I’ve always admired strong, brave women.
Trying to image how hard, how challenging, how utterly soul-wrenching life was for some of our pioneer grandmothers, it is almost beyond my ability to fathom. Believe me when I say I would not have been a good pioneer. I like electricity and an endless supply of steamy hot water too much to try it.
Leaving behind the familiar existence they knew, these women ventured into the west following their husbands, fulfilling requests as mail-order brides, or making their own way as enterprising entrepreneurs.
Because they have won my admiration and respect, I like to write about those types of women in my stories.
The Pendleton Petticoats series is set in the western town of
Pendleton, Oregon, right at the turn of the
20th century. Each book bears the name of the heroine, all brave yet very
During the period of 1900 through 1910, Pendleton experienced a boom in both population and modernization, making it the perfect setting for my series. Although many thought it was a Wild West town (which it was), it was also a very progressive town with a theater, opera house, French restaurant, and tearoom. Pendleton opened a telephone office in 1902 and was the second city in the state to install paved streets in 1904.
The people who inhabited the town were an eclectic mix from every background imaginable. In addition to the sheep growers, wheat farmers, and cattle ranchers who lived in the area, there was a substantial Chinese population. Miners, railroad workers, teamsters, harness makers, Indians from the nearby Umatilla Reservation, and business professionals could be seen walking down the streets of the town that billed itself “the queen of a golden empire - an empire of golden wheat.”
During the early 1900s, Pendleton also boasted 32 saloons and 18 bordellos, making it the “entertainment hub” of
Eastern Oregon. The city had an enviable
railroad station, designed to handle the burst of growth and export goods from
the region including wheat, wool, cattle, and produce.
As I began writing the first book in this series, I envisioned a mail-order bride stepping off the train, completely unprepared for what awaited her. She expected the town to be quiet, dusty, and backward. What she found was something so entirely different than she anticipated, being a girl from
Chicago who’d never set foot in a
She had to be strong and resilient, brave and determined (and maybe a little desperate) to get on that train in the first place.
I’ve often wondered, as a mail-order bride, what was harder - getting on the train and saying goodbye to what they knew or getting off the train to pledge their life to a man they’d never met.
Aundy, the heroine from the first book in the series, knows she is physically strong and capable to work on her soon-to-be husband’s farm, but she has no idea of the depths of inner strength and fortitude she possesses until it is tested.
The second book in the series, Caterina, features a feisty Italian girl on the run from the mafia in
New York City. Have you ever wondered how
many women journeyed out west because they jumped on a train with nowhere else
to go? Unlike Aundy who arrived in town as a mail-order bride, Caterina is free
and unfettered - or as free as she can be, hunted by powerful men bent on
Ilsa, my latest release in the series, shines a light on one girl’s struggle to toss off the fetters of expectations placed upon her and learns to believe in herself.
Although these are all fictional stories pulled out of my overactive imagination, I like to think that they represent some of the challenges and hardships women faced as they helped shape communities, cities, the west, and our great nation through their determination and strength.
They truly were stronger than they knew and braver than they believed.
Shanna Hatfield is a hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure. In addition to blogging, eating too much chocolate, and being smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller, she is a best-selling author of clean romantic fiction seasoned with a healthy dose of humor. She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.
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