Three Women Bound by Murder, part 3: Anna Grabau


96 Hendrickson Ave., Rockville Centre, Hempstead, New York

I wrote in my last post about the murder of Louise “Lulu” Bailey, a case made more sensational in the newspapers of the day by the fact she was killed in her doctor’s office. Today, before I get to the accused murderer, I’m writing about an incidental character who I think still deserves our attention. Read more >>

Three Women Bound by Murder, part 2: Lulu Bailey

Mrs. Louise "Lulu" Duryea Bailey

Mrs. Louise “Lulu” Duryea Bailey

The crash of a breaking window interrupted the parting conversation between the physician, Edwin Carman, and his patient, Mrs. Louise Bailey. Dr. Carman whirled and saw a gun, held in a hand thrust through the broken window.  Read more >>

5 Ways the Book Marketing Challenge Blew My Mind


English: Download from paper book to kindle (o...

I already loved marketing when I started the Book Marketing Challenge under the amazingly organized and inspiring D’vorah Lansky. I was excited, thinking I’d learn a few new techniques, maybe a new angle on what I already knew, and move on. After all, I’ve published three fiction books already.

But the Challenge blew my mind. Here’s how:

1. Lists are Gold, Jerry! Gold!

I knew lists were important, but I had no idea just HOW important. They really are gold. I had no idea there were so many ways to build the list. I’ve had a subscription to AWeber for over a year now, but never knew quite what to do with it. Sister, I do now!

2. Teleseminars Rock!

Oh, Lynne Klippel, I love you, you with your gorgeous view from your porch in Ecuador! I have to confess, as soon as I saw Lynne’s session, I was obsessed with teleseminars. I took her course and got just a bit distracted from the Book Marketing Challenge for awhile. Last night I held the second of four sessions of the beta-test of my webinar, “Maximize Your Marketing Impact with a WordPress Website,” and I’m loving it!

3. Kindle Possibilities Are Endless!

My second crush I’m confessing to here (no, third, because I include D’vorah) is Kristen Eckstein. I had no idea I could do so much with my Kindle books. I’m taking her series now, and it’s exciting too.

4. Nonfiction is Awesome!

I’ve always been a researcher; after all, my master’s is in library science. I decided at the beginning of this Challenge to put aside my fiction for awhile and focus on nonfiction. I’m having a blast!

5. Woman Power!

(I am really not an exclamation point person, but this Challenge forces me to do it, because I’m so excited about it.) I’m thrilled to see so many women speakers and participants in this Challenge. No offense, guys, but I’m so happy to see women taking charge of their lives and careers in such creative ways.

Thank you so much to everyone for making this the best money I ever spent on continuing education! (Yeah, that deserves one last exclamation point.)

Do you agree? Comment on your experiences below.

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Three Women Bound by Murder, part 1



The home of Dr. and Mrs. Edwin Carman

The home of Dr. and Mrs. Edwin Carman

On the evening of June 30, 1914, Mrs. Louise “Lulu” Bailey was shot dead while speaking with her physician, Dr. Edwin Carman, in his home office on West Merrick Road in Freeport, Long Island, New York. Read more >>

A “Frail Little Woman” Who Tamed a Town, part 2

Miss Fern Hobbs, 1918

Miss Fern Hobbs, 1918

Who was Fern Hobbs?

As we found out last week, she was Governor Oswald Hobbs’ personal secretary. Her position was unusual enough that an article appeared in The Indianapolis News when she was promoted from chief clerk to private secretary in March 1913. The brief article mentions she was the “first woman to occupy such a position in Oregon,” and her salary would be $3,000 a year.

She was born Data Fern Hobbs on 8 May 1883 in Bloomington, Nebraska, the daughter of John Alden and Cora Bush Hobbs, the second of seven children. He was a “wool grower” according to the Nebraska state census in 1885, and a dairyman by 1900, when the family lived in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In about 1903, Fern moved to Portland, Oregon, with her two younger brothers Earl and Theodate. She helped her two sisters receive an education, while studying stenography and shorthand. Fern continued her studies while working with an attorney, and an article in The Daily Free Press mentions she “finally took up law” and was “admitted to the bar.” A 1914 article in the Lincoln Evening Journal said she had a diploma from the law department of Williamette university.

After her promotion in March, she was sent on an important mission to Washington, D.C. on Governor West’s behalf in connection with some state lands matters. Once again, news of her trip appeared in The Washington Post, where she was called the “first woman to represent a state in the Capital”; The Commoner (Lincoln, Nebraska), where it was remarked that “usually a high-priced attorney receives such an assignment, and it is considered altogether unusual for a woman to be trusted with work of this nature”; and The Atlanta Constitution. Fern visited Atlanta on her way back from the Capitol, and the newspaper commented that “besides possessing a charming personality, Miss Hobbs is really good looking—much to the su[r]prise of several reporters who interview her, who had expected to greet some austere looking person—one of those women with a ‘purpose.’” The writer of the article mentioned that Fern “seemed to enjoy the heckling and innumerable questions,” adding that she said “they were not half so bad as posing for the ‘movies’ last week in Washington.”

Fern’s notoriety in shutting down the saloons of the town of Copperfield, Oregon, continued throughout 1914, with many voices calling for her election as governor of the state at the retirement of Oswald West in 1915. She declined these offers, and was appointed in January 1915 by Governor West to the state industrial accident commission, a post with a salary of $3,600 per year, considered “one of the best appointive offices in the state.” She was the only woman member of the commission.

That position was in jeopardy almost immediately, when, in February 1915, the Oregon senate passed a bill amending the law creating the state industrial accident commission, reducing the number of commissioners from three to one. That the bill was a dig at former Governor West was denied by the senator who proposed the measure. At a late hour, the house refused to approve the senate’s amendments, and her job was saved. In May of 1915, the wrangling continued. Fern Hobbs offered to resign if the workmen’s compensation bill was not amended.  True to her word, when it failed, she resigned.

Her days of service were not over. In 1918, she applied for a passport, headed for France with the administrative force of the American Red Cross. Her occupation was listed as “office manager of war savings campaign.” Fern returned to the U.S. in 1919, where a mention in The Evening Herald of Klamath Falls, Oregon, says she was “head of the casualty section of the hospital home service in Paris,” and that she would be taking a position in Portland.

The remaining mentions of Miss Fern Hobbs are few. In 1920, she lived in a boarding house with her younger sister Priscilla on Salmon Street in Portland. Her profession is listed as secretary in an office; her sister is a stenographer. She traveled to Europe once more, returning in 1922. By 1930, she was living in Cornelius, Oregon, in the home of her 78-year-old father. Her occupation was listed as secretary in a newspaper office. The city directory of Portland for 1931 gives her title as secretary to the business manager of the Journal.

Fern Hobbs died on 10 April 1964 in Oregon, and is buried in Hillsboro Pioneer Cemetery. Her modest, unassuming headstone belies the amazing career of a woman who did what needed to be done.

English: Grave marker of Fern Hobbs at Hillsbo...


NOTES: “Woman is Governor’s Secretary,” The Indianapolis News, 20 March 1913, p.14; 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.; Nebraska, State Census Collection, 1860-1885 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009.; Nebraska, State Census, 1885 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002 [She is listed in Ancestry family tree as born in 1885, but as age 2 in 1885 Nebraska census. An affidavit in her passport application from her mother specifies her birth as 8 May 1883.].; 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.; “Women Can Help in Politics,” The Daily Free Press (Carbondale, Illinois), 14 May 1917, p.3; “Who’s Who Among Women: Miss Fern Hobbs: A Governor’s Private Secretary,” Lincoln Evening Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska), 10 March 1914, p.4; “Woman Brought Gamblers and Saloon Men to Their Knees,” The Farmer and Mechanic (Raleigh, North Carolina), 27 January 1914, p.1; “West’s Secretary on Trip to Washington on Important Mission,” Daily Capital Journal (Salem, Oregon), 13 October 193, p.1.; “She’s Here for Oregon,” The Washington Post (Washington, District of Columbia), 23 October 1913, p.14; [untitled], The Commoner (Lincoln, Nebraska), 1 November 1913, p.22; “Woman Secretary of Governor Here,” The Atlanta Constitution, 13 November 1913, p.15; “Fern Hobbs Begins Her New Job Friday,” The Huntington Herald (Huntington, Indiana), 1 January 1915, p.8.; U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2007.; “Miss Fern Hobbs Visits in Salem,” The Evening Herald (Klamath Falls, Oregon), 27 September 1919, p.5.; 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.; New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.; U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

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A “Frail Little Woman” Who Tamed a Town, part 1

Miss Fern Hobbs, 1914

Miss Fern Hobbs, 1914

The newspapers of Oregon in January 1914 were full of excitement over the exploits of one “little woman.”

Saloonkeepers in the town of Copperfield, Oregon, were at war among themselves. Many of them were on the town council, granting themselves licenses and refusing them to other saloonkeepers. Events came to a head after the city election, with saloons burning to the ground, accusations flying. A captured horse thief was tied under a horse and dragged back to the town, nearly dead. More saloons burned, and the “all-muscle” sheriff could do nothing to stop the warring factions.

A petition was sent to Governor West, asking that the town council be deposed. It was a tricky situation, and the sheriff and county prosecutor could find no way to resolve it.

Governor West sent Fern Hobbs, his private secretary.

Described as “a frail little woman, not out of her twenties” and “five feet tall,” Fern Hobbs was not new to high-profile assignments. She was sent by the governor in November 1913 to Washington, D.C. as the “authorized lobbyist of the state of Oregon,” as “many land affairs” in which Oregon was interested were “before congress.” The governor’s trust in her was evident, as “usually a high-priced attorney receives such an assignment, and it is considered altogether unusual for a woman to be trusted with work of this nature,” according to one newspaper. The Washington Post said she was “one of the first women ever sent to the Capital as the official representative of a State.”

A newspaper account in Pennsylvania recounts that “this slip of a girl” went to the town of Copperfield, “declared martial law, walked off with all the liquors and left soldiers on guard and left the town dry.” According to another account, she was “dressed plainly in blue with a neat little hat covering her wealth of blond hair.” The account went on, “A pretty smile was in her blue eyes and a womanly gentleness was about her.” She asked for a platform from which to address them all, and delivered the message that the councilmen must resign all offices or get out of the saloon business. Martial law was declared, and gambling devices and liquor destroyed.

Fern Hobbs, her duty completed, returned to Governor West and said, “I have done what you wished.”

Next week: Who was this “frail little woman”?


“Woman Brought Gamblers and Saloon Men to Their Knees,” The Farmer and Mechanic (Raleigh, North Carolina), 27 January 1914, p.1; The Commoner (Lincoln, Nebraska), 1 November 1913, p22; “She’s Here for Oregon,” The Washington Post (Washington, District of Columbia), 23 October 1913, p.14; “For Governor of Oregon, Fern Hobbs,” The Daily Notes (Canonsburg, Pennsylvania), 24 January 1914, p.4; “Woman’s Brave Accomplishment of Task for State Causes Oregon to Talk of Her for Next Governor,” The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana), 17 January 1914, p.16.

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Spring Fashions 100 Years Ago

Spring 1914 fashions, as shown in an ad in the Atlanta Constitution, 11 Jan 1914

Spring 1914 fashions, as shown in an ad in the Atlanta Constitution, 11 Jan 1914

Are you ready for Spring? Here in Alabama we gave Spring a miss and went straight into Summer, after a brief nod around Easter. Spring is always a time for a fresh new outlook on clothing styles. A hundred years ago, women were just as interested as many of us are today in what the styles will be.

I won’t detail here why I’m focusing on events a hundred years ago. It’s a secret! I’m working on a project for a book, but for now, here’s just a taste.

In 1914, the main source of clothes wasn’t in the store. The Sears & Roebuck Catalog of that year had well over a hundred pages taken up with fabric of all kinds. Women still made their own clothing, unless they were wealthy enough to engage the services of a seamstress.

The gowns shown on the right are an advertisement for Cheney Silks. Here’s the text for it:

These new Foulards are unusually suited to the spring fashions–the slender figure, the graceful drapery, the elusive, clinging lines that mark the mode of the hour.

With the Oriental note dominating the trend of fashions, the silks reflect this influence in their warm tones and in their quaintly attractive designs. Soft, dainty Chinese floral effects, Bulgarian figures in dull, subdued tones, cubist and futurist effects, and the familiar conventional patterns.

A wide range of popular colors for early spring–all pure dye–blues, greens, wistaria and dull stone gray.

Price at 85c Yard

[The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia), 11 January 1914, page 1. From]

These are certainly not fabrics in which you’d scrub floors!

What do you think of these fashions? Would you wear them? Comment below!

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Z is for Zachary Connor and Zhijian Mei #AtoZChallenge

Cigarette packet I made for Zachary, ca. 1900

Cigarette packet I made for Zachary, ca. 1900

I wrap up my A to Z gaming adventure with two wonderful characters from a GURPS Steampunk game Scott ran back in 2002—possibly the first game he ran, although I’m not certain of that. I’ve already written about my intricately detailed character backgrounds, and Zachary Connor certainly had one. Janica created a wonderful background for her character as well. I forgot until researching for this blog that both characters’ names started with a Z. How fortuitous! I’ve shortened the description for reasons of space, leaving out Zhijian Mei’s history before she met Zachary, although that part is fascinating (illegitimate daughter of a Scottish engineer in New Mexico and a Chinese laborer named Jian Ying, born in 1883).

The cousins [in New York] were aware that Ting Mei wasn’t full-Chinese, but they felt honor-bound to Jian Ying to care for her daughter. Cong Xi was an herbalist; his wife a cook. Ting Mei was no longer the vivacious, happy spirit she once was. She was silent and sad, carrying her secret guilt about her father’s death.

Ting Mei continued to learn, now from her cousins. She learned to write by labeling the containers of Chinese herbs. For five years, she studied the herbs and foods of her mother’s people.

Cong Xi never asked Ting Mei about her parents; it was of no concern to him. He knew his duty to honor his family, which was of utmost importance. He expected Ting Mei to honor him as a father, and when her willfulness began to show once again, he was quick to reprimand her.

The pressure of the strict life under Cong Xi, coupled with the extreme guilt Ting Mei felt about her father, finally caused a breakdown for the eleven-year-old. In a fit of tears and shouting, Ting Mei revealed the truth as she understood it: She had murdered her father. Details weren’t necessary. The horror of her action was enough. Cong Xi immediately turned her out onto the street—the shame and dishonor of Ting Mei’s actions was beyond anything he could allow for his family.

Ting Mei felt that it was no more than what she deserved. She lived as a beggar, scrapping on the streets. Word was that money could be made at the baseball stadium, if you could get enough of a concession to sell. It was illegal without a vendor’s license, but after two years of straightforward begging, it seemed a solid opportunity to Ting Mei. She’d learned to steal as needed, so she managed to score a tray of peanuts from an inattentive (but licensed) vendor.

Ting Mei actually enjoyed the stadium. There was green grass and blue sky and cheering people. They looked at her without pity or disgust—they just looked at her as a servant—infinitely better. She was bolder, more confident with money in her pocket, when the very vendor she’d stolen from caught up with her. His apoplectic rage terrified her. “It was only peanuts!” she stammered ash he grabbed hold of her, shouting vile obscenities. Ting Mei had seen this sort of thing on the street, but she had mostly been able to avoid such conflicts. As she trembled in the harsh grip of the enraged man, she realized that one of the players had left the field and was coming toward them. She watched silently as the tall, strong man calmly extricated her from the vendor’s grip. Her shock that a complete stranger would act so kindly toward her amazed Ting Mei. Without her knowing quite how, the man had solved the problem. The vendor was gone, and she was sitting quietly with a cool drink and hot meal before her. Gratitude shone from her eyes.

“My name is Zachary. What’s yours?” he asked.

“Ting Mei.”

“Ting Mei. That’s pretty. It suits you.”

As the food and drink worked their magic on her empty stomach, Ting Mei relaxed. She spoke less guardedly than she had in years. There was kindness in Zachary’s eyes, kindness like her fa—

Softly, Ting Mei began to cry.

“Hey! No, no. Don’t cry. It’s ok now. You’re ok,” Zachary awkwardly tried to comfort her. Ting Mei continued to sob, but she tired to stop, for his sake. He looked so uncomfortable, so upset by her tears. And he’d been so kind to her; to repay him like this was wrong.

Zachary learned that Ting Mei had no place to stay, that she’d been on the streets for years. He couldn’t bear the thought of this delicate young woman subjected to the horrors of street life, and offered to take her home with him. Ting Mei gratefully accepted.

For weeks, she lived with Zachary. She cleaned the flat, cooked for him, shopped (or stole) for him. She managed to procure a large amount of his favorite beer. Ting Mei cooked a fine meal, and liberally refilled Zach’s glass. Zach was getting drunk, and Ting Mei was flirting with him. She was drawn to him, to his gentleness toward her, and she knew that she owed him for all he’d done for her. He’d’ given her a warm bed—shouldn’t she share it with him?

Ting Mei loved Zach as only a thirteen-year-old could—obsessively, wholeheartedly. He was her whole life. She had told him everything of her past. Zach held her tenderly as she cried, explained that it wasn’t her fault—merely an accident. He never convinced her, but Ting Mei knew that he loved her in spite of it all, and that was enough.

Ting Mei and Zachary had only one argument—his gun. As a policeman (baseball players didn’t make enough to live on, and most had other jobs), he always carried a gun. Ting Mei had long since vowed never to touch a gun again, and she feared for Zachary. After one particularly heated argument, Ting Mei stormed out of the apartment. It took her a long time to go back. She loved him, after all. And If he could love her with all her terrible history, couldn’t she love him in spite of his carrying a gun? It wasn’t like he’d killed anyone with it.

When Ting Mei returned to Zachary, he was in bed with another woman. The betrayal was beyond anything Ting Mei had ever felt. She ran from the place, never to return.

The next few years were spent back on the streets. Ting Mei was dead—she no longer felt graceful and lovely. She felt cold. Never again would she be so hurt. She wouldn’t ever be so vulnerable. With firm resolve to survive, she changed her name to Zhijian Mei, “firm in spirit,” and did whatever it took to live.

 In 1901, Zhijian Mei was eighteen. She’d heard about the new airships, and she was determined to get on the one headed to San Francisco. The thought of an adventure and a new start was enticing. Tickets were impossible to obtain (by legal means), and she didn’t relish the idea of stowing away for a transcontinental journey. Zhijian Mei learned of a wealthy couple who had bribed their way into obtaining two tickets. She made sure that their cook would be unable to show for work, and applied for the newly open position. Pleased with the exotic cuisine Zhijian Mei created, they hired her full-time. Zhijian Mei had kept up with her study of Chinese herbs as she could, and she created a Chinese feast laced with enough medicine to ensure undisturbed sleep for the master and mistress of the house. Sure of their slumber, Zhijian Mei stole their tickets. She sold one of the tickets on the street to enable her purchase of the fine clothes she would need to travel on the airship without being questioned. Zhijian Mei was ready to leave her old life behind her.

Of course, Zhijian Mei met up with Zachary in the adventure.

Thank you so much for journeying through the alphabet with me! I hope, if you were unfamiliar with gaming before, that you learned a new appreciation for it.

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Y is for Yugoloth #AtoZChallenge

Nycaloth and Mezzaloth by Wayne Reynolds

Nycaloth and Mezzaloth by Wayne Reynolds

The yugoloth is a category of monster, more specifically, a type of demon, that appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons adventure module by Wolfgang Baur and Gwendolyn Kestrel, Expedition to the Demonweb Pits. I ran this game (or was gamemaster, if you’re not familiar with gaming terminology) for my group a few years ago.

But that’s not really the point of this post. I know some of you following my A to Z posts about gaming don’t know a lot about roleplaying games, so I thought I’d explain a little about monsters. After all, one of the main points of gaming is to “kill monsters and take their stuff.” What are these monsters and why do we kill them?

“Monster” is a generic term for any opponent faced by the player characters. A monster could be a human bandit armed with a spiked club, or a big ugly stone giant ready to hurl rocks down on the unsuspecting adventurers. Monsters come singly or in groups, depending on the size of the adventuring party or the whims of the gamemaster. Some monsters even have magical powers that make them challenging for the adventurers to defeat (and for the gamemaster to play the part of).

And why kill them? 1) Because monsters have treasure. Sometimes it makes no sense (where would a giant frog carry 20 gold pieces? Yeah, yeah, he swallowed them, whatever), but each description of the monster in whatever game system you’re using (particularly Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder) includes how much treasure the monster carries. Player characters divide up the money, jewels, weaponry and other treasure to buy better armor and weaponry, pay off debts or finance castles.

2) Because monsters give you experience points. I talked about that in X is for XP.

I hope this has helped shed a little light on the subject of monsters. We have one more letter to go! Come back for that!

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X is for XP #AtoZChallenge


+rpg_think_of_the_experience_points_teddy_bear40672854Of course X stands for XP. That’s a little bit of cheating, since it’s really “experience points.” Experience points are the method in Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons (and other games, I’m sure) for increasing in skills and abilities. We get points for killing monsters, completing quests, and various “story awards,” depending on the gamemaster.

As players, we certainly don’t want our characters to remain static (just like in real life). As we adventure, fighting monsters, taking their stuff and negotiating with non-player characters, we learn and grow. I think most roleplaying games have some method for advancement.

If you’re interested in the origins of experience points, I found a useful video on who invented them. And more than you ever wanted to know about them can be found in this thread on Role-playing Games Stack Exchange. Another thread at RPG Stack Exchange refutes what is said in the video, saying that Chainmail had no XP system, that it began with the D&D “white box.”

Wherever it came from, experience points provide a way for the gamemaster to focus players’ attention on a particular quest, and allow characters to improve their skills so they can fight meaner and more über bad guys.

Do you feel you’ve gained a level from reading this post? Share in the comments below!

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