Category Archives: History

We need diverse books!


by Heather Harris Brady

Those of you who have explored the pages of my website know this topic is close to my heart as a member of a blended Hispanic family, and as part of my own past growing up in a small, non-diverse country town. There are so many unknowns when you don’t get to meet all walks of people on a daily basis. It is all a driving factor behind most of my work, including the manuscript I am querying right now. A Missfits Misstory stars two fashionistas (May and Valentina). May is a young Victorian woman rebelling against her Puritan town and Valentina is a contemporary 13 year-old Hispanic fashionista who moves into her house and into the middle of a century-old mystery May left behind.

I’m copying the essence of the #weneeddiversebooks tumblr below, to help spread the word for their effort:

Recently, there’s been a groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity in children’s literature. The issue is being picked up by news outlets like these two pieces in the NYT, CNN, EW, and many more. But while we individually care about diversity, there is still a disconnect. BEA’s Bookcon recently announced an all-white-male panel of “luminaries of children’s literature,” and when we pointed out the lack of diversity, nothing changed.

Now is the time to raise our voices into a roar that can’t be ignored. Here’s how:

On May 1st at 1pm (EST), there will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. We want people to tweet, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blog, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.

For the visual part of the campaign:

Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you.
The photo can be of you or a friend or anyone who wants to support diversity in kids’ lit. It can be a photo of the sign without you if you would prefer not to be in a picture. Be as creative as you want! Pose the sign with your favorite stuffed animal or at your favorite library. Get a bunch of friends to hold a bunch of signs.
However you want to do it, we want to share it! There will be a Tumblr at that will host all of the photos and messages for the campaign. Please submit your visual component by May 1st to with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on our Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day.
Starting at 1:00PM (EST) the Tumblr will start posting and it will be your job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever you think will help get the word out.
The intent is that from 1pm EST to 3pm EST, there will be a nonstop hashtag party to spread the word. We hope that we’ll get enough people to participate to make the hashtag trend and grab the notice of more media outlets.
The Tumblr will continue to be active throughout the length of the campaign, and for however long we need to keep this discussion going, so we welcome everyone to keep emailing or sending in submissions even after May 1st.

On May 2nd, the second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.

On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! More details to come!

We hope that you will take part in this in any way you can. We need to spread the word far and wide so that it will trend on Twitter. So that media outlets will pick it up as a news item. So that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important to everyone. We hope you will help us by being a part of this movement.


Photo: WikiCommons

Bicycling: Wheels For Women’s Independence

Mrs_ F_ M_ Cossitt, first woman to ride a bicycle in New York_ 1888

Mrs. F.M. Cossitt, the first woman to ride a bicycle in New York – 1888 (Photo from Simply Grove blog)

by Heather Harris Brady

Dateline October 20 1895: The most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman

In the late 1800’s two forces developed simultaneously, bicycle engineering and the women’s suffrage movement.

I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning-wheel we must all learn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair.” – Frances Willard

Frances Willard, founding member of the WCTU, took up the sport at the age of 53 in Evanston IL. But it caught the fancy of young women as well.

On June 25, 1894, Latvian immigrant Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, a young mother of three small children, stood before a crowd of 500 friends, family, suffragists and curious onlookers at the Massachusetts State House. Then, declaring she would circle the world, she climbed onto a 42-pound Columbia bicycle and took off. Fifteen months later (October 20 1895) one New York newspaper called it “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman.” See her route here. (Source)

The trip was reportedly set in motion by a wager that required Annie not only to circle the earth by bicycle in 15 months, but to earn $5,000 en route, as well. This was no mere test of a woman’s physical endurance and mental fortitude; it was a test of a woman’s ability to fend for herself in the world. While Annie died in obscurity, a documentary about her extraordinary stroke debuted in April 2013. During her trip she adopted clothing more suitable to riding, including men’s attire and bloomers.

As we know, this was not always well-received! In Norwich, New York in 1895, a group of young men pledged not to associate with any woman in bloomers and to use “all honorable means to render such costumes unpopular in the community where I reside.” (Link, bottom page)

Susan B. Anthony told the New York World’s Nellie Bly that bicycling had “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”

Gettysburg at 150


by Heather Harris-Brady

As a lifelong history buff my mysteries always feature a strong historical component. Today is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. My great-great-grandfather participated in this battle, among many others, as part of the Michigan cavalry. I can’t imagine the long, grueling campaign the war must have been for him. My grandmother said he would never talk about it. After the war was over he was dispatched west to guard the Oregon trail, before he was officially discharged. Today his gravesite in Maple Grove Cemetery (Charlotte, MI) has a Civil War veteran marker, if only we knew the whole story behind it!

Graphic: Wiki Commons

7th Michigan Cavalry – Duty Log, From

Organized at Grand Rapids, Mich., October, 1862, to June, 1863. 1st Battalion left State for Washington, D.C., February 20, 1863. Balance of Regiment May, 1863. Attached to Provisional Cavalry Brigade, Casey’s Division, Defenses of Washington, 22nd Army Corps, to April, 1863. 1st Brigade, Stahel’s Cavalry Division, 22nd Army Corps, Dept. of Washington, to June, 1863. 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, to March, 1864. 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac and Middle Military Division, to June, 1865. District of the Plains, Dept. of Missouri, to September, 1865. District of Dakota to December, 1865.

SERVICE.–Duty in the Defenses of Washington, D.C., until June, 1863. Action at Thoroughfare Gap, Va., May 21, 1863. Greenwich May 30. Expedition up the Catoctin Valley June 27-28. Occupation of Gettysburg, Pa., June 28. Hanover, Pa., June 30. Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., July 1-3. Hunterstown July 2. Monterey July 4. Smithburg July 5. Williamsport and Hagerstown July 6. Boonsboro July 8. Hagerstown July 11-13. Falling Waters July 14. Snicker’s Gap July 19. Expedition from Warrenton Junction, between Bull Run and Blue Ridge Mountains, August 1-8. Hartwood Church August 15. King George Court House August 24. Expedition to Port Conway September 1-3. Advance from the Rappahannock to the Rapidan September 13-17. Culpeper Court House September 13. Raccoon Ford September 14-16. Raccoon Ford September 17. Reconnaissance across the Rapidan September 21-23. White’s Ford September 21-22. Orange Court House September 22. Bristoe Campaign October 8-22. Robertson’s River October 8. Jams City October 8-10. Bethesda Church October 10. Near Culpeper and Brandy Station October 11. Gainesville October 14. Groveton October 17-18. Gainesville, Catlett’s Station and Buckland’s Mills October 19. Near Falmouth November 6. Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8. Stevensburg November 8. Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2. Morton’s Ford November 26. Raccoon Ford November 26-27. Demonstration on the Rapidan February 6-7, 1864. Kilpatrick’s Raid on Richmond February 28-March 4. Fortifications of Richmond and Atlee’s March 1.- Campaign from the Rapidan to the James River May 3-June 24. Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7. Todd’s Tavern May 5-6. Brook Road and the Furnaces May 6. Todd’s Tavern May 7-8. Sheridan’s Raid to the James River May 9-24. Beaver Dam Station May 9. Ground Squirrel Church and Yellow Tavern May 11. Meadow Bridge and fortifications of Richmond May 12 Malvern Hill May 16. Hanover Court House May 21. On line of the Pamunkey May 26-28. Hanovertown Ferry, Hanovertown and Crump’s Creek May 27. On line of the Totopotomoy May 28-31. Haw’s Shop and Aenon Church May 28. Old Church and Mattadequin Creek May 30. Bethesda Church, Cold Harbor, May 21-June 1. Bottom’s Bridge June 1. Sheridan’s Trevillian Raid June 7-24. Trevillian Station June 11-12. Newark, or Mallory’s Cross Roads, June 12. Black Creek, or Tunstall’s Station, and White House, or St. Peter’s Church, June 21. Jones’ Bridge June 23. Fort Stevens and along Northern Defenses of Washington July 11-12 (Detachment). Demonstration North of the James River July 27-29. Deep Bottom July 27-29. Ordered to Washington, D.C., August. Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign August 7-November 28. Tell Gate, near White Post, and near Winchester August 11. Cedarville, or Front Royal, August 16. Kearneysville August 23. Kearneysville and Shephardstown August 25. Leetown and Smithfield August 28. Smithfield Crossing of the Opequan September 29. Locke’s Ford, Opequan Creek, September 13. Sevier’s Ford, Opequan, September 15. Battle of Opequan, Winchester, September 19. Fisher’s Hill September 21. Milford September 22. Luray September 24. Port Republic September 26-28. Mr. Crawford October 2. Salem Church October 6. Luray Valley October 8. Tom’s Brook (“Woodstock Races”) October 8-9. Battle of Cedar Creek October 19. Edenburg November 7. Near Kernstown November 11. Expedition into Loudoun and Faquier Counties November 28-December 3. Raid to Gordonsville December 19-28. Madison Court House December 21. Liberty Mills December 22. Near Gordonsville December 23. Expedition to Little Fort Valley February 13-17, 1865. Sheridan’s Raid from Winchester to James River February 28-March 25. Occupation of Staunton and action at Waynesboro March 2. Duguidsville March 8. Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9. Dinwiddie Court House March 30-31, Five Forks April 1. Scott’s Cross Roads April 2. Tabernacle Church, or Beaver Bend Creek, April 4. Sailor’s Creek April 6. Appomattox Station April 8, Appomattox Court House April 9. Surrender of Lee and his army. Expedition to Danville April 23-27. March to Washington, D.C., May. Grand Review May 23. Moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, June 1. Powder River Expedition and operations against Indians in District of the Plains and Dakota until December. Regiment mustered out December 15, 1865. Veterans and Recruits transferred to 1st Michigan Cavalry.

Regiment lost during service 4 Officers and 81 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 Officers and 256 Enlisted men by disease. Total 343.

Genevieve Estelle Jones (Ohio), Scientific Illustrator


Even though technically it’s not Women’s History Month anymore I’m going to keep these posts going through the year – because these amazing women deserve more!

Ms. Jones, a self-taught scientific illustrator, is having a bit of a posthumous renaissance. There is a new book about her life and an article in a recent issue of Country Living.

Born in Ohio to a somewhat-wealthy, intellectual household, Ms. Jones visited the 1876 Exposition to mend a broken heart after her parents would not allow her to wed her choice of suitor. At the Exposition she saw illustrations from Audubon’s bird studies and decided to illustrate the nests herself. Her father encouraged her in this project, although he cautioned her to limit herself to the birds of Ohio.

Using the same materials as Audubon and nests her father collected, Ms. Jones only finished a small portion of the illustrations before dying of typhoid fever. On her deathbed she asked her family to finish the project for her. They did, although it nearly ruined them financially and several other family members succumbed to typhoid in the process.

In the late 1800’s illustrated large works were financed Kickstarter-style, by subscription. Owners preordered copies and paid in advance to fund the printing. Each plate was printed and then hand-colored. Very few original copies remain, but happily the entire volume is available online for you to enjoy.

During Ms. Jones’ lifetime women had precious few options outside of marriage. I very much admire her drive and determination to find an outlet for her formidable talents.  Although she was not long for this world her work stands the test of time.

View the book

More information here and here

The Hello Girls of WWI, Oleda (Joure) Christides (16, Thumb Area, MI)

The military put out a call for bilingual women during WWI, recruiting them to run switchboards in France during the war effort. Among the 100+ women who answered the call was 16-year-old Oleda Christides from the Thumb area of Michigan.

According to the Army Communicator’s website, a survivor of the “Great War” described the hazards she and the other women endured. Duty assignments at the switchboards, she said, were sometimes for 72 hours straight. The women, she said, carried on in spite of enduring the “constant noise from shelling and bombs, (under a) sky black with planes.”

Like the WASPs after them, these women were not recognized for their contributions until far, far after the fact. For more information about these amazing women, please see the following links:

Army Communicator

Site by Oleda Joure Christides Descendant

Site by Jeanne Catherine Legallet Descendant

American Memorial Foundation



Sarah Emma Edmonds (Edmondson/Franklin Thompson), Flint

by Heather Harris-Brady

Like a surprising number of Michigan women, Sarah Emma Edmonds (Flint) played an active combat role in the Civil War. Women were drawn into service through various ways – sometimes they would enter with a husband, brother or boyfriend; sometimes for the higher pay rate; and sometimes just because they felt it was their patriotic duty.

Sarah/Frank Thompson went in as a nurse April 25, 1861, volunteering for spy duties when a call went out from McClellan’s command. After some intense study she aced the interview and won the position. She used various disguises and completed 11 spying missions behind enemy lines in all.

Women who did not take part in combat supported the effort in other ways, raising funds for the soldier’s provisions and medical care through Sanitary Fairs.

More details

Nancy Harkness Love (Houghton, MI) & the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS)


by Heather Harris-Brady

Photos: Wikicommons

Nancy Harkness Love started out life as Hannah Lincoln Harkness in Houghton, Michigan. Born on Valentine’s Day, 1914 her life as the well-educated daughter of a wealthy physician could have taken a very different, more sedate path.  But by the time she reached Vassar she was already a pilot.

When her husband was called into duty in 1942 the stage was ready. She, on a parallel path with Jacqueline Cochran, advocated for a women’s piloting branch in the military to help ease the shortage of pilots. Love headed the WAFS, an original group of 25 women who ferried planes from factories to airfields. In 1943 this group merged with Cochran’s group, the Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASPs). Often these women had to move planes that needed repair, and would sometimes have to fly without radios or other necessary equipment.


The squadrons disbanded in 1944, and were not recognized for their military service until 1977. Sadly, Love didn’t live to see it, she died the year before in 1976.

PBS aired an excellent documentary on the WASPs (both radio and TV), and there are several wonderful websites of information. I hope you’ll join me in helping our young people appreciate the amazing contributions of these female squadrons.  Happily, there is getting to be a nice proliferation of info on the web in just the last few years.

The Military’s WASP Page

Wings Across America

WASP Museum

Harriet Quimby

Harriet Quimby is the perfect woman for my first post: she was born very close to here (in Arcadia, Michigan), she was a writer, photographer, race car driver AND the first woman in the US to receive a pilot’s license. She also did it with style, creating a one-piece purple flying suit so she would be recognizable. She was the first woman to fly across the English Channel, but as the Titanic sank two days earlier, the accomplishment got lost.

Flying captured the imagination of everyone in a way hard to imagine today. Flying clubs popped up across the globe, leading eventually to Amelia Earhart and the WASPs (Women’s Air Service Pilots) who we’ll take a look at another day.

Additional Links

Adapting outfits for flying

NPR’s Biography

National Aviation Hall of Fame




Thinking Ahead – Women’s History Month

by Heather Harris-Brady

Every year at our school the fourth grade puts on a wax museum in the spring where the students dress as a character from history and visitors must guess who they are.  The big names, like Amelia Earhart, are gone early.  I started to suggest a list of possible candidates: Florence Nightingale, Mata Hari, Anna Pavlova, Dolly Madison, and so on. My daughter looked at me with her big blue eyes.

“Mama, I don’t know who most of these are and no one else will either.” To be honest I was a bit shocked. But then again, women’s history is sadly neglected in my opinion.  This extends to the children’s bookshelves. The fact that it’s labeled as such at all sticks in my craw a bit, because in truth – as 50% of the population on this planet are we not as fully a part of history?

So, I am getting a head start on National Women’s History Month. I’ll be featuring some amazing women on this blog and I hope you’ll join me in helping our daughters get to know more about those who blazed the trail for us.

She still hasn’t decided who she’s going to be. Her big brother, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, suggested Marie Antoinette. . .


Roman Hairstyles

As a former student of latin and mythology, I have a geeky place in my heart for things Greek and Roman. But a hairdressing archaeologist, how cool is that?

Check out this video!

She has other historic hairstyles posted too, like The Aphrodite knot, perfect for Valentine’s Day!