Friday, March 13, 2020

The Wild Woman who was called Peculiar

By Jacqui Nelson

It's Friday the 13th. It’s a day that some might call “peculiar.” I think the Wild West was probably shaped by many “peculiar” and “headstrong” people,'s time to meet the minister’s daughter who was called both of those words.

Meet the woman who, at age fifteen, left home to attend church but instead took the train to St. Louis to make her own fortune…only to be “persuaded” to return home one week later and conform to the current image of a 1860s woman…until her “removal to” California 22 years later when she finally found a way to write freely under her own name.

Alice Moore McComas
( born 1850 in Paris, Illinois )  

Alice Moore was born into a prestigious family with traditional views of women. Her father was a Methodist minister and a representative in Congress. From the age of eight, her opinions on society and religion resulted in her being labeled "peculiar" and as she grew older "headstrong.”

In school, she traded compositions she'd written for worked-out mathematical problems. She averaged six to ten compositions weekly on different subjects while changing her style to escape detection. When her male relatives and friends enlisted with the Union during the American Civil War, she began studying politics and the woman's rights movement.

When Alice was fifteen, she left home to attend church but instead took the train for St. Louis to make her own fortune. She secured a job in a dry goods store for $8 a week, but after one week of successful self-reliance, she was “persuaded” to come home. She took solace in writing stories and poems (many of which were destroyed as soon as written) and attended to the social duties demanded of a daughter of a prominent family. In 1870, she married Judge Charles C. McComas and took up the duties of wife, mother, and housekeeper.

After the panic of 1876’s financial disaster, Alice’s husband lost their home and property. Believing he could swiftly retrieve his lost fortune in a new place, Charles went to Kansas. Alice resumed writing and earned a small income while concealing her identity under a pen name. In 1877, she and her two daughters joined Charles in Kansas.

In 1887, after Alice’s “removal to” Los Angeles, California, she began writing under her own name. I couldn’t discover what “removal to” meant, so we’ll just have to guess….while remembering this is a word used when women were “persuaded” and labeled “peculiar” and “headstrong” for having an opinion.

Alice served as associate editor of the Pacific Household Journal and wrote Under the Peppers (a book on child life in California) plus many short stories and articles on politics and economics.

In 1891 and 1893, she was vice-president of the National Woman Suffrage Association, the first vice-president of the Ladies' Annex to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the board of directors of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union. During her term as president of the California suffrage society, the first county suffrage convention was held in the state. Alice contributed to over 70 newspapers on the suffrage question.

Alice also secured the promise of a land donation for a public park in her neighborhood -- on condition that the city would improve it. She took the matter before the city council, urging them in a stirring speech to accept the gift. Only by diligent and persistent work (aka by being “peculiar” and “headstrong”) did she finally secure $10,000 to fund the land's improvement and complete the project.

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This blog post is dedicated to all the “peculiar” and “headstrong” people out there—past, present, future. May all of your days be happy and safe ❤️❤️

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Don't forget to download my FREE story Rescuing Raven (Raven & Charlie's story in Deadwood 1876) 


Julie Lence said...

What a wonderful and inspiring lady. Thanks, Jacqui!

kathleen Lawless said...

She sounds like someone I'd enjoy meeting. Thanks for the post.