Saturday, October 29, 2016

Girls of Early California by Anne Schroeder

Hi, Thanks for having me. My name is Anne Schroeder and I’ve spent most of my life living around the California Missions that sit beside El Camino Real, The King’s Highway, a former wagon track that brought Padre Junipero Serra and his motley crew of soldiers and brave families from Spain.

Life in early California was clearly a guy’s thing. Back in the day, a true caballero, a highborn Spaniard man, didn’t do anything he couldn’t manage from the back of a horse. Women rode side saddle, with huge skirts that frightened their mares. There were two kinds of Spanish horsewomen: Experts and dead.

Spanish papas trotted out their daughters at 14 to bat their eyelashes over the tops of their fans at eligible bachelors. But no kissing allowed! Once Papa arranged a marriage, the bride’s job was to start producing a family. Sisters competed against sister to see who was the most fertile and each couple often produced 24 or more children. Starting early was the key. Sixteen was considered a spinster. Too much education was thought to weaken the body, so girls weren’t taught to read or even to sign their names.

El Camino Real crawled with wild and licentious men looking for opportunity. Soldiers carried disease from the brothels and prisons of Mexico City. Later, starving Yanqui gold miners ransacked the land. Indian girls were the only available females.

As was done to protect the señoritas in their homeland, the Padres built a rectangular room called a monjerio. Indian girls were taken from their families at age 8 and taught to conduct themselves like “little Spaniards,” and to prepare themselves for marriage. When a girl received a proposal of marriage, she left and took up married life in a small apartment or a tule hut with her husband. If she never married, she remained in the monjerio and taught the younger girls.

The girls were locked inside each night. The Padre kept the key, usually under his pillow so that no one had access until the maestra led the girls to morning prayers. The maestra was a Spanish woman of good virtue, a wife of one of the soldiers, who never let the girls out of her sight. She spent her days overseeing these girls and teaching them to cook, sew, spin, clean, hoe, wash clothes and keep their bodies immaculate.

The adobe rooms of the monjerio had high adobe walls and usually only a single window for young Indian men to stand outside until the girl made up her mind about him. This could take several visits while she tested his sincerity. The room was crowded and often smelled like a stable, but the suite usually had a patio with shade trees and a fountain. Mission Santa Barbara’s was 47 feet by 19 feet and held from 100-150 girls.
Maria Ines, my newly released historical fiction, tells the story of a Salinan Indian girl from Mission San Miguel Arcángel. She witnesses the political intrigue and greed of Spanish, Mexican and Yanqui invaders who plunder California, destroying everything she loves. She struggles to survive while she reclaims her family, her faith and her ancestral identity. You can request that your local library order a copy. My publisher, Gale/Cengage sells to the library market as well as in bookstores and online.   or

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Ladies Entrance and the Gentlemen’s Lounge

In preparing to write my fourth book in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, I puzzled over the pictures of the Leavitt House with its two front doors standing side-by-side. Further research into hotels of the day revealed that many early establishments had two guest entrances. One was the main entrance in front, usually used by men or a family accompanied by a man. A second entrance usually in the side or back was set aside for women, either alone, or with her children. The purpose was for women to be able to enter and leave the hotel or inn without being subjected to the unwanted scrutiny, rude remarks or approaches of men hanging around the main entrance or lobby.

Leavitt House in the late 1800's
In the Leavitt House in Bridgeport, California, the two entrances were side-by-side. Here is a scene from Haunted by Love  describing Hazel’s arrival in Bridgeport:

            After the stage driver helped Hazel out of the coach, she ran for the cover of the small portico. Not knowing which of the two front doors to enter, she stood between them. She turned and watched Mr. Sweeney ease his body stiff from the cold out of the coach.
            Before he could join her, two of the male passengers pushed past her and opened the door on the left. As Hazel twisted to peek inside, her nose twitched as it was assaulted with a heavy cloud of cigar and pipe smoke. She spied comfortable couches and chairs, newspapers strewn about, a gaming table with cards and chips scattered among the players, and a well-stocked bar just behind the door. Her eyes widened and she involuntarily sucked in her breath at the sight of the large painting of an almost nude woman hanging between two windows on the far wall of the room.
            “You can’t enter the door on the left, miss,” the driver called out to Hazel. “That’s the gentlemen’s lounge. The ladies’ entrance is on the right. We’ll bring in the bags and trunks shortly.”
            By that time Abner Sweeney reached Hazel’s side, and, grasping her by the elbow, guided her through the door on the right.
            Unlike the gentlemen’s lounge, the inside of the ladies entrance was narrow and covered with a cream-colored wallpaper bearing a pattern of dainty pink roses. Hazel’s eyes were drawn to the small reception desk and chair next to the front door. Otherwise, the entrance appeared to serve as a hallway leading to the stairway and some downstairs rooms. Hazel turned to study the middle-aged man behind the counter.

Today the old Leavitt House built in the 1870’s is known as the Bridgeport Inn. The building has been modernized, but still maintains a flavor of the past.

An addition to the front has expanded the building. Upon entering the foyer, a door to the right leads to a restaurant which was made larger by the addition. To the left is a modern bar.

Straight ahead the two entrances can be seen. The old doorway on the right no longer has a door, but leads to the old entrance for ladies. In my story I added a small reception desk and chair in the open area in front of the stairs.

The door on the left leads to the old gentlemen’s lounge. The current owner has made an effort to keep the décor typical to what it may have been in the late 1800’s, although any “girlie” pictures that may have been in the original gentlemen’s lounge have been removed in order to make the room suitable for all viewing audiences.

The picture at the top of the post and the following picture were taken with permission while I visited the gentlemen’s lounge.

Along with reading material, there was a well-stocked bar in this room. However, due to there being a modern trash can in the room next to the bar at the time I visited, you will just have to visualize it next to the wood-burning stove.

With far more men than women in the area during the 1800's, and with limited outlets for recreation, the gentlemen’s lounge no doubt offered the men of the community a place to relax, socialize, discuss politics, hash out business deals and read the latest papers and books.

If you get a chance to travel Highway 395 in Eastern California, consider taking time to stop by the historic Bridgeport Inn in Bridgeport. Eat in their restaurant, visit Room 16, the home of the White Lady (to learn more about her, CLICK HERE), perhaps stay the night and visit the gentlemen’s lounge.

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her first four novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine, A Resurrected Heart, Her Independent Spirit and Haunted by Love were published by Prairie Rose Publications. The fifth, Bridgeport Holiday Brides, is due to be published soon. Please visit and follow the Zina Abbott’s Amazon Author Page by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Horses of the West

In an earlier post, I mentioned the American Quarter horse. Because I'm on book deadline and of course I began running across the internet about the Northwest since my next book is centered in the early Montana area. I had forgotten about the Nez Perez wars and the Appaloosa breed.

The Appaloosa, America's spotted horse, may have gotten their origins from the Spanish horses brought over by the conquistadors. Horses that strayed or were taken were prized commodities to the Plains tribes. They were often traded and highly valued. It is believed that the Shoshone tribe traded the first "spotted" horse to the Nez Perez, who became skilled horse breeders. Their lands were tucked away from other tribes safe from raids and by the year 1750, they had established breeding herds.

The Nez Perez began the practice of gelding inferior stallions and using poor conformation animals as trading stock, thereby keeping a strong gene pool of agile, solid stock that came under the notice of Lewis and Clark on their travels through the area to the Pacific. By 1861, these horses became in demand. The Nez Perez often getting $600.00 per animal, instead of the usual $15 for other stock.

However, the 1873 Treaty requiring the Nez Perez to give up most of the land caused a great rift for these proud people. The land was important. They were farmers, horse breeders, without land, how could they function as a tribe? In May of 1877, when forced to move to the reservation, Chief Joseph refused. He gathered a group of 600 people and 2000 head of stock and disappeared into the mountains.

The group traveled through Yellowstone into Montana in hopes of reaching Canada. On October 5, 1877, after several skirmishes, the great war was over. Cheif Joseph found most of his chief's dead and declared, "I will fight no more.". The great price for his loss was the removal of the horse from his tribe. Stallions were taken away and instead they were given draft stock to breed with their mares diluting the genes that they had so long nurtured.

For 60 years the "Palouse horse" was forgotten. Oddly, it would be a historian who would play a huge part in resurrecting the breed. In 1937, the magazine, Western Horseman, would publish an article by Francis D. Haines. Mr. Haines had traveled extensively through the Nez Perez reservation, befriending a rancher, George Hartley, whose great love for the Appaloosa, sparked Haines interest. They gathered pictures, first-hand testimonials, and urged the public to save this great breed. By  1938 the Appaloosa Horse Club had been founded. By 1978, the Appaloosa had the third largest breed in the United States. Making them a lasting legacy for the Native People and a gift to the American West.

Image from

Monday, October 24, 2016

History of laundry

Washing clothes and household linen: early laundry methods and tools

nce upon a time a metal washboard and bar of hard soap with a tub of hot water was a new-fangled way of tackling laundry, though today it's a common picture of "old-fashioned" laundering. What went before? How did people wash clothes without the factory-made equipment and cleansing products of the 19th century?
This page is an introduction to the history of washing and drying household linen and clothing over several centuries: from medieval times up until the 19th century. It concerns Europe, North America, and the English-speaking world more than anywhere else. It's not only an overview; it's also a guide to the other laundry history pages on this website. The links take you to more detailed information and more pictures. Along the way you'll find answers to questions that OldandInteresting gets asked a lot - like, "Is it true people used to wash their clothes in urine?".

Rivers, rocks, washing bats, boards

Washing clothes in the river is still the normal way of doing laundry in many less-developed parts of the world. Even in prosperous parts of the world riverside washing went on well into the 19th century, or longer in rural areas - even when the river was frozen. Stains might be treated at home before being taken to the river. You could take special tools with you to the river to help the work: like a washing bat or a board to scrub on. Washing bats and beetles were also useful for laundering elsewhere, and have been used for centuries, sometimes for smoothing dry cloth too. (See 14th century picture left and 16th century painting above.)

Long thin washing bats are not very different from sticks. Both can be used for moving cloth around as well as for beating the dirt out of it. Doing this with a piece of wood was called possing, and various styles of  possers, washing dollies, etc. developed as an improvement on plain tree branches. Squarish washing bats could double up as a scrub board. Simple wooden boards can be taken to the riverside, or rocks at the edge of the water may be used as scrubbing surfaces. (The more sophisticated kind of wash board with ridged metal in a wooden frame came later.) Two other techniques for shifting dirt are slapping clothes or trampling with bare feet. (See below left.)

Domestic laundry was often treated like newly woven textiles being "finished". Today we have only vague ideas about how the fabrics in our shop-bought clothes are manufactured, but traditional laundry methods often followed techniques used by weavers, including home weavers.

Lye, bucking, soaking

Soaking laundry in lye, cold or hot, was an important way of tackling white and off-white cloth. It was called bucking, and aimed to whiten as well as cleanse. Colored fabrics were less usual than today, especially for basic items like sheets and shirts. Ashes and urine were the most important substances for mixing a good "lye". As well as helping to remove stains and encourage a white color, these act as good de-greasing agents.Bucking involved lengthy soaking and was not a weekly wash. Until the idea of a once-a-week wash developed, people tended to have a big laundry session at intervals of several weeks or even months. Many women had agricultural and food preparation duties that would make it impossible for them to "waste" time on hours of laundry work every week. If you were rich you had lots of household linen, shirts, underclothing etc. and stored up the dirty stuff for future washing. If you were poor your things just didn't get washed very often. Fine clothing, lace collars and so on were laundered separately.

Soap, mainly soft soap made from ash lye and animal fat, was used by washerwomen whose employers paid for it. Soap was rarely used by the poorest people in medieval times but by the 18th century soap was fairly widespread: sometimes kept for finer clothing and for tackling stains, not used for the whole wash. Starch and blueing were available for better quality linen and clothing. A visitor to England just before 1700 sounded a little surprised at how much soap was used in London:
At London, and in all other Parts of the Country where they do not burn Wood, they do not make Lye. All their Linnen, coarse and fine, is wash'd with Soap. When you are in a Place where the Linnen can be rinc'd in any large Water, the Stink of the black Soap is almost all clear'd away.
M. Misson's Memoirs and Observations in his Travels over England (first published in French, 1698)

Drying, bleaching

The Grand Wash or the Great Wash were names for the irregular "spring cleaning" of laundry. Soaking in lye and bucking in large wooden bucking tubs were similar to processes used in textile manufacturing. So was the next stage - drying and bleaching clothes and fabrics out of doors. Sunshine helped bleach off-white cloth while drying it. Sometimes cloth was sprinkled at intervals with water and/or a dash of lye to lengthen the process and enhance bleaching.

Towns, mansions, and textile weavers had an area of mown grass set aside as a bleaching ground, or drying green, where household linens and clothing could be spread on grass in the daylight. Early settlers in America established communal bleaching areas like those in European towns and villages. Both washing and drying were often public and/or group activities. In warmer parts of Europe some cities provided communal laundry spaces with a water supply.

People also dried clothes by spreading them on bushes. Large houses sometimes had wooden frames or ropes for drying indoors in poor weather. Outdoor drying frames and clotheslines are seen in paintings from the 16th century, but most people would have been used to seeing laundry spread to dry on grass, hedgerows etc. Clothes pegs/pins seem to have been rare before the 18th century. Pictures show sheets etc. hung over clotheslines with no pegs.
Richmond, Virginia in the 1770s:
Customers took their laundry to washerwomen's homes and returned there to collect clean clothes.... ...Much washing took place in public. ... washerwomen "boyle[d]...the cloaths with soap" ... Laundresses then gathered near the market house where Shockoe Creek approached the James River. They "washed in the stream" and then allowed clothes to dry on a nearby pasture...
James Sidbury, Ploughshares into Swords: Race, Rebellion, and Identity in Gabriel's Virginia, 1730-1810
Quotes and info from Journal of John Harrower: An Indentured Servant in the Colony ofVirginia 1773 1776

Charlene Raddon is an award-winning author of historical romance novels set in the American West. She is also a book cover designer.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Understanding English...even in the Old West - rerun Blog.

Do You Really Understand English?     I'm on a two-month vacation, camping my way across the U.S. so I'm trying to meet my obligations by sharing blasts from the past from Dishin' It Out.  Hope you enjoy.

Everyone who reads my blog knows I love Reader’s Digest.  In their September 2010 issue, they presented an article by Melissa Demeo and Paul Silverman that resonated with me.  Although I like to think I’m literate when it comes to speaking and writing, I honestly had to pause after each example and consider if I’m an offender. 

I’m going to share some of their tips with you today.  I suppose as long as I’ve credited the magazine and authors, I won’t be brought up on plagiarism charges.  I’ve “bolded” the correct examples below, and in some cases, both are appropriate when used in the correct situation:

Could care less versus Couldn’t care less:  Because you care so little already, you couldn’t care less.

Less versus Fewer:  Recommend the use of fewer when you specify a number of countable things (50 words or fewer).  Less is appropriate when speaking of mass amount (less than half.) *Raising hand as guilty on this one.*

Hone in versus Home in: Since hone means to sharpen, Home in comes from “homing pigeons.” which indicates being single-minded.  You either want to home in on something or, if you’re confused, zero in on the topic.

Brother-in-laws versus Brothers-in-law:  Form the plural by adding an s to the thing there is more than one of.  Of course an ‘s would indicate possession by one brother-in-law.  (applies to runners-up and hole in ones, too)

Different than versus Different from: If you can substitute “from: for than, then do it.  Use “than” for comparisons.  Example:  My office is different from any other in the building.  My office is bigger than any other in the building.  *Raising hand as guilty on this one.*

Try versus Try to: If you are planning to do something, then try to do it. Of course, try and try again makes sense, but remember the rule.

Supposably versus Supposedly: Although spell check tells me that supposably is not a word, it is one—meaning “conceivably.”  But, if you’re trying to relay, “it’s assumed” than supposedly is what you want to say and what most people recognize as correct English.

All of versus All:  Drop “of” whenever you can, but not before a pronoun. Examples:  All the children were in their seats.  All of them were in their seats.

Outside of versus Outside: Both are prepositions and weren’t meant to be used together. 

Each other versus One AnotherEach other is appropriate when speaking of two people or things. Example: Ginger and Barbara present each other with a gift for the occasion.  One another is used when more are involved.  Example:  The debaters argued with one another.

Now for some confusing pairs:

Wary = suspicious
Weary = tired
Farther = physical distance
Further = metaphorical distance or time
Principle = rule
Principal = School official
Compliment = saying a nice thing
Complement = match
Continual = ongoing but intermittent
Continuous = without interruption
Stationary = doesn’t move
Stationery = paper
Imply = suggest a meaning
Infer = draw meaning from something
Affect (v) = to act upon. (n) = an emotional response
Effect (n) = something produced, but as a verb) to bring about  

If you’re like me, you’re still confused about affect versus effect, so here are some examples:  His bad behavior affected the entire classroom.  His bad behavior had a negative effect in the classroom.

I believe by emotional response as a noun...the experts are inferring that something you feel, like for example, sadness, would be considered an affect.  Not really sure what they mean since sadness would be something produced.  Maybe you can help me out here.

A few last helpful hints:  Did you know that saying “at this point in time” is redundant?  Point and time have the same meaning in this instance.  At this time, at this point…

Past history?  Isn’t all history past?

Be careful where you place your modifiers…if you even need one.  If you read this sentence with “even” placed after “need”, the meaning of the sentence is changed.  “Only, also, and even can impact your story if you aren’t careful.

And one of my favorites,  I versus me:  When comparing yourself to someone or something, use I.  “Am” is implied so consider that “me am” is not appropriate. Meow is, if you’re a cat.  J

The rules continue to grow the more I write.  Just when I think I have a grasp on something, one house claims the rule inappropriate and I have to change my logic.  What logic, I say….there is none in writing.  But just in case you want to check out my accomplishments, please visit my website at and see if you think I understand English.  Now don’t forget, we’re talking U.S. English, not The Queen’s English.  Shouldn’t English be English?  See, I told you…no logic.