Finished January 14
Eel River Rising by Laura Reasoner Jones
This biography is of the women of an earlier generation in the author's family. It begins in the 1860s with Anne Meranda, nee Stiles, telling a little of her background. It is told in letters and in these reminiscences by the various women in the family, and women they associated with. Anna left her family in southern Indiana when she married and her husband, James Meranda, a doctor, opened a practice in Randolph County, in northern Indiana. They lived in the small town of Chili, near the larger town of Peru. Anna had two daughters, Macy and Flora. Macy enjoyed the typical womanly tasks of sewing, keeping house, and playing piano, while Flora expressed an early interest in her father's profession, and with his encouragement aimed herself toward that career. The last entry in the book is from Macy in 1940, looking back and her and her sister's lives.
The real action begins in 1863, when the first letters appear. The majority of the letters are to Flora from others, The few letters from Flora herself are ones never sent, written to those she has lost, from a beloved kitten, to a detested father-in-law.
The men in the family only appear as viewed by women, which gives an interesting, albeit biased insight.
Flora is a woman with drive and skill, and yet sometimes she seems to give up too easily on her dreams. This book has pleasures and tragedies, and gives a real sense of the life of the times. Two big events of 1913 deeply affected Flora. One of these was her trip to Washington to take part in the Women's Suffrage Parade in March. This experience deflated Flora, by the aggression and violence she experienced. The second was the terrible flooding in Peru at Easter, where many people lost the homes and possessions. Flora offered medical care from one of the shelters, and her actions in the community of South Peru to help families, especially mothers and children became widely known.
This is a book of a women's world in a time when women lacked opportunities, rights, and respect. It is a story of lost opportunities, but also of women who found their own path despite their situation.