Have you ever been to a wine tasting? You sip a delicious Shiraz and next want to try a Sangiovese. But before you can move on to the next wine, you must rinse the taste out of your mouth with a sip of water, or the two flavors will meld, giving a false impression. In other words, you have to sample each wine independently, so your palate can savor the true depth of flavors. It’s that way with writing too.
Anyone who has ever known me will testify that I am a multi-multi-tasker. Truth is, the only way I can appear that way is to do things in chunks, blind to other demands. One piece at a time gets the job done. Unfortunately, I have not followed my usual work mantra this past year, primarily because I couldn’t wrap my brain around complex issues in my Jane Street and the Housemaid Rebellion: Sex, Syndicalism, and Denver’s Capitol Hill while taking numeroustrips relating to the success of Frank Little and the IWW: The Blood That Stained an American Family, and caring for my dying mother. So, I dabbled with the project while beginning another one, one that provided an artificial salve to other demands in my life.
I tried to work on two books at the same time! Can’t do it! Now I am taking those sips of water in order to wash away the second book until Jane Street is finished. A trip to Missouri with friends (no book research) and Gulf Coast fishing helps wash away some of the taste. Fishing in a kayak with a resident alligator nearby definitely helps one concentrate on other issues!
Afterwards, I will go to Bullhead, Arizona, to interview Jane Street’s grandson, who was raised by Jane seventy or so years ago. He should provide insight into Jane’s personality. After putting together my timelines, rereading all my research, I should be in a better place, ready to begin writing. Just looking over all the work I have done, I realize this story is wonderful – one that needs to be told.
So what does a book title suggest? The part after the colon? In this case, the following.
Sex. Free love, free love societies, union members forcing themselves on immigrant girls who do not have the power to say “no.” Sex also refers to the subordination of women to men in the early 1900s. Fighting for the right to vote, supporting WWI efforts, YWCA, education.
Syndicalism. When an economic group, like a workers’ union, proposes that a group, in this case, house servants, be organized and managed by the workers. Enter the IWW [Industrial Workers of the World], where everyone is supposed to be treated equally. See Sex.
Denver’s Capitol Hill. A smug, elite residential area where smug, elite mistresses spend their free time at club meetings and galas, events designed to help them feel like they are contributing to American injustices, such as supporting the war effort, women’s education, and dismantling a particular housemaid union. Their husbands, men of enormous power, own and operate mining interests near Denver, own and direct cattle-raising interests in Wyoming, own and edit newspapers that help propel their political interests, or are already politicians. Don’t get me wrong. Some of these organizations were necessary and made a difference. Others were simply held to make willing society-page editors take notice. And, they did.
Then here comes Jane Street. She shook up things, while her life was being turned over by sex and syndicalism. It’s a great story.
The Housemaids’ Defiance by Denver Housemaids’ Union
Lyrics & links to sheet music & karaoke download:
We are coming all together;
We are organized to stay.
For nigh on fifty years or more,
We’ve worked for little pay.
But now we’ve got our union,
We’ll do it never more.
It’s a long day for housemaid Mary;
It’s a long day’s hard toil.
It’s a burden too hard to carry,
So our mistress’s schemes we’ll foil.
We’ll be silent no longer.
We won’t be kept down.
And we’re out for a shorter day this summer,
Or we’ll fix Denver town.