Immigrants Who Came to Give and Not Take…Meet Sarah Thal
(Editor’s Note: this is an update of a blog I wrote in 2012)
Going back through some old research notes, I stumbled across the story of an immigrant to America. An unsung heroine who came here to make America a better place and give something back…not just take and remake the country in the image of her old country.
The early immigrants to America, the ones who thrived here, were independent, strong-willed, stubborn, adventurous risk-takers. They didn’t want handouts. They wanted the freedom to make their own way.
Just this morning I read the story of Sarah Thal, a German-Jewish immigrant who came to America with her husband in 1880. The couple settled in North Dakota. Her first child was born in a cabin so full of cracks that a make-shift tent was made around her and the baby. They literally camped in front of the fireplace to keep warm. She watched prairie fires light up the distant sky on more than one occasion. She lost a baby because 10 feet of snow prevented her from getting to a doctor. This was Sarah’s existence. It never broke her. She didn’t let it turn her into a bitter old woman. She accepted her circumstances, praised God in the storm, and plowed on.
One year the German community decided to get together and celebrate the 4th of July. It was a 22-mile trip each way for the Thal’s to attend, but they were proud and eager to do so. As she wrote in a letter, “Each foreign colony celebrated in their own fashion, loyal to the traditions of the old land and faithful to those of the new. . . .”
Faithful to those of the new.
Unfortunately, stout bloodlines like Sarah’s are getting “watered down.” It’s a shame. American women were strong and resilient as a rule, fiercely independent, the toughest in the world. And she wanted to be an American. Therein lies the crux of the matter with the flood of illegals at our border.
Today, I think women like Sarah are the exception, which is why it’s important to remember them! Do you think I’m wrong? Speak your mind, politely, please.
Of Popcorn and Prostitutes
I didn’t expect the research for A Lady in Defiance to break my heart.
If you have read my Defiance books, you know I’ve gone to great pains to bring the old west mining town of Defiance to life. Those “great pains” were hours of research. Admittedly, since I’m a history freak, I enjoyed most of it.
Some of it, not so much. Here’s what I didn’t enjoy: learning just how awful the lives of prostitutes in these lawless towns were.
While disease was the number one cause of death, the number two cause was customer violence. But get this: one report I read said that partner suicide was statistically valid. Meaning, the number of girls who made suicide pacts was not nominal. When life got so awful, so unbearable, many soiled doves agreed to end their lives together.
In Telluride at the height of the silver boom, there was one street in the red light district where the doors swung open and shut so fast it was nicknamed Popcorn Alley.
Think about that for a second.
In A Lady in Defiance, there is a scene in which a soiled dove opens the Bible and learns how Jesus dealt with a woman accused of adultery. I literally cried writing that part. I cried over my character finding hope…and over all the real prostitutes who never did.
Today, I pray for all the innocents abducted and forced into this lifestyle. Seems we’ve come full circle. Or, more accurately, outdone ourselves. Today, human trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of arms. It will surpass the illegal sale of drugs in the next few years. Up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year.
A hundred years ago, the citizenry rose up and ran brothels out of business either by force or by electing politicians who fined such houses out of existence. Today, all we seem to want to do is tear down Confederate statutes and blame each other for slavery that happened a hundred-plus years ago.
Here’s a thought: let’s turn our energy to something more positive. Let’s deal with today’s modern problem of sex trafficking and slavery and save some of the men, women, and children who have been forced into this horrid lifestyle.
Just my politically incorrect two cents.
(Check out https://arkofhopeforchildren.org/child-trafficking/child-trafficking-statistics)
By the way, A Lady in Defiance is on sale right now for only .99 if you’d like to pick up a copy!
Who Were the Men Who Made Charles McIntyre?
I often get asked if any of my characters are based on an actual person. Sometimes, they are, sometimes they’re straight out of my imagination. I thought it would be fun to share with you today who I saw in my head when I was writing one of my favorite and most popular characters, Charles McIntyre.
Who can resist a man running from love because he knows it will be his undoing? Think John Wayne’s classic character of Quirt Evans in Angel and the Bad Man. Well, Charles McIntyre is my sexy Southern scallywag (now mostly redeemed), lord of Defiance and the main man in my Defiance books. His character was born when I watched the movie The Harvey Girls. The actor who played opposite superstar Judy Garland in this flick was the up-and-coming John Hodiak.
Hodiak was one of the first to play a saloon owner AND bad boy redeemed by a good woman. Ned Trent was the name. Selling whiskey and women was his game.
Keeping these archetype characters in the back of my mind, I fell in love later on with Eric McCormack’s looks and portrayal of Clayton Mosby, entrepreneur, saloon owner, and bad boy in Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years. When I sat down to write the first Defiance book, A Lady in Defiance, these three characters and actors swirled in my head.
Eventually, of course, HBO released the graphic and gritty western Deadwood. The ruggedly handsome English actor Ian McShane played Al Swearengen, an entrepreneur, saloon owner, and bad boy with apparently no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I only watched one episode of Deadwood and that was a good three or four years after I’d finished ALID. The profanity, violence, and sex in this show went waaaay beyond my limits, so I can honestly say there is no direct link between my McIntyre and Swearengen.
But I will say this for McShane’s character: Swearengen was exactly the kind of soulless villain Charles McIntyre was based on. And the darker the soul, the more amazing the transformation when light touches it.
I adore those tough men brought to their knees by love. Charles McIntyre is my absolute hero. One reader called him swoon-worthy. I love that. He was unrepentantly cruel, selfish, violent but turned to jello in Naomi’s hands–because real love, both of a good woman and of a perfect Savior, cannot/will not leave a man unchanged.
My Heroes Have Always Been Princesses–Even Disney Ones
Feminism. Do you ever wonder how in the world America was built without those early pioneer women being told (incessantly) they were strong, brave, and didn’t need a man around? Golly, it’s a wonder we were able to help build a country.
In the last few days, I’ve heard a couple of Hollywood starlets berating Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty for being bad role models. Keira Knightley said her favorite Disney movie The Little Mermaid is not allowed entertainment for her 3-year-old. “I mean, the songs are great, but do not give your voice up for a man,” she told Ellen DeGeneres.
I think about the way our culture is working so hard to feminize men and make women masculine and it really ticks me off. Generally speaking, we’re smaller, daintier, physically weaker, more emotional–we’re VERY different from men. And that is our strength. Don’t denigrate it.
Meet a couple of my favorite heroines:
Sybil Ludington, raised in a genteel home with the usual simple expectations of her fairer sex, rode 40 miles in one night to warn the American militia the British were coming.
Another Revolutionary War heroine, Margaret Corbin followed her husband into battle, then took over his cannon when he was killed. Horribly wounded, she fired at the British until she passed out, but hers was the last cannon going.
Or let’s consider Sacagawea who crossed a continent, climbing mountains, shooting rapids, and trekking across remote country for thousands of miles, all while carrying a baby on her back.
And then there’s Susan McSween who, after the broad-daylight murder of her husband, fearlessly stood up to the lawless element in Lincoln, New Mexico and eventually became the state’s largest, most powerful rancher.
And I bet every one of these women had heard some version of Cinderella. In fact, unlike our culture today, women of the past were not expected to be anything but a princess! They weren’t shielded from their “limitations.” Yet, when it came down to brass tacks, when their feet hit the fire, when it all went sideways, our female ancestors stood up, shouldered the burden, and made a difference. Nobody had to tell them they were as smart, as strong, as courageous as a man. They certainly weren’t told they were better than a man, or that all men are bad. They weren’t insecure or threatened by men. They accepted the way things were and rose above it without whining, rioting, or turning their daughters into little self-centered, angry man-hating robots.
I think it was Ginger Rogers who said she could do everything Fred could do, only she did it backward and in high heels. But she liked her high heels and pretty, flowing gowns.
I like being a princess–which, frankly, is just code for being A Lady in Defiance of Expectations.
What about you? Are you proud to be a princess or am I waaaaay off base? Do you have a favorite Disney princess?