October 31 – Halloween, the over-hyped commercialized holiday.
November 1 – All Saints Day, recognition of saints and martyrs, important people but not known on a personal level.
November 2 – All Souls Day, commemoration of all those who have died.
While I have many family members and friends to reflect upon with a quiet prayer, my Peirce / Elliott / Robinson family are the ones who have gone before and whom I need to honor as the influences of my novel-in-progress.
My main character is loosely based on the life of my Grandmother Elizabeth Peirce Elliott Robinson. In order to fill in some blanks and develop a compelling plot to hold a reader’s interest, I dove into Google research. I knew there would most likely be some material related to her grandfather, William Shannon Peirce, who was a Judge and an abolitionist lawyer. These facts I knew.
But, it was two items I found online which offered the most interesting angles for plotlines:
- “Benjamin Harris Brewster, later an US Attorney General, was called upon to address the court at the time of the demise of Judge Peirce. Brewster paid eloquent tribute to his character and ability… His daughters were women of character and intellectual attainments.”
Intellectual attainments. I found it curious that the Judge’s daughters were mentioned during an eulogy. What this statement said to me is that the Judge supported and encouraged his daughters, (seven!) to seek out knowledge, which was not a common practice for the 1840s – 1870s. What would a family of seven daughters and one son look like? What type of intellectual activities would these daughters pursue? What influence would these women, my Grandmother’s mother and aunts, have on her?
- “He was an earnest advocate of emancipation, and was the counsel of the slave in nearly every fugitive-slave case that occurred in Philadelphia. The last important case was the great Dangerfield case, in which trial he and his colleagues argued before the court and jury from the opening of the court in the morning until sunrise the next morning. Lucretia Mott (famous, early suffragette) and 20-30 other women in the room sat erect, their interest unflagging and their watchfulness enduring to the end. In 1866 he became a judge of the court of common pleas in Philadelphia, which office he held by subsequent elections until his death in 1887. He took an active part in founding the Woman’s medical college in Philadelphia.
Founding the Woman’s medical college. I never knew there was a women’s medical college in Philadelphia nor that it was founded as early as 1850. Now, that is a piece of history which deserves more exploration. And, as a graduate of an all-women’s college myself, I believe there is rich fodder to craft a story line of women + education + friendships + careers = success. Why not make my main character a student and graduate from the college her Grandfather helped found?
Next after the Judge, Laura Peirce Elliott shaped my character as well. Widowed while pregnant with my Grandmother, she never remarried. She raised two sons and my Grandmother on her own. It would be only natural she would turn to her family, her father and sisters for help.
As they say, history repeats itself. My Grandmother also found herself alone to raise her two sons when her husband abandoned the family. With her own mother as a role model, she survived through the Depression alone and raised my father into a caring, intelligent man who would, like the Judge, served his country with three years of active duty in WWII South Pacific and an additional 24 years in the Navy Reserve.
Writing a historical novel is fascinating, time-consuming and thought-provoking. How do events of the past shape us today? I’m learning as I proceed and hope to devote more time to my writing this month. Who knew November is NaNoWriMo?
National Novel Writing Month!
Thank you for reading this post. I invite you to follow my blog and join me on my journey toward writing my first historical fiction. More information in the Novel Synopsis. You can sign up from this page with the pop-up, or send me a note through the CONTACT page and I can email you an invitation to follow.