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Who Really Wore the Leather Breeches in The Boone Family? Hmmm?

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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rebecca_boone

 

“In order that she may be able to give her hand with dignity, she must be able to stand alone.”

–Margaret Fuller

 

Rebecca Bryan should have known she’d have her hands full with Daniel Boone. According to an account from 1852, the two first met when Daniel was out “shining the eyes” of deer, a process similar to modern-day spotlighting. Only thing was, when Daniel drew down on a pair of shining eyes, they happened to belong to the young, pretty, and very human Rebecca. Mercifully, Daniel missed the shot and, after courting for three years, married her in 1756. Some scholars say they met at a wedding. Knowing what was to come for the Boones, I’d be inclined to believe the hunting story.

Over the next 24 years of their marriage, Becky would be pregnant on average every two to four years, giving birth to 10 children. Because of Daniel’s famous (and probably downright annoying) need to explore, she would relocate her home at least six different times. And due to his wanderlust, she also had to run these homes alone, sometimes for months on end. Perhaps that’s why she headed deep into the wilderness whenever Daniel asked. She loved him. Simple as that.

Because of his predilection for remote areas (or a disdain for neighbors) Becky came to epitomize the famous pioneer spirit. She was known and respected as an accomplished midwife, leather tanner, doctor-of-sorts, marksman, seamstress, you name it, she could do it. And did without much grumbling.

For over a decade, Daniel supported his family in North Carolina by hunting and trapping. The endeavor took him away from home for months and months. It was on one of these trips he discovered the magical land of Kentucky.

Smitten with the area, in 1773, Daniel moved there with his family and fifty or so other settlers. Blood was boiling amongst the Delawares, Shawnees, and Cherokees over white encroachment. Eager to send a clear message, the Indians captured the Boone’s oldest son James and another boy. The two, just teenagers, were tortured to death, slowly, in a most horrific manner for the show of it.

Kentucky, though, had her hooks in Daniel. After a brief retreat to Virginia, The Boone’s returned and he set about helping settle the frontier, and building a country. He also served as a captain in the Colonial Army and a state representative for the Virginia House. Daniel could conquer challenges and seize the day because he knew Becky had his back.

By all accounts, she rarely complained about her hard life. I believe that’s because she had a heart overflowing with love. Many of the Boone’s children stayed close to the couple, living either with them or nearby. Adopted children and numerous grandchildren abounded. At one point, Becky presided over a household of twenty people! She didn’t have time to whine. She was too busy living.

Becky gave birth to her last child at the age of 40. In 1799, she moved with Daniel and several of their children to Missouri and enjoyed many peaceful years there. She went to her final rest at the age of 74. And a well-deserved rest it was.

Beware The Waspish Sting of a Patriot Woman’s Pen

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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mercy

“If I be waspish, best beware my sting.”
William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew

If I asked you to name American writers who stirred hearts and passions during the American Revolution, most likely you’d mention Thomas Pain or Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson. Surely, each man made his invaluable contribution to the fight for independence.

Lesser known, though, is the crisp, satirical wit of Mercy Otis Warren. Her plays pricked the pride of pompous Tories and entertained the likes of John and Abigail Adams.

Mercy was a determined woman and I believe she exemplified the kind who struck fear in Cornwallis’ heart. Born to a somewhat wealthy family in England, her father didn’t care to educate her. To most, this would have been a high barrier. To Mercy, it was merely an inconvenience. Focused and self-disciplined, she learned to read by sitting in on her brother’s lessons when she could, and going through his text books on her own. Her perseverance prompted more familial support and an education was provided.

Mercy was quite intelligent, clearly, and a mind like hers was always inquiring. Her family moved to Massachusetts in 1754 and when she married James Warren, found herself surrounded by pro-American voices. Her husband and her brother both were passionately in support of the colonies throwing off the yolk of a tyrant king. Her home was a popular meeting spot for the local revolutionaries and Mercy became lifetime friends with several of our Founding Fathers and their wives.

But standing around serving tea wasn’t all she wanted to do. Mercy knew there was a reason for her quick wit and sharp tongue. So did her husband. She married a remarkably open-minded man who appreciated that she was a gifted writer. James often sent her works to friends, and even submitted some for publication. Mercy’s first play, The Adulateur, was published anonymously in 1772. It unabashedly criticized the lieutenant governors attacks on personal freedoms in Boston. This was the first of several plays that had the indignant Tories throwing their tea cups across the room.

After the war, Mercy wrote a comprehensive history of the Revolution, a book of valuable insights even today. In it, however, she slighted John Adams, or so that is how he took it. His response? He chastised by Mercy by telling her, “History is not the Providence of Ladies.”

It was for this Lady in Defiance.

Ah, Keep Your Skirt on…While You Ride, Rope, Shoot, Brand, Bust a Bronc…

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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buckley

Eastern Montana is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful and lonely places in the US. It is not an area for the faint of heart. The weather, the wide-open spaces, the solitude…it’s the kind of place that makes you or breaks you.

Which is why the story of May, Myrtle, and Mabel Buckley is all the more remarkable.

When Franklin and Susannah Buckley started having children, surely they hoped for boys. After all, farming in the Dakotas and ranching in Montana was man’s work. But the Buckley daughters were born for this land. Franklin was smart enough to know it…or perhaps his precocious, fearless, ambitious daughters gave him no choice. They bloomed on those prairies like a wildflowers after a snowy winter. They took to the saddle as if they’d been born to it. Their father’s ranch hands taught the girls to ride, rope, shoot, brand, round up, even break broncs, and called them, with affection, the Red Yearlings.

Confident in his daughters’ abilities, Franklin turned his 160-acre ranch in Terry, Montana over to the girls. This freed him up to manage the farm in North Dakota, other business ventures, and serve as a state representative. Papa was also confident that men would be men, especially where his three pretty daughters were concerned. Hence, he did not leave them unattended. The girls’ mother stayed close, keeping a watchful eye on her lovely Red Yearlings.

In 1914, neighbor and friend Evelyn Cameron photographed the girls working and playing on the ranch. Cameron wrote an article about Montana cowgirls and featured the feisty ranching sisters doing what they did best. While this article spread their fame to Europe, the girls had already been fielding invitations from Wild West shows and even President Roosevelt. Turned’em all down flat. May, Myrtle, and Mabel were ranchers. The profession was no game to them. The most play-acting they did was posing for the now famous and very collectible Cameron photos.

And I’d like to point out, they did all this in skirts. Oh, there was a brief scandal whereby the girls tried wearing split skirts. Apparently, Montana was not ready for culottes. The lady photographer was threatened with arrest over in Miles City for wearing the things. So the girls went back to skirts, wearing said culottes when nobody was looking.

May, the oldest of the sisters, never married. The more reserved of the three, she nursed her mother for years after a stroke, then died at only 50 years of age.

Myrtle, the middle sister, was a handful. One could guess she occasionally had bouts of the “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” syndrome. She eloped with a ranch hand and had two children with him. The marriage failed and Myrtle late married rancher and neighbor George Straugh. That one stuck.

Mabel married Milton Gile and lived to a ripe old age.

Maybe they didn’t lead fairy tale lives, but the Buckley Sisters sure can inspire us to think past the prince and glass slipper and enjoy the lives we’re given.

Evelyn Cameron’s Disasters Led Her to a Life Most Worthy…

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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“Manual labour . . . is all I care about, and, after all, is what will really make a strong woman. I like to break colts, brand calves, cut down trees, ride and work in a garden.” Evelyn Cameron

“Manual labour . . . is all I care about, and, after all, is what will really make a strong woman. I like to break colts, brand calves, cut down trees, ride and work in a garden.” Evelyn Cameron

Born in England in 1868, Evelyn Flower was the daughter of a wealthy East Indian merchant. She was born to a life of leisure and comfort. But not for it.

In 1889, Evelyn decided to walk away from the feather beds and army of servants. She married Ewen Cameron, a man who preferred the stars above to a roof over his head. He and Evelyn honeymooned in the Bad Lands of eastern Montana and fell in love with the area. They both lived to ride, hunt, and explore, and the chance to determine their own destinies was a siren’s song.

Full of hope, they bought a ranch and commenced to raising horses. The venture turned out to be beyond their experience, however, so they down-sized and attempted to breed polo ponies for the boys back in England. If the first ranching effort was a failure, this second idea was a complete disaster. Shipping horses all the way to England wasn’t exactly easy. Horses died in rail road cars, on the docks, on the ships. Adding insult to injury, the bank where the Cameron’s kept their money failed. Evelyn contacted the cousin in charge of her trust fund to request money…her money. Much to her dismay, the gentleman said no.

Plan B. Evelyn started taking in wealthy borders…who made more work for her and often didn’t pay their bills. Even better, Ewen couldn’t step into help, due to poor health. Broke, dispirited, sickly, he had had enough of the Land of Opportunity and suggested they head home.

Evelyn wouldn’t do it. The wide open spaces and seas of grass still held her heart.

So she tried farming. She grew vegetables, harvested them, and carried them all over the range, selling them to everyone from chuck wagon cooks to housewives to cowboys. Again, without any help from Ewen. Her days were long, often lonely, always exhausting. Still, she didn’t want to leave Montana.

One day, a border offered to teach her photography. With the first click of the lens, Evelyn knew she had found her purpose in life. After so much trial and error, it seemed the missteps had been leading her to the wonderful world of Kodak. And in the years to come, sometimes this new passion would even pay the bills!

With natural skill, she photographed friends, families and wildlife. She wrote articles for magazines and submitted them with her photos. She took publicity shots for the rail roads. From 1894 to 1928, Evelyn snapped thousands of pictures and chronicled life in Montana. She also covered with extraordinary honesty the contributions of women on the rugged ranches.

When Evelyn died in 1928, her worldly goods were stored at a friend’s home, tucked away in the basement. Thankfully, a writer, Donna Lucey, discovered the stash in 1978 and brought Evelyn back to life with her book Photographing Montana, 1894–1928: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron.

Trepidatious about the move to Montana, Evelyn once wrote in her diary, “I wish I would lead a life worthy to look back upon. I am far out of the path now.”

No, she was just taking the long way to it…

No, Not a Happy Ending for this Lady in Defiance…or Was it?

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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Cynthia and her daughter Topsannah after their capture in 1861. Cynthia, believing her husband Nocona was dead, had cut her hair per Comanche mourning rituals.

Cynthia and her daughter Topsannah after their capture in 1861. Cynthia, believing her husband Nocona was dead, had cut her hair per Comanche mourning rituals.

I tend to stay away from stories of women that don’t have happy endings. But is it a disservice to ignore the gals who slogged on through life’s hardships, bent but not broken, till God called them home? Honestly, yes. So allow me to introduce you to Cynthia Ann Parker.

At the age nine or ten, Cynthia moved from Illinois with her family to Central Texas. A year or so later, in 1836, she and four others, including her brother John, were kidnapped by Comanches. In the next few years, her fellow captives returned to the White Man’s World, but Cynthia didn’t. Though she had an opportunity to leave with John sometime in the 1840’s, she refused. Cynthia Parker had gone Native and was committed to her Comanche family.

In 1846 federal troops were surprised to discover a blue-eyed white woman living with Comanches along the Canadian River. Naturally, being magnanimous public servants, they sought to “bargain” for Cynthia’s release. The tribal elders refused. Cynthia was again spotted by government officials in the late 1840’s. By this time, though, she had married Chief Peta Nocona and given him three children. She had no intention of going anywhere. Agreeing, Nocona warned the government they wouldn’t take his family without a fight. The government backed off.

Cynthia lived in peace with her family for years after that, but the battles between Comanches and Whites escalated. In 1860, Texas Rangers attacked a hunting party at Mule Creek. Imagine the Rangers surprise when they discovered that pale skin and piercing blue eyes. Taken back to the white man’s world, Cynthia was later recognized by her uncle, Col. Isaac Parker. He relocated her and her baby daughter to Birdville, with a promise that if her sons Quanah and Pecos were found, they would be brought to her.

Cynthia made more than one attempt to “escape” from civilized society, but failed. Eventually, she settled at her sister’s farm, in the vicinity of Palestine, TX. Her daughter Topsana (Prairie Flower) died during this new captivity in 1863 or ‘64. Miserable with this new life and uncomfortable with the national attention, Cynthia faded away and died in 1871. She was only 45 or so. In those last years, she never saw her boys.

Cynthia’s legacy, of course, is her oldest son. Quanah raged against the machine, becoming a great warrior and leader. But we all know how the Indian Wars ended. With the handwriting on the wall, he surrendered in 1875 and helped settle his people on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation, where the US Government appointed him chief. He embraced certain aspects of white culture, learned English, made smart investments, and hunted with President Roosevelt.

Cynthia had given her son the tools for surviving in a white world and Quanah never forget his mother. In 1910, he had her body moved from TX to Oklahoma. A year later, he joined her in the Post Oak Mission Cemetery.

Mollie Fly–The Woman at the OK Corral

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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Mollie Fly

Mollie Fly

Not much is known about Mollie. You’ve probably never heard of her. But you know her husband. C.S. “Buck” Fly was THE photographer in Tombstone when the shoot-out at the OK Corral went down.

Mary “Mollie” McKie moved with her family to San Francisco sometime in the 1850’s, when she was around 8 or 10. The boisterous town may well be what fostered her desire for adventure, but a good upbringing kept her from falling into vice. In Defiance of the times, she took up the male-dominated hobby of photography. She also took up a husband, Samuel D. Goodrich. Apparently he wasn’t a good fit and, in a day when divorce was rare, Mollie showed him the door after only two years.

Soon, she met the dashing and adventurous Camillus Sidney “Buck” Fly, a young man who had grown up in the Napa Valley. He also loved capturing still life. We don’t know how they met. It’s a shame because they made a lasting impression on each other. We do know they married in Sept. of ‘79 and by December had arrived in the silver boomtown of Tombstone, AZ.

Within a year, they had gone from working in a tent to owning a 12-room boardinghouse that also housed the famous photography studio (the door of which was within spitting distance to the OK Corral). Buck spent a great deal of time riding the range, snapping beautiful photographs of the landscapes, as well as capturing historically valuable pictures of the Indian campaigns. A tiny gal known for her spunk, Mollie accepted the long absences and kept things humming at home. She ran the boardinghouse, took portraits for customers, and raised a daughter. Sometime in the early 1880’s, a young girl by the name of Kitty appeared on the census as a member of their household. It is not known whether she was Fly’s daughter or a simply a child they adopted, but Mollie loved her and took care of her like she was blood.

Part of that care included removing Kitty and herself from a bad situation when Fly’s drinking spiraled out of control. In ’87, Mollie divorced him and the famous photographer left Tombstone. Soldiering on, she kept the studio and boardinghouse running, but there is clear evidence she was nursing a broken heart. Mollie never remarried. She was at Fly’s side in Bisbee, AZ in 1901 when he breathed his last. She then arranged to have him buried in Tombstone, and bought him a nice, well, tombstone.

Mollie was Fly Gallery until 1912. Feeling her age, she retired to Los Angeles and died there in 1925. Prior to her death, she donated all of Fly’s negatives to the Smithsonian, well aware of the contribution her husband had made to history by chronicling the West.


Queen of the Klondike…A Great Ride While it Lasted

One of the few pretty faces in the Klondike.

One of the few pretty faces in the Klondike.

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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Freedom. A true lady in Defiance cries out for it. Refuses to live without it. Pursues it at any cost. Society, propriety—even common sense won’t stop her from wrapping her slender fingers around it.

In the end, she may only have her memories of it, but at least she tasted it. For a time, Kate lived free.

Kathleen Eloise Rockwell (1873-1957) came from an unstable home, growing up in at least four different states. Perhaps the shifting sand beneath her feet contributed to her headstrong ways and desire for adventure. Dubbed a tomboy by the neighborhood kids, Katie played better with the boys than with the frilly little girls. She was a bit sassy and, arguably, incorrigible—at least according to the boarding school that kicked her out.

In the early1890’s, Kate’s mother divorced her father and the two girls wound up in New York City. The young girl got involved with the theater scene and learned to sing and dance, but eventually even the Big Apple wasn’t big enough for the free spirit. The siren call of the Alaska Gold Rush reached her ears and Kate headed off for the Klondike.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, however, denied her entry. Because she was a woman. Alone. On the frontier.

Can’t you hear the wheels turning in her head? Kate lived to circumvent rules and live her life on her terms.

So she dressed up like a boy and waltzed right into the Klondike. (Well, actually she took a boat.) I can see her waving at the RCMP as she sailed by.

Now, it’s one thing to try to make it on the Great White Way. Lots of competition and all that. Kate had a suspicion that in Alaska she could be a big fish in a little pond. I mean, really, how many pretty girls could there be willing to face the wild frontier? Sub-zero temperatures, knee-deep spring mud, lawless towns. Sounded like her kind of party. Kate just wanted to sing and dance. It didn’t matter if the audience was comprised of desperately hungry, cold, mud-encrusted miners who hadn’t seen a woman, much less a pretty one, in months.

She intended to mesmerize them and had a grand plan. For her “Flame Dance” she came on stage wearing an elaborate gown covered in red sequins and trailing an enormous cape. She took off the cape to reveal a cane that was attached to more than 200 yards of red chiffon. Kate leaped and twirled with the shimmering, floating fabric, spellbinding the hapless men. At the end she would dramatically drop to the floor, as did the men’s jaws.

Yeah. She was a big hit. For three years, she was the belle of the ball. Parisian gowns, gold jewelry, men falling at her feet. They called her Klondike Kate and Queen of the Yukon.

But the gold eventually petered out and Kate drifted around, along with a few different husbands. She ran a movie theater, even coached starlets in the 1940’s. Time and age catch us all, though. Kate slowed down then finally finished the ride in Oregon in 1957.

By no means an angel, Kate was a woman who defied conventionality, shook her fist at the lack of social mobility for women, and cut her own path through life.

I tip my hat to this trailblazer.

Betsy Ross — She Found the Beauty in the Ashes

besty

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2013 Heather Blanton

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“Sugar and spice and everything nice
That’s what little girls are made of.”

My curiosity about our Founding Mothers has certainly led me to one inarguable conclusion: the above  statement just ain’t so. Our Founding Mothers each had an iron will, the patience of Job, and perseverance and stubbornness enough to shame a mule.

In researching Betsy Ross, I truly came to respect those last two traits.

One of seventeen children and born into a Quaker home, Elizabeth Griscom married her first husband, John Ross, in 1773. The young man she had fallen in love was NOT a Quaker and therefore, the union was not sanctioned. Wisely or not, the couple took the matter into their own hands and eloped. Upon her return, the 21-year-old Betsy was “read out” of her congregation. Clearly not one to curl up like a wilted flower, she instead rolled up her sleeves and helped her husband open an upholstery shop in Philadelphia.

She also supported John’s decision to join the Philadelphia militia in 1775, since their love of liberty was one of the things that had brought them together. Sadly, less than a year later, he was killed in a munitions explosion. The couple had no children. Once again, Betsy rose to the occasion. She squared her shoulders and took over the business. Surely, this fiery widow had to be the talk of Philadelphia. A pretty woman and a patriot running her own business amidst turbulent political times.  It was unheard of.

Not long after the death of her husband in 1776, George Washington, Robert Morris and George Ross (her husband’s uncle), made their historic request of Betsy. This is not a legend. History confirms that Betsy and her husband knew George Washington as all three attended Christ Church, plus she had sewn some flags for the Navy, and her husband’s uncle knew George, as well. The couple was married by William Franklin, son of Benjamin, so it’s pretty obvious they moved in the right circles for Betsy to have received this request. Not to mention, she could sew like a fiend.

Whispers down through history have also suggested Betsy may have been the “beautiful young widow” who distracted Carl Von Donop. Donop was the Hessian commander who lost the opportunity to reinforce the troops at Trenton on Dec 26, 1776, allowing George Washington a resounding victory. Quite the morale booster for the Colonial Army. Was it due in part to Betsy?

Besty married again in 1777 to mariner Joseph Ashburn. He was in Betsy’s life long enough to father two children with her. In 1780, his ship was captured by the British and Ashburn was thrown into prison, charged with treason. Not only would Betsy never see him again, but she lost her nine-month old daughter Zilla during this time, while she was pregnant with their second child Eliza.

Betsy had to have been an incredibly strong woman to keep forging ahead the way she did. She never stopped running her business and even managed to sew uniforms for the Colonial Army for several years. In 1783, she married again (this time for the last time). John Claypoole, an old friend of her family, had actually been imprisoned with her husband and was the one who delivered the news of his death.

Prison took the starch out of Claypoole, though, and he suffered from poor health for years. Still, the couple did manage to bless the world with 5 daughters. I think there is some poetic justice in that, considering all that Betsy had been through and lost to the war. Claypoole passed away in 1817 and Betsy ran the family business for another 10 years, before turning it over to her daughters.

Betsy Griscom Ross Ashworth Claypoole lived to be 84 years of age, but, of course, her story is immortal. She was a true lady in defiance!

When it’s all Coming Apart — Bake a Pie in Alaska

Harriet in front of her hotel with her new stage coach.

Harriet in front of her hotel with her new stagecoach.

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2013 Heather Blanton

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Feeling a little low today? Like the world is sucker-punching you? Well, you can mope…or you can fight. Learn a lesson from a true lady in defiance.

“I only had seven dollars to my name. I didn’t know a soul in Alaska. I had no place to go. So I stood on the beach in the rain, while tented Skagway of 1897 shouted, cursed, and surged about me.”

Abandoned and nearly bankrupted by her husband, Harriet Pullen pulled herself up by her bootstraps and vowed to make a living somehow. To get started, she placed her four children with friends in Seattle and headed north to Alaska to look for work. Her desperation for employment must have shown on her face because only moments after making it to the beach, a man tapped her on the shoulder and asked her if she could cook.

Could she cook?

Capt. William Moore was building a wharf and had a crew of eighteen hungry men, a kitchen, and a problem. To his dismay, and Harriet’s good fortune, the cook had run off. With grim determination, Harriet rolled up her sleeves. But she couldn’t stand up. Moore’s “kitchen” consisted of a tarp pulled across some logs that, because of hanging hams and heavy sides of bacon, drooped so low she literally had to bend over to cook. Adding to the misery, the previous chef had left the dirt floor littered with food scraps and a table buried under a mountain of dirty plates.

Harriet said she broke down and sobbed when she saw the mess. I suspect it was the last time she cried over her situation.

By dusk, she had scrubbed the dishes with ashes from the fire, cooked a mouth-watering meal, baked apple pies for dessert…and earned her first $3.00 in Skagway. Not to mention applause from the crew.

It didn’t take her long to earn enough money to have her three young sons join her (the daughter stayed in Seattle as Skagway was no place for ladies—of any age). It also didn’t take her long to realize $3.00 a day was not enough for her and her boys to live on. So she started baking pies…at night…after working all day to feed the crew of eighteen carpenters. She baked hundreds of pies and sold them to miners and a local restaurant. She not only made enough money doing this to take care of her family, the funds made it possible for Harriet to ship seven of her horses up from Seattle.

Harriet used the horses to pack freight over the notorious White Pass Trail, lovingly nicknamed by the locals The Worst Trail This Side of Hell. It was a wee bit steep, to say the least. Harriet was the only woman EVER to move freight over it. She did so quite successfully and word got around. So maybe it was no surprise her worthless husband showed up during this time. He didn’t stay long, choosing instead to brave the cold temperatures of the Klondike rather than the chill in Skagway.

When the railroad finally made pack mules obsolete, our heroine still managed to land on her feet. She bought a big house, rented out the rooms, and sold her pies. The Pullen House eventually became one of the most famous hotels in Alaska.

Harriet never re-married and raised four good kids on her own, two of them war heroes. This “Mother of the North” died in 1947. Probably with her boots on. So no matter what is going on in your life, I suggest first that you pray, and then roll up your sleeves and get to work.

The First Female Lawyer in America Took the Bar Illegally. A True Lady in Defiance.

Can you imagine practicing law in this get-up?

Can you imagine practicing law in this get-up?

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2013 Heather Blanton

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Arabella Mansfield. You’ve probably never heard of her unless you’re from Iowa, but Arabella was the first woman in America to become a lawyer. She passed the Iowa bar in 1869, illegally. Still, Arabella’s milestone proves that behind many a good woman there often stands a supportive man.

Arabella was actually born Belle Aurelia Babb in in 1846 in Burlington, IA. Only three years later her father left to hunt gold in the west, leaving Mrs. Babb to raise Arabella and her brother Washington on her own. Her father was kind enough, however, to send home some money, enabling both children to attend college. Perhaps since her mother was such a stalwart example of what a woman could do, Arabella never saw a barrier she couldn’t conquer. John Mansfield, her high school sweetheart, was smart enough to realize that and, instead of trying to hold her back, encouraged her to reach for the stars.

After graduating from Iowa Wesleyan College, Arabella taught at Simpson College, but returned home only a year later. She married John and studied law in her brother’s office. Two years later, despite the fact that only white men over the age of 21 were allowed to take the bar, Arabella took the exam and passed it with a high score.

This didn’t sit well with some attorneys in the state and so they did what attorneys do: they challenged Arabella’s status. Fairly quickly, the court ruled women and minorities should not be denied the right to practice law in the state, the first ruling of its kind in the USA. Arabella never used the license she fought so hard to acquire—as she preferred teaching—but she involved herself in the fight for women’s rights till she died in 1911. Not a rabid feminist, she did support the suffragette movement. Arabella resented having her intelligence insulted. Clearly, if women were smart enough to become lawyers, she thought it only reasonable they should have the right to vote.

Thank you, Arabella.

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