Suitable Jobs for Women in 1900

Some times we historical fiction writers get so locked into the old days we write about, we forget that our contemporaries might not have the foggiest notion of what we’re talking about.

For instance, I’ve written a new short story called “Detectives’ Honeymoon.” And I’ve been promoting it with this blurb: “After resolving the mysteries of Mischief In March, Book 3 of the Calendar Mystery series, the newly wedded Daniel and Minty Price set off on their honeymoon. But due to a number of unforeseen circumstances, a Harvey Girl, and a would-be Sherlock Holmes, they come to fear they won’t have a honeymoon at all.” The “would-be Sherlock Holmes” still flies, but one of my Facebook friends asked me what a Harvey Girl was. So here’s a bit of history on suitable jobs for women in 1900 that ends with a description of a Harvey Girl.

Back in March 1900 when Mischief in March and “Detectives’ Honeymoon” take place, women still didn’t have many options for respectable employment  outside the home. But still women did work. In Kansas City, with a population of 50,000 in 1900, for instance, 5,000 women worked outside the home. Here are some respectable jobs for women back then.

1) Quite a few worked in Kansas City’s burgeoning garment industry, which I used as the major setting for Fatal February, Book 2 of my Calendar Mystery series.

2) Many were educators, working as “schoolmarms” in one-room school houses in the area, though Mary Louise Barstow and Ada Brann founded their own school for girls in the Quality Hill area of Kansas City around 1884. (Their school has moved several times, but it still exists as a co-ed institution.)

3) Some women went into nursing. A few became doctors.

4) Many women worked outside the home as business girls in assorted capacities, part of typing pools for insurance companies, for instance. Trained stenographers like my heroine Minty Wilcox and my own great aunt Melicent Perkins who inspired her could demand top dollar free-lancing their skills.

5) Women worked in assorted retail establishments around Kansas City like Emery, Bird, Thayer Dry Goods where Minty took her younger siblings to shop for shoes in January Jinx, Book 1 of my Calendar Mystery series.

6) Some women even owned their own businesses, a millinery shop or dressmaker’s, for two instances. Miss Ellen Schooley helped run the family stationer’s shop where Minty Wilcox goes for office supplies.

7) By 1900, most telephone operators in Kansas City and everywhere else in the world for that matter were women, young men having been found too rude and impatient for the work. Mrs. Flora Snodgrass, who lives at the Wilcox home as a boarder along with her husband Lemuel, is a telephone operator.

8) Although Kate Warne worked undercover in the South for Allen Pinkerton during the Civil War, by 1900 very few women worked in law enforcement. Mr. George Mathison, the manager of Price Investigations and Minty Wilcox’s boss, is firmly against female operatives in all three books of my Calendar Mystery series so far.

9) But by 1900 being a Harvey Girl had become a most suitable job for a woman, mostly because of the very high standards Fred Harvey held for his employees including the waitresses who served meals in the restaurants he established along the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe Railroad. Before 1878, when Harvey took over a lunchroom above the train station in Topeka, Kansas, a traveler on railroads beyond Kansas City faced a vast food desert hundreds of miles long. If you didn’t bring your own food for the trip to Denver, for instance, or you did, but you ran out because the train was delayed, you would be very hungry by the time you reached your destination. Or you could risk food poisoning at a whistle stop along the way. By 1900, though, you would find a Harvey House, a top-grade eating establishment every hundred miles along the line. At a Harvey House you could count on getting a fine meal including anything you’d expect in the best New York City establishment served by young, efficient, intelligent, absolutely clean and tidy Harvey Girls of impeccable character. And you got good value for your seventy-five cents dinner, for Harvey Houses were known for slicing their pies into four pieces instead of the usual six.

If you’d like to learn more about the Harvey Girls, read Lesley Poling-Kempes’ lively book The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West. You might also enjoy The Harvey Girls film with Judy Garland. And by all means, please get your very own copy of “Detectives’ Honeymoon,” the latest installment in my Calendar Mystery series, now available for only $0.99 at wwww.amazon.com/dp/B07D89JXN.

You can find other books and stories in my Calendar Mystery series at www.amazon.com/Juliet-Kincaid/e/B00DB4HWRG

Last day for FREE mystery story

Sunday April 8 is the last day to get “The 9th Street Gang,” the latest short story in my calendar mystery series, for FREE.

Join the fun as newly engaged Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price pursue a gang of thieves plaguing Kansas City in February 1900. Minty tries to focus on the case, but her wayward thoughts about the secret married couples keep to themselves distract her. Not only that, but her boss objects to her attempts to be a detective and any show of affection for Daniel inside the office or out.

Get your copy of “The 9th Street Gang” for FREE now at www.amazon.com/dp/B079YYVTTX

Job Hunting Jinxed in Old Kansas City

Buy January Jinx, the first book in the Calendar Mystery series, now at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4

The first chance Minty Wilcox gets in January 1899, she sets off to find a stenographer’s job in Kansas City. But her search is jinxed from the start. And in spite of her efforts to clear her name, bad luck spreads like a nasty cold from Minty to her family and to Daniel Price, their mysterious boarder as well. Minty feels that she brought all these troubles to her family and friends, so she must set things right. This won’t be easy in Kansas City that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago.

From January Jinx . . .

Mama slammed the kettle down onto the Grand Windsor Range. “What were you doing in the West Bottoms, Minty?”

Mama only banged the pots and pans around when she was truly agitated. The gas sucked the flame from the match and Minty jumped, but she kept her gaze on her hands twisting a napkin into a wet noodle. “I was looking for work. Besides, I didn’t actually get to the West Bottoms.”

“You were headed there on the stairs! And if you had made it to the bottom of the stairs, what then? Would you have crossed the tracks on foot? Oh, Minty, don’t you know how dangerous that is?”

“I’m sorry, Mama. I didn’t think it through.”

“I guess not. And why didn’t you take the car? Don’t tell me you went off this morning without a penny to your name?”

“I had fare both ways. I gave the soldier a nickel for breakfast at Mrs. McLean’s Up-to-Date Café. He looked like he was starving, Mama.” Minty recalled the soldier as she’d first laid eyes on him that morning. Slight of build, he stood near the fence along a Ninth Street mansion that needed paint. His sand-colored shirt, with gold cloth edging collar and cuffs and gold buttons down the front, had reassured her. How could she have known so much harm could come from her generosity? “All the soldiers who fought with Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan Hill are heroes.”

“Of that I have no doubt.”

“The sheriff took the other nickel.”

“That sheriff sounds like a common thief to me, making off with Uncle Edward’s watch like that. Are you sure he’s a sheriff? What’s his name? Where is he the sheriff?”

“He said he’s Sheriff Clayton Cole of Campbell, Kansas.”

“I never heard of Campbell, Kansas.” Across the kitchen, Mama flung open a cabinet so hard the door smacked into the next cabinet. On tiptoe Mama felt around the second shelf, but their maid Gerta had obviously pushed the plates too far back and out of Mama’s reach. “Where’s the stool?” Mama asked. “Oh, yes, the children took it into the parlor.”

Earlier, in the parlor, Mr. Price had impressed Mama with his credentials, with his arrangements for employment in town, and most of all with the thirty dollars deposit, a full month’s rent in advance. Then he left his satchel in the big bedroom upstairs and went off somewhere. He didn’t say where. A bit of a mystery, he was, with his unstated destination, his magician’s tricks and his new overcoat from Emery, Bird, Thayer, right downtown in Kansas City, though he claimed to have only just arrived from Chicago. Not that his goings-on interested Minty . . .

Praise for January Jinx

The delightful, creative, and charming January Jinx introduces a terrific character in Minty Wilcox, a good old-fashioned cozy mystery persona who will surely be able to carry the planned-for series. It’s Minty who drives the readable narrative, and author Juliet Kincaid keeps the pace steady and fast at the same time for quite a readable experience. The writing is appropriate for the historical setting without ever being gimmicky or archaic . . . The unique setting of 1899 Kansas City is full of flavor that never overwhelms the story and the characters. With a terrific, original, but still comfortable series concept, there are certainly big things afoot for Juliet Kincaid and Minty Wilcox’s Calendar Mysteries.

 

 

 

Free Short Story

Here’s a snippet from “The Barn Door,” a prequel story to my calendar mystery series, set in old Kansas City, that features an old gent named Hector Jones in need of a detective.

The elevator operator had started to close the door when someone shouted, “Wait for me” from outside and a clean-shaven man of medium height stepped onto the car. He didn’t remove his dark blue cap. “Thanks for waiting, Robbie,” the man said.
“Sure thing, Mr. Price,” the elevator operator said. “Going to the Ninth Floor, as usual?” he asked before he shut the elevator door.
Price? Hector Jones thought.
“Yes indeed,” the man said, now standing near the front of the car on the right with his back to Hector.
Hector lowered his gaze and studied Price from the heels of his brown boots, the left one scuffed, to his dark gray mixed Kentucky jean pants, baggy in the seat. A pair of sturdy farmer’s suspenders crossed a patch of his white shirt a little darker with sweat than the rest of it.
The attendant turned and looked at Hector. “Which floor you going to, sir?”
“As it happens, I’m going to the Ninth Floor as well, to Price Investigations,” Jones said.
The man in front of Jones turned and took off his cap. “I’m Daniel Price,” he said.

Take a break from expensive Christmas shopping and also get a change in the weather a lot cheaper than flying to Bermuda, and read my calendar mystery short story “The Barn Door” set on the July 4th weekend in 1898. This prequel story to my calendar mystery novels is FREE 12/08/17  #FreebieFriday through  #ShortStorySunday 12/10/17. Enjoy mystery and some possible romance in old Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago by getting “The Barn Door” for FREE at www.amazon.com/dp/B073G7ZXMP.

M. Louisa Locke’s Maids of Misfortune

Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa Locke, a review by Juliet Kincaid

This historical novel, set in San Francisco in 1879, hooks you from the start with the widowed Annie Fuller receiving a letter claiming that she owes some gent the sum of $1,380 for a loan made to her late husband. If you keep in mind the statistic that what you could buy for a penny in 1900 would cost you a dollar in 2000, you’ll realize just how shocked Mrs. Fuller must have been with an unexpected debt of the equivalent of $138,000.

Dr. Locke follows through on her strong opening with the revelation that Mrs. Fuller supplements her income running a boarding house by giving advice on investing and personal matters as Madam Sibyl, a clairvoyant. Sibyl charges $2 (or $200 in 2000 dollars) a sitting and worth every penny of it, at least according to her favorite client, who sadly has died under suspicious circumstances. And so Annie goes undercover as the new hire maid to find out what really happened to him in this lively first book in Dr. Locke’s Victorian San Francisco Mystery series.

A couple of quibbles . . . Descriptions of San Francisco seem a bit thin, though of course lots of that city as it was in 1879 disappeared in the great earthquake and subsequent fires of April 18, 1906. The romantic subplot with a handsome lawyer who soon shows up seems somewhat conventional. These reservations disappeared, though, as I read Uneasy Spirits and Bloody Lessons, the next two novels in the series as well as her collection of Victorian San Francisco stories. Obviously I remain hooked by the engaging Annie Fuller and I suspect that other fans of historical mysteries will enjoy the series as well.

FYI: Maids of Misfortune is permanently free for Kindle, Nook, and other eBook readers.

Mischief in March is here!

This excerpt from Juliet Kincaid’s third calendar mystery, Mischief in March, presents some of what Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price come to call their “improper courtship.”

Precisely four weeks before on Valentine’s Day, right after they announced their engagement to her family, Minty  led Daniel into the parlor and told him about her intention of starting an “investigation into all things Daniel Price.”

That night, after saying, “And there’s no time like the present to start,” Minty removed his tie and unbuttoned his collar and his shirt down a button while he stood there like a lamb, even when, on tiptoes she kissed him on his neck where it curved down into his left shoulder.

Instantly she discovered that the manly Mr. Price was as ticklish as a little boy in that particular spot. He sounded just as silly as a kid when he giggled, too. And so there was nothing for it but for her to yank his shirttails out, reach under his shirt, and tickle his ribs, thus reducing him to helpless laughter on the floor.

Of course Minty’s discovery required that Daniel be permitted to look for the ticklish places upon her person as well. It was only by the firmest discipline and the thickness of her corset that she remained unmoved by those attempts.

In the days since Valentine’s Day, what Daniel came to call their improper courtship and their mutual investigation into each other’s physical persons had progressed from tickling to kissing to general, all-purpose canoodling, and finally to examining each other’s scars.

Minty started that phase of the investigation by showing Daniel the curved scar on her left index finger she received when she first tried to skin a potato with a paring knife.

And then Daniel rolled up his right sleeve so Minty could see the scar on his bicep he got tangling with the barbed wire on a fence in his flight away from a neighbor’s pumpkin patch one fall night long before.

In the weeks following, she pulled up her skirt, rolled up her pantaloons, though only as far as her knees, and rolled down her left stocking so he could touch the deep pit on her shin she got when she fell on a rocky hillside back home at the ranch. She also let him examine the scar on the edge of her right hand that came from tripping on a paving stone, dropping a jelly jar she was carrying, and hitting a pointed shard of glass with her hand.

He in turn over the weeks guided her discovery of his scars . . .

Now, on the evening of March Fourteenth, when they returned to the Wilcox parlor from their fruitless search for Miss Shackleton’s will, they lit only the lamp on the table in the center of the room before they retreated to the sofa in the shadows. This served as a preventative measure so they could set themselves to rights in case someone burst into the parlor without knocking on the door and caught them in disarray.

That evening, Daniel sat so close to Minty in the corner of the sofa a gnat couldn’t squeeze between them. His left arm lay across her shoulder and his mustache tickled her cheek.

Minty had thought Daniel had no more injuries to investigate until she reached into his shirt he’d unbuttoned for her that night and felt yet another scar on his collarbone on the right side. “What’s this?” she said.

“It’s nothing, Minty. Please stop.”

She unfastened the next button, opened his shirt wide, and felt the long, furrowed scar. “That must have been a severe injury,” she said. “A little higher and the blade or whatever it was might have cut your throat. What happened? How did you get that scar? Why didn’t you tell me about it before?”

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As their wedding day rapidly approaches, Minty Wilcox still has many questions about her fiance, Daniel Price. Could he really have killed a man? What else is he hiding about his past? Why has he never told her he’s rich? And for goodness’ sake, where are they going on their honeymoon?

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Mischief in March, Book 3 of the Calendar Mystery Series, is now available as a Kindle eBook  for only $3.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited at www.amazon.com/dp/B06XR1STRH

Praise for January Jinx, Book 1 of the Calendar Mystery Series

The delightful, creative, and charming January Jinx introduces a terrific character in Minty Wilcox, a good old-fashioned cozy mystery persona who will surely be able to carry the planned-for series. It’s Minty who drives the readable narrative, and author Juliet Kincaid keeps the pace steady and fast at the same time for quite a readable experience. The writing is appropriate for the historical setting without ever being gimmicky or archaic . . . The unique setting of 1899 Kansas City is full of flavor that never overwhelms the story and the characters. With a terrific, original, but still comfortable series concept, there are certainly big things afoot for Juliet Kincaid and Minty Wilcox’s Calendar Mysteries.

Buy January Jinx for $3.99 (or get it for free on Kindle Unlimited) now at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4

Praise for Fatal February  Book 2 of the Calendar Mystery Series.

In the year 1900, Minty Wilcox has been hired by a private detective agency, her on again/off again beau’s employer, as a stenographer. For this spunky gal, typing and taking shorthand aren’t enough. She wants to be an operative. So, of course, author Juliet Kincaid, accommodates her protagonist by letting her delve into a missing person/murder case, sometimes sanctioned, but often not, by her boss. The ins and outs of the investigation, Minty’s romantic ups and downs, and her inside out family situations are fun to follow. It’s also interesting to learn about the physical layout and the social customs of Kansas City at the turn of the last century. Good follow-up to January Jinx, the first mystery in the series.

Buy Fatal February for $3.99 (or get it for free on Kindle Unlimited) now at www,amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM