March 1, 2010

Guest Author -Rita Hestand

The Fun Behind Writing the Historical Western Romance

When I wrote Jodi's Journey, I had already bought two research books that I knew would help me along the way. Both were key books to research for my subjects in the novel. So what, you might ask. All historical writers research and buy books. Big deal. Well, yes, I thought it was. The first book I bought was a couple of years ago, called Contraception and Abortion in 19thCentury America. Wow! Yeah, what a topic huh? No one thinks about there being abortions way back, but there were and they were mostly discreet little facts. I ordered this book from a company that specializes in hard to find books. So needless to say it isn't a widely read book these days. But it sure had some interesting facts.

It was common in the 1800's for a woman to have anywhere from 12-17 children in her lifetime. Multiply that times how many months she had to carry the child and you have a lot of years for a woman to be pregnant. Pregnancies were also a large contributor to their early deaths. Women were lucky to live into their forties and fifites back then, because not only did they remain pregnant most of their married life, but they helped in the fields, cooked the meals, did the wash and took care of all the other children they had. So it is not astonishing to think that women had it hard back then and the only 100% way a woman could have sex and be assured of not having children is if the man used "withdrawal". But as you can imagine this was not popular with most husbands. And husbands could be quite demanding back then of their wives. Did you know that a woman could be sent to the insane Asylum for refusing her husband too often. Oh yes, it happened. Nevertheless most women looked on having to seek some way out of having so many children as a scandal and sin and blamed the doctors for giving them advice they ask for. This book covered most of the writers, lecturers and doctors that sometimes openly and other times not so openly spoke or wrote on the subject. It is a must have book if this topic comes up in your book. For it gives actual case histories of some women.

Another book I bought later, and read like crazy for three solid months was The Trail Drivers of Texas. Written by the acutal men who took part in trail drivers on the Texas trails. I bought this book in San Anotonio,at the Alamo store and it was packed full of information about the cowboy, the way they lived, thought, and the acutal problems they had on the trails. It was fascinating and informative. So many accounts of drovers and cattlemen that it was a fact book from beginning to end. This book allowed me to see the trail and to write the book, Jodi's Journey now coming out in March at Whimsical Publications.

Then after thoroughly reading all this, I went on line and discovered things like a new invention with coffee and talk about interesting. But I'm not gonna tell you all about it, you'll have to read Jodi's Journey to learn this one. This was taken off line on a research site, and it was absolutely thrilling to find it.

There's also a book called The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800's, which gives many different subjects to research, from what they wore, how they talked, what their jobs consisted of, how they traveled, what was carried in wagons, and on horseback by the cowboys.

With every historical writer, there is new and different ways to research but it is what you learn along the way that makes all of it not only entertaining but educational too.

So the next time you read a historical western romance, perhaps you will understand that the writer doesn't sit there and dream all this up, they have to delve deep into the history itself to write it correctly. It is fun, interesting and you sure learn a lot. That's why I write it!

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Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Rita and Anna,
What a great explanation of your research for this book. I enjoy research but often find myself "running rabbits" and not sticking to pertinent topics. LOL You've definitely touched on a topic I know little about from that time frame. Thanks so much for sharing this.

Redameter said...

Yes, these topics are not discussed much. But there is a lot to learn of pioneer women who struggled with households that were much bigger than ours with much less to work with. It is no wonder so many died a young death, with few doctors and little medical care, the pioneer woman was basically on her own to come up with remedies for every problem they faced. And men back then expected the wife to bear children.

We've come a long way....
Rita Hestand

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Rita. Thanks for being my guest. It's surprising for people to learn that birth control is not a 20th century invention. Even the Sears and Roebuck catalog carried 'birth control,' only they didn't call it that. It was more of a douche, and probably didn't have a high success rate, but it was for sale (as were vibrators, but that's a different subject all together).

Thanks for the interesting post.

Redameter said...

Leave a comment here and you might win a free download of Jodi's Journey!
God Bless

Obe said...

A really great blog, I a copy of Everyday Live in the 1800's and wouldn't be without it. Awesome Rita.

Skhye said...

Yes, birth control has been around as long as humans have seen something that "might" have intervened. ;) The archaeological record is littered with evidence. In bioarchaeology, the rule of thumb is that a woman risks a 50% chance of death with every childbirth. Even a woman who appears to drop children easily. ;) Anything can go wrong. This fact was presented by both sociologists and humanities professors as well as by physical anthropologists back when I bent an ear during lecture. Alas, most students don't listen. LOL

I find stories richer when the period ideas of womanhood and childhood as well as parenting are defined correctly too. Most of those ideas are embedded in the culture's ideology. Thanks for posting. I hadn't heard of Contraception and Abortion in 19th Century America although I have loads of books on the period. I'm definitely off to find a copy!~Skhye

Redameter said...

A lot of women tried the rhythm method of watching the calendar, but that was not foolproof either.
Even withdrawl was not 100% safe, as men were not happy about this type of birth control.

Men wanted children, mostly boys to help with the farm or the ranch. So families grew despite what the woman wanted.

Because doctors weren't always available to them in the west, many women died during the birth of the baby, and many babies died too.

In the Eastern States help was much more availble to women and they didn't have the same problems that the poor western woman did.

Back then a woman might birth a baby and go out and help plow the field that same evening. The work was back breaking. It is no wonder they sought ways to use birth control. But as I said, I found during researching another book that men could have their wives committed to an instittution if they did not submit often enough or even if they squabbled too much. This was fact. And this was nationwide. In some areas the ony institutions they had were prisons. But they were charged with insanity.

We've come along way baby!

Laurean Brooks said...

Hey Rita,

One of my great grandmothers had 9 children, the other had 12. This included a set of triplets and one set of twins. Only one of the triplets survived (my grandfather). But he was so brutal (Jenny's father in "Journey To Forgiveness), that I wonder what would have happened if one of the other two had lived instead.

But then...I may not have been born. Hm-mmm.

The 1800s are so interesting. I wondered where you and others obtained your historical data. Now I have a couple of hints. LOL

Jodi's Journey gives a true taste of that life. Good luck and God bless you.


Redameter said...

You can find a lot of hard to find research books at Rodale Books. They had a really good selection of books that you won't find in a bookstore.

Don't forget to leave a comment, you might win a copy of Jodi's Journey.

Another intersting fact is that the undergarments they wore back then weren't called union suits until the 1900's. They called them drawers most of the time.

Thank all of you for stopping by and leaving a comment. It's wonderful to see all of you.

Love and blessings

Virginia said...

Great post! I love reading the historical westerns. I have been hooked on them lately! I have about ran out of westerns in my TBR pile! It seems to me that not many authors write the westerns anymore!


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Rita and Anna,
That was so interesting and informative. Being an historical writer myself I am always on the look out for extra research material. Thank you


Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Laurean, if you don't have "Everyday Life in the 1800's" I suggest you get it. I have a great book called "Bleed, Blister and Purge" by Volney steele, MD. It's "A history of medicine on the Amnerican Frontier" and I've used it alot in my research and on my blogs. Birth control is one of the chapters in the book, as well as female doctors. As for books on 1800's life, I have several diaries of wagon train and frontier women. I find them fascinating.

Paty Jager said...

I have so many research books my husband cringes when a padded envelope shows up in the mail. LOL
Great info Rita. Thanks, Anna Kathryn!

EA said...

12 - 17 kids? Yikes! That's like a small village. Long ago I wanted seven kids, and then I grew up.

Anyway, thank you for sharing all this information with your readers. Writing does open our world to new and exciting ideas.

Elizabeth Pina said...

Truly fascinating. Sometimes it's easy to forget what life was like back then - the true hardships are glossed over or ignored on television and in movies. Excellent post, thank you.

AnneMarie Novark said...

I think I read that book on birth control many years ago from the library. It was very interesting.

Also, wasn't birth control actually against the law way back then? Seems like my daughter did a research paper about a woman who fought to legalize birth control.


Redameter said...

I think after the civil war they passed a law that once the baby moved, it was illegal to abort it. But as long as the baby hadn't moved, it could be, by a doctor. However, back then many doctors didn't believe in it for the religious beliefs and would not conduct abortions one way or another.
The law came and went through out the century, but the last half of the century it was against the law.
The first part of the century many doctors and medical experts came out with ways to control birth, and peddled different ways to do it.
the old tried and true remedy to douche afterwards was one such way, but a lot of times, that didn't work. That was the problem they had no fool proof way to control or abort. There were however many theories on just how it should be done. Some of these men and women were arrested and thrown in jail.
But the interesting thing to note here is that with this movement, women became more aggressive in seeking their own minds and not being dominated by the male rule.
This actually helped to liberate them to some extent.
Funny thing is, this issue is still up in arms today. It hasn't gone away. Yes, we can control it much better but abortion is stil a huge issue.
Love and blessings

Redameter said...

Anna I want to thank you for having me here. I've enjoyed it no end and it is exciting to meet open minded people who can talk about this issue rationally.

This issue comes up in Jodi's Journey so I hope you will all want to read it and see how things work out.

Love and blessings

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Rita, thanks for guest blogging. It is an intense subject. Actually, to comment on the laws being past, yep, it was one of the things Margaret Sanger got into trouble for....a birth control clinic.(

Also, up until about the mid to late 1800's, most women saw midwives about birthing and birth control. But doctors realized how much money they were losing by not doing obstitrics, so they started practicing it and having laws passed that affected the midwives right to practice. And with the advances in medicine and being able to detect heartbeats and such, ideas on when and how to do abortions changed too. I happen to think that women are smart enough to make their own decisions without outside interference and beleive that easy, low cost birth control is also a great option to cut back on the number of unwanted pregnancies. Okay, getting off my soapbox. I try to stay out of politics on my blog. It's about writing!

Erotic Horizon said...

Hi Rita and Anna

I love the article, very incitefull and some areas that I just say yikes to...

I have always known there is alot of research that goes into making a decent book - glad you introduced us to yours..

Happy reading my dear - it pays off in the end...


Redameter said...

I enjoyed it thanks for inviting me.
Love and blessings

Redameter said...

Commenter EA won Jodi's Journey this morning. Thanks so much for all of you commenting and coming to read the blog. We appreciate your participation.
Love and blessings