence of an encounter with a horse that obviously didn’t realize who it was dealing with; but the other gray eye, sharp as a hawk’s, squinted out from under a battered hat that shaded a leathery, brown face. He smoked cigars, chewed tobacco, drank moderately, played cards, and shook dice for cigars and drinks; always cheerful and agreeable, but always reticent about personal matters. Those who rode with Charley said he was as skillful, as resourceful and as hard-boiled as any driver in the Sierras. His secret…Charley was a woman. http://www.mcguiresplace.net/Rough,%20Tough%20Charlie%20Parkhurst/
“Mountain Charley” Parkhurst
A third woman who successfully hid her gender was Little Jo Monaghan who lived as a man for nearly forty years in Idaho. Her story eventually became the movie, The Ballad of Little Jo, but the real life story is much more interesting than the Hollywood version. As Jacquie Rogers writes, “Joe Monaghan rode into Ruby City, Idaho Territory, on a quality mare in 1867. Like others there, he was looking for a bonanza at the gold and silver mines to create a new life for himself. Unlike the others, he was too young to grow a beard, slight of stature, and didn’t carry firearms.” Not until Joe’s death in 1904, did the neighbors learn that Joe had a secret – – – “he was a she!” http://jacquierogers.blogspot.com/2009/08/scandal-little-joe-monaghan.html
In conclusion, as my heroine said in my book, A Woman’s Place is “what and where she chooses to make it.” And we do have to know our past in order to create a future for ourselves and our daughters, one where they can truly do whatever they choose. One where they don’t have to pretend to be something they’re not, but can indeed be true to who and what they are.
My newest release, The Hero Spell came out in October from BookStrand and it was fun to write especially since it was a spin-off of my second book, The Daddy Spell. In that historical western romance, Trace Burdette masqueraded as a man, fooling everyone but new neighbor, ruggedly handsome Zebadiah Prescott. With their love on the line, they had to deal with the past and the outlaw who killed her grandfather and stalked her. By the time that A Woman’s Place begins, Trace and Zeb have been married for just over six months when renegades rob the bank she owns in the town of Junction City. A Woman’s Place told the story of Iraqi War veteran and homicide detective, Beth Chambers who time-traveled into 1888 Washington Territory where she not only encounters the hero, Marshal Rad Morgan, but Trace and Zebadiah.
Meanwhile, in the “Spell” series, we learn what happens in the contemporary world to Trace’s adopted children and their descendants. The Daddy Spell introduced us to Elinor Talbot who has two mischievous kids that cast a magic spell to find a new dad for them and a new husband for their mother. They return in The Hero Spell to locate a hero for their new pony farm manager. She is one and she deserves one! This book connected the previous three and the saga will continue in my next Josie Malone story.
ABOUT THE HERO’S SPELL
Extraordinary pony farm manager Audra Dawson does it all, training ponies, teaching children to ride, and looking after the livestock. Her life will be fantastic when she weds the cowboy of her dreams, even if he now sees her as a sister and a woman more capable than most. Meanwhile her employer’s two mischievous kids are determined to find the “perfect” man for her and they cast The Hero Spell.
The Magic is back!
A legend in his own mind, veterinarian Joe Watkins knows his destiny when he sees Audra again. She needs him as much as he does her. He’ll capture her stubborn heart. Between Audra’s family who puts the “fun back in dysfunctional,” apparently random animal poisonings, and the trials and tribulations of the summer season on the pony farm, tensions increase with the summer heat. Will the magic last this time, or is it just a fling brought about by The Hero Spell?
ABOUT JOSIE MALONE
As a child, I loved to dream away the days in an old cherry tree on my family’s pony farm. In my imagination, the tree became a beautiful Arabian stallion, a medieval castle and even a pirate ship. On rainy days, I headed for my fort in the hayloft. While the rain thudded on the cedar shingled roof, I read books, eventually trading Carolyn Keene for Georgette Heyer. I used the setting of the pony farm for my second romance from BookStrand. The Daddy Spell was a finalist in the Colorado RWA Award of Excellence contest.
Today I live on the family ranch in the Cascade foothills of Washington State in what was once a summer vacation cabin. It’s been modernized and even has indoor plumbing – woo-hoo! I share the cabin with my two cats or maybe, they share it with me. I usually write at night after a long day on the ranch. Some days are longer and harder than others, but I still write from 8PM to 2AM, seven days a week. As a substitute school teacher, I love the school breaks but I’m just as busy, since there are 31 horses to look after, along with other assorted animals.
I’ve had a lot of adventures over the years – and I plan to write all about them. I hope you enjoy reading about them!
Josie’s Website: www.josiemalone.com
Publisher’s Website: http://www.bookstrand.com/josie-malone