Jane Kirkpatrick is known for writing the stories of real women from history whose contributions otherwise are forgotten. They are strong women who face hardship and opposition straight on, in Abigail Scott Duniway she has a woman who embodies those characteristics perfectly. We are in a historic election year, Kamala Harris was just chosen to be the running mate of Joe Biden, perhaps soon to be the first woman Vice President. For anyone having the least apprehension that a woman is not capable of leading, read about Abigail Scott Duniway and be disabused of that notion.
In 1852 Abigail, known by her childhood nickname Jenny, crossed the country on the Oregon Trail with her family. Her mother would not survive the journey. Abigail was hired as a teacher in Oregon, wanted to relish her independence but it was not to be. Her father’s circumstances dictated his daughters marry. He picked a groom for Abigail’s older sister, but Abigail already had a beau, Ben Duniway. Boy did she come up aces in finding a mate, Ben was a prince among men. A mite impetuous, less cautious than his bride, and it took him a while to realize that although he was no slouch, she had the keener intellect. But he got there, after causing some havoc along the way (you will have to read the book!). Ben loved three things with an abiding passion, his bride, his children, and horses.
Their fortunes rose and fell, but with Abigail’s acumen and determination they prospered. If Abigail’s accomplishments ended with raising her children well, being a good teacher, and navigating the family to modest prosperity, that would have been remarkable enough. But Abigail wanted to make a difference, she saw the way other women were treated, good women who were left penniless by feckless men, or beaten, or suffered any number of indignities. It made her blood boil. She didn’t agree that men should always make the decisions, or that society should look the other way when a man treated his wife cruelly. She felt women should be able to share in the choices that affected their lives, should be able to hold property in their names, should be able to have careers. And she made it happen!
Abigail Scott Duniway became a force to be reckoned with in working for the rights of women. Taking a huge risk, the family started a newspaper dedicated to promoting the rights of women and working toward gaining the right to vote. And come November 3 women will be able to vote for a woman running to be Vice President of the USA. Abigail would be delighted!
If you have been reading Jane Kirkpatrick’s novels, characters from her other books are sprinkled about for the observant reader to find. While Something Worth Doing is about a woman who lived over a century ago, it is also a story for our times.— Deon Stonehouse