“We may destroy all the men in America, and we shall still have all we can do to defeat the women.”
Lord Cornwallis, British general, and Washington’s nemesis.
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. 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.
Oh, yes, indeed, a true Lady in Defiance.
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A lot of you know my newest release, Hell-Bent on Blessings, is based on the actual pioneer lady Harriet Pullen. She was one tough chick. While her life story took place in the Klondike, I relocated her to gold rush California to suit my fictional requirements and changed a few details about her, but basically, this is the beginning of her destiny.
I also decided to play with the facts a bit when it came to her children. The two teenage boys in Hell-Bent are inspired by my own two boys, Whit and Wyatt. Yes, I have immortalized my sons in one of their mother’s books, MUCH to their dismay and humiliation. As a beta reader said upon learning of this, “Good. Now your job is done.” Some mothers pinch cheeks or hug their teenagers to embarrass them. I write them. LOL!
On a more serious note, in prepping for this story, I discovered some fabulous research material. If you like history, allow me to recommend two amazing books: The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream by H.W. Brands and They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush by Joan Levy. I found the one by Brands to be more compelling. I listened to it as an audiobook and there were a few times I didn’t want to get out of the car because I wanted to hear what happened next!
While my book is a stand-alone story, it is part of the Brides of Blessings collection. I hope you’ll check out all the books by best-selling and award-winning authors Lynne Winchester, Kari Trumbo, Mimi Milan, Dallis Adams, and Danica Favorite. I truly think you’ll enjoy them. And I’d like to invite you to interact with all of us in our facebook readers group. If you have questions or comments about the series, we’d love to hear from you!
You can certainly get your copy of Hell-Bent on Blessings here. Thank you!
Though she be but little, she is fierce.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 3, Scene 2
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace,
Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
The Taming of the Shrew Act 5, Scene 2
Harriet Pullen was a real pioneer woman. Hell-Bent on Blessings is basically her story, though I changed a few things to fit my story requirements. Give a listen, if you would, to a brief snippet about this feisty lady’s do-or-die determination:
I read this story the other day and just had to share it with y’all. I so often focus on writing stories about historical women who did amazing things, overcame staggering odds, accomplished outstanding feats. But this gal? Wow. Here’s a hat-tip to Deanndra Yazzie, a nineteen-year-old Navajo girl who escaped kidnappers! Deanndra, you go, girl! This is reprinted from the Navajo Times, article by Cindy Yurth. I saw no need to re-write it.
Diné comes forward, speaks out, puts sex trafficking suspect behind bars
Details gathered by a Diné kidnap victim who managed to keep alert despite being drugged, sexually assaulted, burned and beaten led Phoenix police to arrest Jonathan Rouzan, 33, a suspected serial rapist and possible sex trafficker earlier this month.
Deanndra Yazzie, 19, says she was trapped in Rouzan’s home from Dec. 18 to 20, during which she paid careful attention to his phone conversations and memorized his name from papers he had lying around. After escaping she was able to point out Rouzan’s home on Google maps and provide his correctly spelled name, a detailed description and other information to police, which led to his arrest on Jan. 4. Rouzan was indicted by a Maricopa County grand jury Jan. 12 on 33 counts of kidnapping, sexual assault and aggravated assault. He is being held without bail.
When one considers she had no food or water and was drugged with heroin, methamphetamines and vodka for most of the time she was locked in the closet, Yazzie’s presence of mind is nothing short of remarkable.
“The police were surprised,” Yazzie recalled in a phone interview from her home in the Phoenix area. “They said most girls kind of go blank and can’t remember anything after going through something like that.”
Yazzie attributes her attention to detail to her father, who warned her from an early age that as a woman, she would be vulnerable. “He said, ‘Men are going to want to do things to you,’” she recalled. “‘The best thing you can do is pay attention to your surroundings at all times.’”
Yazzie’s nightmarish ordeal started on Dec. 18. She was babysitting for some friends when they came home around 9 p.m. Yazzie reported there was no food in the house and the kids were hungry. “We decided to go to the store, but they needed a ride,” she said. “They called a friend of theirs to drive us.” Yazzie thought it was strange that, when Rouzan picked them up, her friends got in the back seat, leaving her to sit in front with Rouzan, whom she had never met.
To read the full article, pick up your copy of the Navajo Times at your nearest newsstand Thursday mornings!
By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2013 Heather Blanton
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.