Never heard of Helen Valeska Bary? Of course not. Nor, probably, of Maud Younger, Sara Bard Field, Alice Paul, or Anita Whitney! All these remarkable women are invisible in our history books, but they did much to shape our country and our laws. Helen Valeska Bary 1888-1973, worked for the Labor Commission, the department of Social Security, negotiated labor strikes across California. She toiled for the minimum wage for women at a time when employers had “girls” sign a statement upon application for work stating that they were not using the funds for support of a family, so as to get around the need to pay a living wage.
Post World War 1 San Francisco saw the progress women had made in the work-force diminish as concerns that they were “stealing” work from men drove public opinion against them. At the same time, a wave of puritanism, the same wave that brought us prohibition, fueled the closure of brothels. Women who had made their living on their backs now made it on their feet, but any hope of a living wage was dashed by public resistance. Valeska Bary rose through the ranks of government during the War, but managed to remain not only employed but with a growing sphere of influence, after the men returned home.
Sara Bard Field
An amazing oral history of Valeska Bary, along with other feminists of bygone times, can be found at the Bancroft Library. Here’s a quote from her interview:
“Also, I saw something that annoyed me very much. That was that an application for employment at Nathan Dohrmann’s contained a statement just above the signature that the applicant was living at home and not dependent on her wages….
When you talked about low wages with many people, they would tell you that these women were living at home and whatever they earned was just pin money. Every girl, in applying for a job, had to say that it was just pin money….She did not need it. You may say that cleared their skirts from the idea that they were grinding the faces of the poor, it was just a pin money occupation.”
See more, and more and more, at: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/projects/suffragist/
There’s walking the streets and street-walking, right? Last year I took the Dasheill Hammett’s San Francisco walking tour with the magnetic Don Herron. We peeked into John’s Grill (home of the Maltese Falcon) and saw the very spot where Sam Spade’s partner was shot…in the fictional real world.
We got to talking, and I told him about my book. He said he’d mention me in a blog post someday. Well check it out! http://www.donherron.com/?p=6082
Take the tour. It’s $20 and wear your walking shoes. After all, if you’re going to walk #thestreetsofSanFrancisco you’d better be able to walk up hill!
I’ve been to the Winchester Mystery House once, a long time ago, and I have always wanted to go back. Only about 50 miles from where I live, the house is a maze of secret passages, doors to nowhere, chutes, ladders, cubbies and hiding places. Oh, and it’s haunted too! What more could you ask? Let me tell you: sleepovers and a cocktail! They just got their permit for a b&b, and can serve drinks!
Maybe the setting for my next novel? Only one way to find out, I guess. Better book my room before the summer tourist rush!
Want to win an e-copy (KINDLE USERS ONLY!) of THE HARLOT’S PEN? Here’s the riddle:
What cocktail does Violetta drink in the guest-blog post for THE HARLOT’S PEN, in the awesome blog, Chasing Steampunk?
First right answer wins!
Post it here!
Wow, what a review! I’m doing the happy dance all over town! THE HARLOT’S PEN was reviewed in Pretty Little Pages today and I am jumping for joy. Read the whole review here: http://prettylittlepages.blogspot.com My favorite lines: “I was in awe of Claudia’s skill with threading such a compelling and captivating story through such a troubled time. She is beyond talented. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this inspiring book. You won’t regret it!”
Who won the Battle of Hastings, the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle of Gettysburg, or Valley Forge? We drilled that in History class, remember? But did anyone every ask in history class, what about the mothers, the daughters, the sisters of those soldiers, the wives, the lovers and the ones left behind? It’s in novels that we find the “other” points of view, the stories of women’s suffering and sorrow, of patriotism, bravery, cowardice and fear by the “distaff” side of the historical duo.
And what of those dreams? Who will tell us, when it’s all over, what dreams the woman, staring at her burned out home, her dead child, or her first step to glory, dreamed when she faced her own version of the battle? For make no mistake, women fought and fight wars too, and are rarely the victors, and too often the spoils.
It’s Women’s History month. Notice we don’t need a Men’s History month! Our stories slip into the spaces between…between the battles, the treaties, the land acquisitions, and until recently, between the laws passed. The idea that we’re part of “real” history is relatively new, and until we’re completely integrated into mainstream history, our stories will have to be told separately.
The Harlot’s Pen tells a tale of an ambitious reporter who embeds herself (literally!) in a high-class brothel to write the story of the working woman in the tumultuous times of women’s suffrage, the minimum wage, and Prohibition. Welcome to 1920 San Francisco!