A woman doctor from South Dakota by the name of Abbie Jarvis is one fascinating female. I’ll tell her whole story one day, I think, but today I wanted to share a funny little snippet of her life with you.
Dr. Jarvis often rode all over the country alone in her little doctor’s buggy. Late one afternoon, riding into the sun, she and her horse didn’t see a new barbed wire fence some plucky rancher had strung across the road. Horse, buggy and Dr. Jarvis hit the fence and went flying in separate directions. After shaking it off and assuring herself she wasn’t dying, she rounded up the horse and buggy and rode to the nearest point of light–a one-room, sod-roof cabin. A man answered the door and Dr. Jarvis explained the situation and that she needed to come in and rest.
The man seemed hesitant but allowed her to enter. After a while, however, Dr. Jarvis realized she was in no condition to motivate back to town in the dark. She told the lone farmer she’d need to stay the night.
He was astonished at her suggestion and reminded her that he was there all alone. Dr. Jarvis responded, “Well, I am not afraid of you if you are not afraid of me.”
Oh, my lands, as we say in the South. What moxie the woman had!
I learned something today in my research into those feisty pioneer women that I just had to share. I knew that the Daniel Day-Lewis movie Last of the Mohicans was based on James Fenimore Cooper’s novel of the same name. What I didn’t know was that the story of white girls kidnapped by Indians was based on the actual event experienced by Jemima Boone, who was rescued by her legendary father, Daniel.
The following short article is from a longer History.com article entitled 7 of the Gutsiest Women on the American Frontier. I’ve blogged about nearly all the women on the list but somehow missed Jemima. You should read the whole thing, it’s quite entertaining, but here’s my favorite part:
Rebecca Boone wasn’t the only formidable female in Daniel Boone’s family. His daughter Jemima earned her own spot in the history books on July 14, 1776. That’s when a Cherokee-Shawnee raiding group abducted Jemima, aged 14, along with two other girls while they floated in a canoe near their Kentucky settlement. Demonstrating their own knowledge of frontier ways, the quick-witted teens left trail markers as their captors took them away—bending branches, breaking off twigs and leaving behind leaves and berries.
Their rescue team, led by Daniel Boone himself, took just two days to follow the trail and retrieve the girls. The rescuers included Flanders Callaway, Samuel Henderson and Captain John Holder, each of whom later married one of the kidnapped girls. This event became such an integral part of frontier lore, author James Fenimore Cooper included it in his classic novel The Last of the Mohicans.
Ah, those ladies in defiance. How their legends live on.
The women who built this country did amazing things to make America a better place and rarely complained while they were doing it. They just rolled up their sleeves and jumped in. They didn’t whine or cry. They didn’t call themselves victims when they weren’t treated fairly. They just kept working at doing good for the country or their little corner of it. AOC and Omar could learn a thing or two from these gals. Case in point, meet Susie Anderson.
Born in Indiana in 1870, she moved with her family to Cripple Creek Colorado at the beginning of the town’s gold rush. Deciding she needed more of a challenge than the rough and rowdy mining town could provide, her father encouraged her to attend medical school. In 1893, she entered the University of Michigan medical school. Little did she know how difficult the journey to put two letters behind her name would be.
She graduated in ’97, but while in school, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The illness would plague her for the rest of her life. She returned to Cripple Creek and tended to the miners there for three years, but the pretty, petite doctor was jilted by her fiancé in 1900. That same year she suffered the loss of her little brother.
In need of a change, she relocated her practice to Denver. Surely, the bustling, modern city would provide a steady flow of patients. Not. Anderson nearly starved to death. Patients were very leery of a female doctor, especially when there were already several male doctors in town. Frustrated, she moved again, this time to Greely, and took work as a nurse. How frustrating that must have been for this gutsy, stubborn gal. Probably the stress had something to do with her TB flaring up. Sick and weak, Anderson moved to Fraser, Colorado to recuperate or die. She breathed not a word of her vocation.
But word got out, as it always does, and her health improved. I wonder if the two events are related? At any rate, the citizens of remote Fraser were delighted to have a doctor. They didn’t care if she was male, female, or a different species entirely. Everyone from lumberjacks to ranchers to pregnant wives came to see her. She occasionally even treated a sick horse.
In her career as a doctor, “Doc Susie” was paid with everything from firewood to food. Cash was an extreme rarity and her living conditions reflected that. Nearly destitute, sometime around 1915 or so she was appointed the Grand County Coroner and the regular paycheck helped ease some of her financial concerns.
She never owned a car but always found a way to visit her patients. Most often she walked, sometimes in hip-deep snow. Mostly, though, friends and family members of patients provided transportation. Anderson was not rich financially, but she earned an esteemed reputation as a fine rural doctor and diagnostician. Her life was not easy but I think that’s how she would have wanted it. She liked fighting for her accomplishments.
She conquered a frontier, both real and emotional, leaving behind a path for other women who dared to dream big. Anderson practiced in Fraser until 1956 then retired to an old folks home in Denver. She died four years later and was buried with her family in Cripple Creek.
Respect the lace.
I stumbled across a lady in defiance today who left me in awe of her grit and courage. This gal stamped her name on history in one of the most unique yet most daring, most defiant ways ever. Talk about thinking out of the box for a paycheck.
Mary Myers flew balloons. Often, alone. In the 1880s.
Now that’s courage, sister.
Mary was born in Boston in 1849 but married Carl Myers in 1871. He was a sort of jack-of-all-trades—because he was a late bloomer. After several false starts, Carl came into his own when he began pursuing aeronautical engineering. Eventually, by the time he was in his 40’s, he was designing balloons and securing patents on fabric that would hold hydrogen. The couple opened a factory (a large home they called the Balloon Factory) to sell “passenger” balloons. Yes, balloons that would carry more than one person with a death wish.
The world’s a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
For we can fly, we can fly
At first the Myers hired test pilots to fly their new designs, but Carl wanted to get into the air himself and of course, Mary was right there with him. However, she thought her simple name of Mary was too bland, too common to reflect well on her new, exciting career. She chose a stage name: Carlotta Myers. A derivative of Carl. Clever.
They flew their balloons at expositions that drew massive crowds. I mean in the tens of thousands. Mary made her first solo flight in 1886 and flew right at 200 flights total.
Most excursions went well. There were a couple of noticeable exceptions. Once her balloon ran into a severe thunderstorm. Water poured into her gondola at a breakneck pace and literally started sinking her balloon. She tossed everything she could over the side but still wound up crashing into a tree and sitting like a pigeon eighty feet in the air, tangled in an oak. Hunters were able to rescue her about an hour later.
Perhaps more harrowing, however, was the time in 1886 when her balloon, handled too roughly by a massive crowd of spectators, came apart in mid-air! Amazingly she managed to gather the fraying fabric and fashion a parachute. Mary glided about 12 miles using this rig, nice and easy to roughly her expected landing area.
I don’t know what I find more amazing about this woman: her unwavering desire to fly balloons or her ability to pursue said calling in a time when women couldn’t even vote.
Hat tip to Mary “Carlotta” Myers for defying cultural norms, for marrying a man who believed in her, and for soaring. A true lady in defiance.
In honor of the 4th of July, let me share one of my favorite stories of a fiery, patriotic lady in Defiance–of the British!
Lord Cornwallis, the famous British general, once lamented, “We may destroy all the men in America, and we shall still have all we can do to defeat the women.”
In the fall of 1878, Deborah Samson, at the fiery age of 18, enlisted in the Continental Army…as a man. Spending the next three years as Robert Shirtliffe, Deborah did her part to secure liberty and freedom for America. She served in various capacities under Capt. Nathan Thayer and proved herself a capable, willing, and courageous Massachusetts soldier.
Talk about fight like a girl…
Never one to run from a battle, Deborah dove right in with the best and the bravest. She was shot once in the leg, nicked in the head by a British sword, then shot again in the other leg. All three times she refused medical attention so as not to have her ruse discovered. Unfortunately, she came down with a “brain fever” in 1781 and was treated by a Dr. Binney of Philadelphia.
Imagine his surprise!
He forthwith moved Deborah to his own home for recovery and sent a note to Capt. Thayer. Upon her recovery, Deborah was called to General Washington’s office. The legends differ here on what exactly happened next. Some say she was asked to deliver papers to the General, at which point he gave her the papers of discharge. Other stories say she delivered the papers, was called back to pick up new dispatches, and then Gen. Washington handed her the discharge papers.
Ever the Gentleman…
What all the stories agree on is that Washington chose not to publicly reprimand or embarrass Deborah. He handed her the discharge papers, without comment, and also handed her the soldier’s pay due her, and a note of advice. The note was lost to history, but knowing General Washington’s respect for women and his wry sense of humor, it probably said something to the effect of, “Now that you’ve shown my men how to fight, I think it is time you return to the duties of your fair sex. Thank you for your service to your country.”
Eventually, Deborah married a farmer named Gannet and had (naturally) three daughters. Ironically, she named the youngest one Patience.
An American girl after my own heart.
Happy 4th of July!
Several thousand words into the story I lost ALL of it.
Well, I had my hands full with a baby. I shrugged and thought I would probably come back to the story one day. If it wasn’t dead and buried for good. Maybe God would resurrect it…Who knew?
Fast forward to 2007.
I took a job working for a vanity press doing author promotions. One day at a book signing, I was watching the author talk about his story and the thought came to me, “I can do this.” Meaning, write a book. I didn’t know anything about plot structure, character arcs, POVs, but I had to write. It felt almost like a compulsion.
The story of three sisters stranded in a lawless mining town roared back to life in my brain. I dove in and had the first draft finished in March of ‘08, mere weeks before the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.
I honestly don’t even know who suggested I attend a writers conference. I’d never given it any thought and I’d never heard of this one. It was (and still is) held in Black Mountain, NC though, and I was up for any excuse to visit my mountains.
When I looked into it, I discovered that I could have a critique done on my first 30 pages by a seasoned professional writer, and even pitch the story to editors and agents! The possibilities were exciting and terrifying. I told my boys–five, eight, and forty-seven at the time–that I had no idea what to expect or even pray for. I just knew there was an adventure waiting.
I remember my eight-year-old said the most interesting thing then. He said, “It’s like that scene from Indiana Jones when he steps out into thin air. But there’s really a bridge there to catch him.”
Wow. That’s called a Leap of Faith. And what a picture of how God holds us up and leads us. Instantly I knew I was supposed to go to this conference.
It turned out to be a life-changing event.
More next time…
I may not be—no, wait, sorry—I definitely am not the highest selling author on Amazon but I bet I have some of the best God stories behind my stories.
Especially when it comes to the Defiance books which have now been optioned for a limited TV series!
On the road to Hollywood (because, yes, I believe Defiance will be on TV one day) I want to share with you some of the amazing ways God has continually moved this project along. Inch by inch. Year by year.
The Story that Wouldn’t Die. Literally.
Most of you don’t know that I started A Lady in Defiance only about a year after my sister passed away. A lot happened in that year. Namely, I had a baby. My first son, Whit, was born in 2000.
While he napped or wiggled happily on the floor, I started writing. The story of three sisters in the West was a flight of fancy that helped me deal with the loss of my sister and handle the stupefying fact I was a mother. To cope, some people jump in the tub with Calgon. I had to write. Just spill out thoughts and emotions, keep Suzy alive for a little while longer…
Several thousand words into the story, however, my computer died and I lost EVERYTHING…
So what happened next?
To get the rest of this story and hear about the many more amazing ways God has kept his hand on A Lady in Defiance, I cordially invite you to sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get a FREE story AND the rest of this one. I promise you’ll find encouragement for chasing your own dreams! Sign up today!
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.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Time is running out!
Pick an author from this fabulous group, sign up for her insanely interesting newsletter, and you will receive a FREE book. Sign up for as many as you like. I’ve included one of my favorite stories as a giveaway. Grace be a Lady is just too incredible to be based on a real person! And the other authors in the group are:
Lynnette Bonner <> Kari Trumbo <> Mary Lu Tyndall <> Dorothy Adamek <> Lisa Prysock <> Sondra Kraak <> Stephenia H. McGee <> Angela Breidenbach
Go get your FREE books here!
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.
By the way, A Lady in Defiance is on sale right now for only .99 if you’d like to pick up a copy!