Several years ago, I became curious about young women before the first World War (1918). In particular, how did they express sexual feeling and feelings about their bodies, when there was no vocabulary for it? No teachings? A single kiss meant that you were as good as engaged. Women were not prepared for what happened in the bedroom. The only birth control was abstinence. Women, particularly lower class women, had large numbers of children, sometimes as many as fourteen or fifteen. They got pregnant again as soon as their bodies were ready.
They rarely had any power over their lives. Women did not work. Either they married, or, if not, lived with their parents. Women of today have difficulty comprehending such a world. But much of the government would like to send us back there, with no control over their bodies.
My curiousity led me to write, “The Abortionist’s Daughter: A Novel” set in 1916. The titular character, Melanie, believes that her father’s activities have ruined her life. (He was sent to prison after accidentally killing a woman while aborting her twelth child.) The novel’s journey follows her from sheltered small-town girl to budding feminist and working actress.
Melanie’s friend, an unmarried woman, tries to kill herself rather than have her life and career destroyed by an illegitimate baby. Melanie asks her father to help. For the first time she understands why he does what he does. They reach a fragile truce.
At the beginning, Melanie faces being an old maid. When she meets James, she allows herself to be seduced in hope of escape. She runs off to New York with him. There, she discovers that James is not what he seems. Particularly when she meets another of his lovers, Gladys, a Broadway actress.
Determined not to be dependent on anybody, Melanie embarks on a career as an actress. But the road is rough, and she has to make hard choices along the way.
I hope that my book will speak to younger feminists. I hope that it will give them a greater understanding of what women had to go through long before Roe v. Wade. Planned Parenthood allowed me to go through their archives, and read truly shocking stories. The New-York Historical Society and the Adirondack Museum were also invaluable sources of information.
“The Abortionist’s Daughter: A Novel” can be found at Smashwords in a variety of downloadable formats.
Or at Amazon Kindle, one reviewer on Amazon said: “The author’s evocation of that time period, the abundant showbiz details, and the personal politics of abortion all made it very rich.”
This book is my contribution to the fight for women’s health and women’s reproductive rights.