Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Woman of Her Time

Last week I talked about villains and how we love to hate them.

Today, my subject is the heroine (ha, I expect you thought it would be the hero).

I like strong heroines, women who know their own minds and aren't afraid to go after what they want. Sounds just like a 21st century gal, doesn't it.

But today's women are shaped by today's society. You can't take at 21st century woman and plunk her down in the 19th century unless you are writing time travel. Women back then were as much the product of their times as a woman of today.

My heroine, Damaris, would no doubt be scandalized by today's women. She was raised to be subservient to men. First, her father, who gives her away in marriage without so much as a by-your-leave.

Today's woman would object loudly and strongly. Damaris is understandably upset, but she goes along with it. Because that's how she was raised. She never expected to marry for love.

When her husband ignores her and treats her like an uninvited guest, openly flaunting his mistress, Damaris doesn't like it. But she has no recourse. No where to go. No other family since her Papa committed the unpardonable sin of suicide, an act that leaves her further ostracized by her former "friends." And divorce, back then, was not an option.

Damaris, lonely and forgotten, is the perfect prey for Simon, who sees her as a pleasant interlude during his tenure at Riverbend. Only when Damaris falls in love for the first time and then is placed in danger of her life does she dare step beyond her boundaries, self-imposed and otherwise.

Her act doesn't necessarily make her any braver. She is still afraid of what "society" will say about her transgression. She is desperately afraid of being caught out in her lies, exposed as the "fallen woman" she has become.

It wasn't easy back then. I'm not saying it is easier now, but if you leave an abusive husband your friends will still talk to you.

In "Riverbend," I have to ask the reader to walk a while in Damaris' shoes. Maybe her choices won't seem so spineless. Maybe they will see her as a heroine of her time.

Who is your favorite heroine? Mine is Scarlett O'Hara, even as I remind myself that her strength was forged in war and loss. If the Civil War had never happened, she might well have married one of Tarlton twins and spent her life raising children.


  1. You're right - we are all products of our genes and societal mores. And women were subjected to all manner of abuse for centuries. Still are. But all through history, strong women came to the forefront again and again.

    For example, Virginia Wodehouse was a champion of free love and women's right to vote back in the late 1800's. Catherine the Great and other strong female rulers had their way with history. Not to mention all the women who created nurturing homes out of very little.

    I'd like to think all women are heroines in their own lives. :>)

  2. Yes, there were plenty of strong women in the past, but more of the kind that were subservient to men! It took a long time, didn't it ,ladies, to get where we are today. Now men fear a good strong woman! Well, not all, just saying.
    I know a few women who were in abusive situations and some who still are and I wish I could help them.
    I admire us! smile. We writers are strong. At least I think so!

  3. I would like to think we as a Society have learned from our successes and failures. However, when I first moved to NC, I had to get my ex-husband's permission to purchase my house. Although we were divorced, I had to "earn" his approval for purchasing my home in my name only. Ironically, in OH, the house we owned together was in my name to protect it from his ex-wife. He didn't need my permission to switch the loan over to him alone. It's a bit ironic, is it not?

    When I retired from the local schools, the most my principal could say of me was "If you have ever served on a committee with Regina, you know she tells you what she thinks." Do you not see the relief the man had with my exit? I certainly must have ruffled his feathers.

  4. I love me a butt-kicking woman...that being said, I'm thankful I'm alive in this century where I can speak my mind and not be afraid of being burned at the stake! I earned that by standing on the shoulders of the women before me and for that I'm grateful.