Monday, December 7, 2015

Emma Hart Willard

By Kristy McCaffrey

Born in 1787, Emma Hart Willard was encouraged by her farmer-father to read and think for herself. Emma was often included in family discussions of politics, philosophy and mathematics. At the age of 15, she enrolled in her first school in Berlin, Connecticut and progressed so quickly that two years later she was teaching at the institution.

Emma Hart Willard

In 1807, Emma left Berlin and worked as a principal at the Middlebury Female Seminary for two years. She was unimpressed, however, by the material taught, so in 1814 she opened a boarding school for women in her own home. She strove to improve the curriculum for girls, believing that women could master topics such as mathematics and philosophy. This passion for women’s education led her to fight for the first women’s school for higher education. In 1819, her success inspired her to write A Plan for Improving Female Education, a pamphlet that she presented to the New York Legislature. Her plan included a proposal for a women’s seminary to be publicly funded just as men’s schools were. Emma didn’t receive a response from the legislators, who believed women’s education to be contrary to God’s will.

Willard finally received support from New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, who invited her to open a school in his state. The Troy Female Seminary opened in September 1821 for boarding and day students in Troy, New York. It was the first school in the United States to offer higher education for women. By 1831, the school had over 300 students enrolled.

The Troy Female Seminary was renamed the Emma Willard School in 1895 and today still promotes her strong belief in women’s education.

In my new story, Alice: Bride of Rhode Island, Alice Endicott attends the Troy Female Seminary.

Available at Amazon

Alice: Bride of Rhode Island is thirteenth in the unprecedented 50-book American Mail-Order Brides series.

Fleeing her stepfather and an arranged marriage in Newport, Alice Endicott finds work as a seamstress at the Brown Textile Mill near Boston. When a devastating fire destroys the factory, she and all the girls face dire unemployment circumstances. But hope arrives when their manager, Roberta McDaniel, shares the Grooms’ Gazette with them. Each woman will choose a husband and become a mail-order bride. As Alice’s friends—Lottie, Leora, Judith, Beth, Lessie and Josie—embrace the idea, she too becomes caught up in the excitement of a grand new adventure.

When fisherman Frank Martel contacts her, Alice can’t pass up the opportunity to return to Rhode Island despite her stepfather’s presence. Upon arriving at the train station in Tiverton, however, Frank neglects to meet her.

James Martel is shocked to find a woman at the rail depot claiming to be his brother’s fiancĂ©e. Even more surprising is her connection to a man who ruined James’ father years before. When Frank confesses that he can no longer wed Alice, James steps forward to fill the role since the beautiful young woman holds the key to avenging the Martel name.

Can Alice convince her new husband that their marriage is worth saving once she discovers his subterfuge? And will James learn that love is more important than revenge?

A sweet romance set in 1890 America.

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As soon as Alice had arrived at the office of Martel Fishing Enterprises, the older Mr. Martel had sequestered himself away with Frank, her betrothed. Frank—with the same dark hair as James but shorter in stature—hadn’t appeared too happy to see her, barely shaking her hand.She had a sinking feeling she’d soon be headed back to the train station.

She ruminated over what she should now do. She didn’t have enough money for a return ticket. Besides, she had nothing to return to. All her good friends from the factory were in the process of departing for their own new husbands and lives. And besides, Massachusetts wasn’t really her home. She exited the stifling atmosphere of the office and wandered down to the stone pier, holding her bonnet in her hand and enjoying the crisp breeze upon her face. In the distance lay the Atlantic Ocean. The Sakonnet River must be more of a tidal inlet than a true river.

She stopped and closed her eyes; for the briefest moment the weight of the past several weeks left her. Seagulls squawked, and a breeze blew wisps of blonde tendrils that had escaped her bun across her cheeks. The odor of fish—thankfully not as pungent as at the rail station—and briny air accosted her, and tears burned her eyes as she thought of her father. Gavin Harrington had truly loved the sea, maybe even more than his wife and daughter.

Into each life some rain must fall. The words of her papa’s favorite poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, filled her mind. Well, it would seem her life was drenched at this point.

Alice decided that whatever the Martel brothers had in store for her, she wouldn’t leave Rhode Island. She would simply have to find work...somewhere. Somehow she’d get by. She would never return to the home of Daniel Endicott.

Footsteps from behind signaled the approach of, she guessed, Frank Martel, but she was surprised when his older brother James stood beside her and leaned forearms on the railing. In the distance, a steamship called the Queen City slowly approached.

“Do you like the sea, Miss Endicott?”

She nodded. “If I’d been a man, I would’ve worked on a ship. I can think of nothing more liberating than being at sea, sailing to some unknown land. It must be terribly exciting.” She glanced at the elder Martel and was taken aback by the contemplative gaze he bestowed on her. The frock coat was gone; the cuffs of his white tailored shirt were rolled to his elbows, revealing muscled forearms. With his hat also discarded, the breeze lifted his tresses with the gentlest of caresses, putting her in mind of a pirate from her school books.

Unsettled, she returned to staring straight ahead before continuing. “Let me save you the trouble of an uncomfortable conversation. I’m not completely witless. I’ve gathered that I’m not as welcome here as Frank’s letters had conveyed. I’ll just be on my way, but if it wouldn’t trouble you, I’d like to watch the water for a bit longer.”

“We’ve not been acquainted for long, but witless is hardly a description I’d apply to you.” He took a deep breath. “It’s true. Frank isn’t in a position to marry you. He’s promised himself to another.”

“I see.” Humiliation engulfed her. Beth had been right—she should’ve waited for Mr. Hughes of Iowa to respond. Now, she was left with nothing.

The man beside her shifted, reminding her she wasn’t alone. From the corner of her eye, James Martel appeared...nervous. But that couldn’t be. He was imposing, stalwart, and remote. A man who seemed shaken by very little in life.

“I’d like to offer you an alternative.” He cleared his throat and faced forward.  “I’ll marry you.”

Shocked, Alice faced him. “I beg your pardon.”

His eyes met hers. “If you’ll have me,” he added.

Panic threaded through her. She’d been prepared to wed Frank. His letters had shown an earnestness towards her, along with a good dose of humor. James appeared to be the furthest creature from whimsical. Then again, Frank had obviously not been truthful. Perhaps wittiness wasn’t a good measure of a suitable husband.

“I’m no charity case, sir. You don’t have to do this. I’ll figure something out.

“As I understand, you left a situation in Massachusetts that was somewhat...desperate. Do you have family here that would help you?”

She considered her stepfather and his mansion in Newport. “No, I don’t.”

James watched her intently. “You couldn’t go back to your father?”

“My father is deceased.”

James raised an eyebrow. “He is?”

“My stepfather is still living, but he and I are distant.”

“And why is that?”

Alice stared at this man who had offered to become her husband. He was a stranger. Becoming a mail-order bride was more difficult than she’d imagined. She truly was in over her head. “I’d rather not say, sir. I don’t know you.”

His response was silence.

“May I ask why you would want to take a woman you don’t know to be your wife?” she blurted. “You’re very handsome. Surely there’s a woman you fancy.”

His piercing gaze had her shuffling uncomfortably from foot to foot.

Then, he smiled and her breath caught. He had certainly been handsome in the stoic stance she’d only ever seen of him, but when he grinned, a boyish, rakish appeal snagged her as if he’d reeled her in on a fishing line.

“I accept your compliment,” he said. “The truth is, I wasn’t planning to marry. Running our fishing fleet keeps me busy, but Frank was irresponsible in how he handled this situation, and I feel compelled to rectify it.”

“You sound like a knight in shining armor.”

She wished he would stop grinning, as she was swiftly losing her train of thought.

“I like that,” he said. “Will you let me rescue you, Miss Endicott?”

Alice didn’t know what to say. She knew the correct answer was no. But looking into Mr. Martel’s eyes, more deep blue than green, much like the ocean beside them, fate tugged at her, whispering in her ear. Life is a grand adventure. Her papa had told her such when she was young.

James Martel represented a new beginning, and perhaps it wasn’t altogether a bad one.

“Yes, Mr. Martel,” she answered quietly. “I’ll marry you.”

Copyright © 2015 K. McCaffrey LLC

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