A Rhetorical Question

Sometimes the most-workable ideas (for me), when writing fiction, are generated from the smallest of historical references. I find vintage newspapers to be my favorite source for primary research. When searching for something else altogether, I came across this question–powerful for its time:

Why shouldn't the girl who as a graduate is resolved to set the world on fire, be ultimate satisfied to start a flame in somebody's heart, if he's all the world to her?

The Times of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 17, 1897.

The only other time this question was published was one week later ~

Why shouldn't the girl who as a graduate is resolved to set the world on fire, be ultimate satisfied to start a flame in somebody's heart, if he's all the world to her?

Oxford Public Ledger of Oxford, North Carolina on June 24, 1897.

Note: I use Newspapers.com with a paid annual subscription. Not every single newspaper was in their archives the day I searched for this question, and they’ve certainly had additions since that day. Down the road, we may find any number of resources, perhaps some earlier and in a different locale.

Because this question reflects the changing times of the late 19th century–women desiring an education, wanting to contribute in the fields of business, science, medicine and beyond–and while doing so often caused her to forfeit traditional roles of wife and mother. Society hadn’t yet embraced today’s ideas that women can do both, can have both marriage and a career, and that motherhood (if she so chooses) can be done well, and neither of the first two prevent her choice.

I found this true-to-history (if 7 years too late) thought from the newspaper(s) [1897 is well within today’s public domain] to be perfect to “borrow” for the newspaper edition in Evanston, Wyoming 1890. Whoever penned this mild chastisement of women who want “a man’s career” (1890-speak, not mine), seems to have at least one foot in the old-fashioned viewpoint of “Men’s Work” vs “Women’s Work”, yet also seems to comprehend the wonder of romantic love. Women (and some men, to be fair) have certainly given up much for love.

A Slip of Poetry

Those Eyes. Shall I try? is it wise? I am tempted to do it, Just a kiss by surprise. In what light would she view it? If her temper should rise, I should certainly rue it. Shall I try? is it wise? I am tempted to do it. Ah! those mischieveous eyes! One would think that they knew it, All my doubt--now she sighs. Little rogue! I see through it! Shall I try? is it wise? I am tempted to do it.

Man tempted to kiss a girl; poetry. Published in The St. Joseph Herald of St. Joseph, Missouri on January 15, 1889.

Poetry often appears in vintage newspapers printed throughout the United States of America in the Victorian Era (1837 to 1901). As typical, this brief poem (Those Eyes) has a period after the title and does not cite the author. The message of this brief poem, the interest in a young swain’s heart to kiss the pretty girl he’s enamored with. He wonders how she’ll respond… if she knows what he’s thinking… and when he suspects that she does know his thoughts, she’s still tempted to kiss her.

The sweet lines could fit nearly any sweet romance title set in the Victorian era. I considered the social mores when writing “the kiss” in Isabella’s Calico Groom (within Calico Ball: Timeless Western Collection).

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