Thursday, October 29, 2009

Exciting(?) News From the Past

So, faithful readers ("reader"? anyone?) are dying to know: who IS the historically significant, hitherto unknown woman I mentioned in my last post? Actually, really faithful readers will find the revelation to be old news, since I've mentioned her before in this space.

Her name was Eliza Anderson -- or, to be more complete, Eliza Crawford Anderson Godefroy, and she lived from 1780 to 1839. That she's unknown is probably self-evident, unless you're one of the handful of people who know about her. So, why is she historically significant? I think she may well have been the first woman to edit a magazine in the United States.

Perhaps this fact strikes you as something less than earth-shaking, and it surely won't require the rewriting of high school textbooks. But if you read through secondary source after secondary source, and they all identify someone ELSE as the first female magazine editor -- someone, that is, who came later -- you can find this tidbit of knowledge pretty exciting. At least, I can!

It's not just that Eliza was the first, of course. She edited her magazine in a pretty interesting way, and she had a pretty amazing -- if ultimately sad -- life. I'm currently working on a scholarly article about her, but it's a safe bet that very few people will ever read it. So I thought I might add, marginally, to the number of people who know about Eliza Anderson by occasionally posting some snippets about her here. If you're intrigued, please come back for more!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Uses of Nonfiction

Once again, it's been quite a while since my last post -- and every once in a while I get a reminder that someone is actually reading this blog, or trying to! At which point I feel guilty for not providing them with fresh material. So here goes ... and, as I've been advised by more experienced bloggers, I'll try to keep it light and breezy. And short.

So, what have I been doing since I last posted? Well, for one thing, I've written a 280-page novel, which I now have to figure out if I can possibly get published in the current dismal climate. (I'm hoping that a contemporary comic novel about mother-daughter relationships might be more marketable than a 450-page historical novel about two real women no one has ever heard of. But I might be wrong about that.)

I've also gone back, sort of, to the subject of the historical novel I WAS working on, before I took a break a few months ago to write the contemporary one. The only thing is, I'm not actually working on the novel. Instead, I've decided I need to write a nonfiction, scholarly historical article about one of the real women whose life I was going to fictionalize. Why? Because (1) I've discovered this woman was historically significant, and (2) no one knows about her. Fiction has its uses, but in this case the historical record needs to be corrected. And it seems the best way to do that is to put on my historian's hat.

Stay tuned for more on this remarkable woman and why I think historians need to know about her.