How can a woman living a lie open her heart to an honest lawman?...
Women in the 19th century faced obstacles we can’t imagine. Once married, a woman’s rights almost ceased to exist. Adult women were usually lumped along with children as needing a man to take care of them.
And women who sought professional careers outside the home faced derision as well as tremendous challenges. Female physicians at least had a chance; women founded their own all-women medical schools and hospitals.
But if she wanted to be a lawyer, well. Courts, bar associations, law schools and firms were composed entirely of men.
The first woman to graduate from an American law school was Ada Kepley, in 1869, from Union College of Law in Chicago. (It merged into Northwestern University in 1891). But other colleges admitted women only by court order. After admitting its first woman in 1885, Yale Law went right back to excluding women. Harvard Law decreed it wasn’t proper or women to use the Law Library at the same time as men.
But women fought to enter the legal profession as hard as suffragettes demanded the vote. The challenge didn’t end there. Once admitted to a law school, a woman agonized over speaking out in the lecture hall, something men did freely...or sitting quietly as befit a proper lady. After achieving her degree, she had almost the same choice: an “undignified” public courtroom or a calm private office practice, out of sight and behind the scenes.
Prevailing attitudes--among both genders--debated whether a woman lawyer was physically and mentally equal to her male counterpart. What if she--gasp--wanted marriage and kids, too?
In the 19th century, women were almost completely sealed off from the legal profession. Even into the 1920’s, women accounted for only 1.4 per cent of all lawyers.
It was this ready-made conflict that sparked my story, Open Hearts, for the brand-new Valentine anthology, Hearts and Spurs, from Prairie Rose Publications, which also features stories from a whole corral of Western romance authors, including several Sweethearts.
Since I had to condense my usual babbling into about 10,000 words, I have heroine and Union College alumna Barbara Audiss in disguise as a man, a judge, therefore making it difficult for her to give her heart to handsome sheriff Keith Rakestraw.
And when Keith does find out...what to do? “Badge” Audiss is a good judge. Should he reveal her true identity and therefore invalidate all her verdicts? Besides, he’s eager to give her his heart...but he is first and foremost a lawman, and she’s broken it. Colorado says no female lawyers or judges.
I hope you fall in love with Keith and Barbara as they “open their hearts” to all the possibilities, as well as our entire collection of Valentine romances!
To honor her brother Badge’s last request, Barbara Audiss takes on his identity, and letting loose her secret will get her arrested. But keeping it prevents her from giving her heart to handsome sheriff Keith Rakestraw.
Furious at “Judge Audiss’” latest verdict, Keith discovers she’s a fake and consequences seem easy: toss her in jail. But he finds himself eager to give her his heart.
(Thanks to Women in the Criminal Justice System, by Clarice Feinman.)