Becky here, so excited to welcome the prolific Edith Maxwell back to Chicks on the Case. Even more exciting, she’s giving a signed copy of Judge Thee Not, her newest Quaker Midwife Mystery, to a random commenter …. squee! I’m channeling my ancestors here because everyone knows that “squee” was a constant interjection used throughout the 1800s. What? You weren’t aware of that? *checks her sources* Never mind. Better listen to Edith instead.
Fun and Odd Facts from 1889
Rose Carroll isn’t exactly a chick, being a Quaker midwife in 1889, but this author chick loves writing her and doing all the many kinds of research necessary to write historical mystery.
I’m often asked at book events if I’ve always loved history. I always say, “No, but I’ve found that I love being an amateur historian.” Here are some of the things I’ve unearthed in the process of writing the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, in which Judge Thee Not is book five.
When a police officer arrested someone, he was obliged to lay his hand on the accused’s arm or shoulder while he pronounced the words. My replica copy of the 1890 The Massachusetts Peace Officer: a Manual for Sheriffs, Constables, Police, and Other Civil Officers doesn’t say why this touch is required, but I imagine it was so there would be no mistake about who was being charged.
Blind people in that era were considered to be morons and also deaf. I read this in several places, including in The World As I Hear It by Lansing V. Hall (1878). Of course I used this factoid for my intelligent, educated, tri-lingual, blind (and pregnant) character Jeanette Papka in the book. She’s an interpreter for the courts, and people reveal secrets in her presence because they assume she can’t understand. She’s happy to pass along the information to Rose, her midwife and friend.
When I toured the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, I learned Braille was in use in France before the American version was developed. In my book, Jeanette reads Jane Austen in French because there aren’t yet many books published in Braille in English.
By the mid-nineteenth century, doctors knew about the efficacy of willow bark extract to reduce fevers, pain, and inflammation. But salicylic tea was harsh on the stomach, and chemists hadn’t yet found a way to buffer it (after they did, it was sold as Aspirin). When an infant girl Rose had delivered only two months earlier develops a high fever and her attempts to reduce it fail, Rose’s physician beau finds a way to administer a small dose of the tea to the baby and saves her life.
Tuberculosis was rampant at that time, and the germ theory of infection was well established. Women gradually began hemming their dresses shorter so as not to sweep tuberculosis into homes with their skirts.
I’ve learned lots more, of course, and am always delighted to explore new areas for the next book!
Readers: What’s your favorite historical trivia?
No stranger to judgmental attitudes in her small town, 1880s Quaker midwife Rose Carroll is nonetheless stunned when society matron Mayme Settle publicly snubs Rose’s good friend Bertie for her nontraditional ways. When Mrs. Settle is later found murdered—and a supposed witness insists Bertie was spotted near the scene of the crime—the police blame her. Rose is certain her friend is innocent, and she enlists the help of a blind pregnant client—who’s endured her own share of prejudice—to help her sift through the clues. As the two uncover a slew of suspects tied to financial intrigues, illicit love, and an age-old grudge over perceived wrongs, circumstantial evidence looms large in small minds, and Rose fears her friend will soon become the victim of a grave injustice—or worse.
Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Maxwell, with nineteen novels in print and four more completed, has been nominated for an Agatha Award six times. She lives north of Boston with her beau and an elderly cat, and gardens and cooks when she isn’t killing people on the page or wasting time on Facebook. Please find her at edithmaxwell.com, on Instagram, and at the Wicked Authors blog.