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Tom Chaney: Rights of Women

Of Writers and their Books, Assassination, Abolition, and the Rights of Women deals with women sleuths created by Miriam Grace Monfredo. It first appeared 7 October 2007
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Tom Chaney: Dysfunctional Heroes

By Tom Chaney

Assassination, Abolition, and the Rights of Women

Serendipity has once again reared its delightful head.

This time in the guise of another woman mystery writer dealing with women sleuths.

The author is Miriam Grace Monfredo, herself a librarian. The women sleuths are variously Glynis Tryon librarian of Seneca Falls, New York, and Glynis' niece Bronwen Llyr who has bullied her way into employment by the Pinkerton Detective Agency about the time of President Lincoln's inauguration.

The novel which first caught my eye was The Stalking Horse, fifth in Monfredo's Seneca Falls Series.

Pinkerton sends Bronwen to Montgomery, Alabama, before the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as president of the rebel government. She is supposed to be in the tutelage of two veteran agents. Both of those agents are killed leaving Bronwen on her own.

The murder of the two agents is related to a confederate plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln in Baltimore on his way to take office in Washington. Much of the novel is given to her hair-raising trip by rail and ship to get word back to northern authorities. Neither the reader nor Bronwen know just whom to trust.

In the end, all is well as Monfredo weaves mid-nineteenth century political and social history with her believable cast of fictional creations to create a mystery which both informs and entertains.

In fact, I was so delighted by The Stalking Horse that I hied me to the mystery department to see what other Monfredo might be lurking there.

I was amply rewarded by The North Star Conspiracy set in the mid 1850's, some seven years before The Stalking Horse. In this novel, Glynis Tryon herself is the detective. The town of Seneca Falls is opening a new theatre in an abandoned church. The church had become the property of the local bank after its minister was forced to leave the territory after providing too much pastoral comfort to certain ladies of the village.

Glynis investigates the suspicious death of a freed slave and unearths the grizzly details of a ten-year-old murder of an escaping Virginia slave. Seneca Falls is a station on the underground railroad helping fleeing slaves get to the nearby Canadian border.

The fictional Glynis is aided by a number of historical figures -- among them Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass.

The North Star Conspiracy comes to an intricate climax with a courtroom scene in Virginia resulting in the acquittal of a young native of Seneca Falls who has spirited a beautiful young slave to the north and freedom.

The first novel in the Seneca Falls series, The Seneca Falls Inheritance, is set in 1848 at the time of the Women's Rights Convention in the actual Seneca Falls, New York. Glynis realizes in the course of the series that the rights of women are closely related to the rights of slaves and that both must be the subject of acts of civil disobedience.

Glynis is an independent woman who rejects marriage and family in favor of a career in a time when women were regarded as decorative ornaments to society useful for bearing and raising children but having no thoughts or opinions of their own.

Author Monfredo does good service in providing a look into the neglected history of the women's movement. "How can women know what they are entitled to today if they don't know what they've done in the past?" she asks.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2012-10-07 04:50:59
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