Lori Henriksen

author of The Winter Loon


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The Threat of War

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The threat of war wasn’t much on the minds of America during the early 1930s. Dealing with the economic and social issues of the Great Depression occupied most people’s time.

After World War I, during the 1920s and 1930s, the U.S., weary of war, moved toward isolationism, described as the avoidance of political and military commitments to our alliances with foreign powers, particularly those of Europe.

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A powerful force in isolationism was the peace movement that attracted women who had won the right to vote in 1920.

The destructive forces of WWI and the hardships of women’s lives during wartime further strengthened women against the U.S. getting involved in overseas conflict. However, toward the end of the 1930s, even though unemployment was still high, the social reforms of FDR’s New Deal raised the hope of many men and women that the crisis had passed.

People in America began to take notice of the rise in fascism overseas, Hitler’s takeover of Germany, and Mussolini in Italy. In addition, the aggressiveness of Japan got the attention of the U.S. population. All of this, plus learning that Hitler’s intent was to conquer the world scared people into moving away from isolation. Debates raged around the country until on a peaceful Sunday morning at 7:55 Honolulu time, December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. On December 8, President Roosevelt went before Congress to declare war against Japan and enter World War II.

Suddenly, the women who for the last decade had worked for 50% less than a man at menial jobs became the workforce as the men went off to war.

Women found out how strong they could be.

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How important they could be.

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How they could do the same jobs as a man.

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My mother working in Chrysler Corporation factory during War years

 

 


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Smoking

In The Winter Loon, all the cowgirls roll their own smokes. Rollie theaches Ruth the technique, and Ruth takes up smoking right away, splurging on cheap loose tobacco and rolling papers. Back home, Ruth stops smoking to save money until she meets Gisela who offers her a Pall Mall from the red and white package.

No wonder women in the 1930s were hooked on cigarettes.

Cigarettes were chic:

 

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Cigarettes were sexually alluring:

 

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Cigarettes were healthy and good for you:

 

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Here are some interesting facts from an American Public Health Association article: The Physician in U.S. cigarette advertising 1930-1953.

During the 1920s, the first medical reports linking smoking to cancer appeared. Many newspaper editors refused to publish rather than offend tobacco companies and lose advertising dollars.

Advertising slogans in the 1930s promoted the advantages of smoking. A Luckies campaign extolled the virtues of staying slim – “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.” Another Luckies ad suggested: 20,679 physicians say Luckies are less irritating.

Phillip Morris jumped on the bandwagon in 1937, taking an ad in The Saturday Evening Post that said, “According to a group of doctors . . . when smokers changed to Phillip Morris, every case of irritation cleared completely and definitely improved.

Advertisements appeared in medical journals for the first time in the 1930s–tobacco companies’ effort to develop a symbiotic relationship with physicians.

It wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s that major medical reports confirmed smoking causes serious disease.


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Rodeo

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Rodeo athletes from the 1920s and 1930s were talented and tough. One woman who changed the landscape of rodeo is Bonnie McCarroll. She was from southern Idaho and won many bronc riding contests, including Cheyenne, Madison Square Garden and Wembley, England.

McCarroll wasn’t competing at Pendleton the day she was killed, September 19, 1929. She was thirty-four years old, giving her last performance  as an exhibition before retirement. The organizers assigned a bronc named Black Cat for her to ride. According to a description from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Black Cat fell and went into a forward somersault. He recovered and began to buck, but McCarroll was riding hobbled and her left foot caught in the stirrups.

Riding hobbled means tying the stirrups together beneath the horse. It was considered an easier, but more dangerous method than riding slick with stirrups loose. The Pendleton roundup required that women ride hobbled even though McCarroll preferred to ride slick. The rest is history and documented in the film by Steve Wurstas called From Cheyenne to Pendleton: The Rise and Fall of the Rodeo Cowgirl. Here’s a trailer. The film is on DVD and available from libraries

 

 


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Queer

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This post is a short and incomplete history of the word Queer. (Becoming Visible, An Illustrated History of Lesbian and Gay Life In Twentieth-Century America; Molly McGarry and Fred Wasserman gives an in-depth history through the 1990s.)

The characters in The Winter Loon live in an era where women who formed lifelong partnerships would not have considered or called themselves queer and most likely not even lesbian. It was an era when articles, vice reports, psychologists like  Havelock Ellis, and authors like Radcliffe Hall who wrote The Well of Loneliness, used terms like pervert, deviant, and invert to describe lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. It was an era when same-sex  partners, seeking to live, work and play as productive citizens, kept their love  and lives hidden.

I can’t imagine how difficult and frightening it must have been to live a concealed life in that era. It is especially close for me because I wrote The Winter Loon based on what I knew of my mother’s life. She was a rodeo performer, a clinical psychologist and always had a woman companion who I believe was her lover during the Thirties and Forties. I wanted to explore and write a novel that shined a light on how different life was in the 1930s for lesbians.

During World War II, thousands of lesbians and gay men met others like themselves and began to realize they were part of a larger group.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/5/25/1094817/-Remembering-LGBT-History-How-World-War-II-Changed-Gay-and-Lesbian-Life-in-America

In 1951, Donald Webster Cory wrote a book called The Homosexual in America. He observed that most homosexuals at the time hid their sexuality because of shame and fear of social persecution. He stated that only when people dared to be open could others do the same. A few courageous people took the challenge, but persecution and fear held more back.

There were changes during the 1960s with the Stonewall Riots and demonstrations for Equality for Homosexuals. Gay liberation was threatened by society’s definition of homosexuality as a mental illness until 1974. Anger spilled over in the decade of the Seventies. In the 1980s and 1990s the AIDS epidemic led to political activism in the gay community. The Nineties became the Year of the Queer.

We’re here! We’re queer!

We’re fabulous! Get used to it!

~Queer Nation Chant

Queer Nation is an LGBT activist organization founded in New York City in March 1990 by AIDS activists from ACT UP New York (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). Those who rejected the terms gay and lesbian as too limiting and mainstream, proudly adopted the self-designation, queer. Diversity has been a source of strength for activism and the controversy continues as lives, attitudes and politics change.

The Twenty-first century so far carries on the tradition of changing labels and use of terms to describe the LGBT community. Today, LGBTQ+ represents the diverse experiences of people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and allies.

PFLAG

Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization. Uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality and full societal affirmation of LGBTQ people through its threefold mission of support, education, and advocacy. Find out more at:

http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=191#sthash.F4lTj4o6.dpuf

A definition of “Queer” from PFLAG:

https://community.pflag.org/abouttheq

 

 

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Politics

 

 

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During the 1930s, Women made great gains in politics and government. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal represented a time of questioning and economic readjustment.

As New Deal Programs were implemented, women were appointed to high administrative positions. These women appointees worked on behalf of less fortunate women hurt by the Depression. Many positions were firsts for women: Cabinet member, Director of the Mint, Ambassador, and Judge to the Court of Appeals. These appointments reflected favorably on women active in public life.

Three women, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor, and Molly Dewson, a politician and social reformer, were the main instigators of progress for women in politics during the era of the New Deal.

 

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Frances Perkins

Molly Dewson was a well educated feminist politician who worked hard at social reform for women. Before coming to work for the New Deal, she promoted The Women’s Suffrage Movement, minimum wage reform and limited work hours. She was a confidant of Mrs. Roosevelt and an advisor to Frances Perkins and friend of both. She developed the Reporter Plan, an effort to involve women in understanding the New Deal.

Due to heart problems, she retired in 1936. She lived out her years until her death in 1962 on a dairy farm with her life partner, Mary G. Porter.

A novel, Beyond The Pale by Elana Dykewomon, set in the early 20th century is about the immigrant experience and the New York suffrage movement so dear to Molly Dewson.  It is a story of the courage of two young women born in a Russian-Jewish settlement who end up working in the New York garment factories. It is a story of love and devotion.  I recommend it not only as a powerful story, but also an education on the issues faced by women that moved the politically-minded women of the 1930s to work hard for social change. It’s available on Amazon.

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Outlaw Women

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Outlaw women have been romanticized in print and film. The desperate times of the 1930s had a fair share of women gangsters. This is just a partial list of the women who became famous from a life of crime.

Bonnie Parker ~ Probably the most famous female villain. She’s been portrayed in movies: 1958 The Bonnie Parker Story, 1992TV movie Bonnie and Clyde-A True Story, 2013 TV mini-series Bonnie and Clyde. Faye Dunaway played Bonnie in the Oscar-winning Bonnie and Clyde in 1967.


Helen Gillis ~ Married to Lester “Baby Face Nelson” Gillis. In her 20s, the mother of two babies, she was on the Public Enemy Shoot to Kill list because of her close affiliation with her husband’s murder and mayhem. She surrendered to a the FBI after Gillis’ death and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.

Pearl Elliott ~ A notorious madam connected to John Dillinger and his mentor, Harry Peipont who was executed in 1934. Pearl was also on the Shoot to Kill list, but died of natural causes at age 47.

Marie Baker ~ Called the Pretty Pants Bandit. After committing a robbery, she would demand the shop clerks to take off their pants. She always carried two guns. She served three years in prison as Mrs. Rose Durante and then disappeared.

Virginia Hills ~ Bugsy Siegel’s girlfriend nicknamed The Flamingo after his Las Vegas Casino. She was portrayed by Annette Bening in the movie Bugsy and is the subject of Bugsy’s Baby: The Secret Life of Mob Queen Virginia Hill, a book by Andy Edmonds.


Evelyn Flechette ~ Nicknamed Billie, she was John Dillinger’s girlfriend and accompanied him on a cross-country crime spree. Some say she was more of a housewife, caring for his needs, than an accomplice in crime. She did, however, survive several shootouts and spent two years in prison. She sold her stories to the magazine, True Confessions and True Romance, and the Chicago Herald Examiner newspaper. Upon her release, she went on a lecture tour Crime Doesn’t Pay.

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Bonnie Parker, Helen Gillis, Pearl Elliott, Marie Baker, Virginia Hills, and Evelyn Flechette.

For more fugitives, outcasts, robbers and bandits, check out Outlaw Women, Notorious Daughters, Wives and Mothers by Robert Barr Smith. Available on Amazon.

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This gallery contains 22 photos


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Nourishment

 

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Nourishment – Food, Sustenance, Nutrition

As you can imagine, eating healthy during the Depression years was difficult. Women did their best with food from the garden. Those who qualified received food stamps. A frugal woman could make a cut of meat last for a week, stretching with gravy, starches such as potatoes, pastas. Casseroles and canning were also inventive ways to extend ingredients.

The desperately poor scrabbled for food every day, often relying on bread and soup lines. Sometimes going without food.

The ubiquitous dandelion weed with its mild, slightly bitter taste and high nutritional value made a healthy, free salad. The woman in the video below, if she is still with us, would be 111 years old today. She was 94 in 2009 when the video was filmed. She has a series of videos about food preparation during the Depression years.

She knew what she was talking about. Check out this link for the health benefits of eating dandelion leaves:

 http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-eating-dandelion-greens-4433.html

 

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My own personal crop

If you don’t have your own crop of dandelion leaves, free of pesticides and fertilizer, you can buy them at most supermarkets, health food stores or farmers markets. It’s worth it to give dandelion leaves a try.

Do a Google search for dandelion salad recipes and enjoy!

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Thanks for stopping by.


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Movies

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 Movies were not just cheap entertainment. Movies influenced women’s place in society and perceptions of themselves and others.

Movies of the 1930s can be divided into the before and after of the Production Code of 1934. Until the Production Code went into effect between 1933 and 1934, Censorship was lax with few strict regulations on sex, vice, violence and morals.

Looking back to movies produced before the Code, feminist movie critic, Molly Haskell observes, “Women were conceived of as having sexual desire without being freaks or villains . . . Women were entitled to initiate sexual encounters, to pursue men, even to embody certain ‘male’ characteristics without being stigmatized as ‘unfeminine’ or predatory.”

Marlene Dietrich in Morocco, Blonde Venus and She Done Him Wrong. Miriam Hopkins in Design for Living, Greta Garbo in Susan Lenox, Her Rise and Fall, and Queen Christina portray some of the pre-code, liberated heroines. Mae West played characters in She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel who openly exploited men for her own pleasure.

The Production Code of 1934 changed the landscape of movies. No more passionate embraces or Mae West steamy sexuality. No exposure of sex organs (the chimp in Tarzan wore a body stocking). No revealing clothing. Twin beds even for married couples. Crime punished. Traditional roles and marriage sacred.

After the Production Code, there were films of young working women making it on their own terns who seemed to gladly give in when the right man came along. Ginger Rogers starred in Gold Diggers. She also starred with Katharine Hepburn, Andrea Leeds and Lucille Ball in Stage Door where men make only token appearances.

And movies with comic relief were popular. Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night. Katharine Hepburn in Bringing up Baby and Holiday. Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth. In these and other comedies, women were somewhat wacky, but with brains of their own.

There were many strong women played by Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and other talented actresses throughout the 1930s. The moral code clamped down and attempted to conceal what simmered under the surface, but could not stop Hollywood from expressing human nature. The Code was in effect for thirty years.

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Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and Ginger Rogers.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Lesbians 1930s

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No surprise. Not much to report from the 1930s on women with emotional and sexual attraction to other women.

The “liberated” young college women of the 1930s wore makeup. Some drank alcohol in mixed company. Smoking was no longer disgraceful and now considered sexy. Many young women went to college to husband hunt with education as a secondary goal.

Changes in sexual mores had been underway since the 1920s. By the 1930s on college campuses a dramatic change in attitude had occurred. A 1938 study of over one thousand college students uncovered new standards of permissible behavior—premarital sex with a fiancé and a clear commitment to marriage, justified the intimacy. The shift in attitudes did nothing help lesbians. The word wasn’t even widely used until much later.

Lesbians have been ignored, persecuted and labeled as deviant. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that limited acceptance was gained in the U.S. Then in 1997, Ellen DeGeneres came out on national television. Almost twenty years ago, but still lots of relevance.

 

And here is a link to a list of books BuzzFeed:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/skarlan/15-books-every-young-gay-woman-should-read#.ruNzPGgxX

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Thanks for stopping by.


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Kindred Spirits

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Kindred Spirit ~ like minded, in harmony, compatible, soul mate

A kindred spirit is someone, a missing piece, who fits perfectly into the puzzle of our lives. A kindred spirit is someone we did not know was missing. A kindred spirit is someone we connect with before we know why or who they really are. It is a connection of energy, a positive connection that makes us feel good to be around them because we resonate on the same frequency.

In The Winter Loon, Ruth meets four kindred spirits.

Ruth is a loner who from the age of six prefers to spend time with her first kindred spirit, her horse, rather than make friends at school. Her Uncle Edward gave her the foal from his favorite mare. Ruth watched and assisted at the birth. When the foal stood for the first time she did a little dance and her coat was smooth as satin. Ruth named her Satin Dancer.

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When Ruth is thirteen, a boy named Duke is assigned to sit next to her on his first day at her school. He is tall and skinny and draws magnificent, fierce looking horses instead of taking notes. It turns out he is afraid of horses. As they mature, they become sweethearts

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On the train heading for her first rodeo, Ruth meets Rollie, a seasoned cowgirl who rides every year on the same rodeo circuit. Rollie is probably in her forties to Ruth’s eighteen years. She sees something in Ruth right away that moves her to take Ruth under her wing.

                I introduced myself and said, “This is my first rodeo.”

               “I thought so. Welcome.” She reached out to shake my hand.

               “How can you tell?”

               “Sometimes you know things.” The leathery skin around her eyes crinkled when

               she smiled. ~From Chapter One of The Winter Loon

Together with Rollie, Ruth learns not only about rodeo culture, but also about life and herself.

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Ruth returns home from the rodeo less confident of where she belongs than before she left home. Her family and society expect her to marry Duke. After enrolling at the University of Minnesota and joining a sorority, she meets Gisela. Ruth sees Gisela for the first time through a window in the university library.

. . . A movement on the grass caught my attention. A woman appeared out of nowhere. With a long stride, she ascended the library steps two at a time, seeming to float toward the entrance.~from Chapter Ten of The Winter Loon

Both women are attracted to one another before they speak.

 

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If all the stars  and kindred spirits in my universe align, The Winter Loon will be available in June 2016 on Amazon.

Thanks for stopping by.