Monday, April 4, 2011

How real is Molly--part deux.

Continuing my thoughts on Molly Murphy, my turn of the century heroine sleuth.
During the course of this series I have received non-fan letters telling me that what Molly does is just not possible for a woman of the time.

I'm told no woman could be a detective or undertake Molly's risky assignments when women were delicate creatures who fainted and stayed at home, taking care of children. I'm always delighted to disprove these statements. First--history is written by men. Women were never delicate creatures, except in the minds of their menfolk. Look at the women who walked behind wagons across the continent, often giving birth along the way. Nothing delicate there. And at that time women were mounting expeditions to the North Pole (Louise Boyd), riding across Arabia disguised as a man (Lady Hester Stanhope), discovering uranium (Marie Curie) and pretty much doing anything a man can do... only not always getting the credit for it.

But Molly is actually modeled on two women in particular:
Sabella Goodwin was a police matron when the NYPD started using her for undercover surveillance. She proved so good that she was promoted to full detective by 1910. One of two women to be police detectives when Molly was operating. She appears in my books and I have seen her uniform in the police museum.

The other model was Nellie Bly, the fearless female reporter who took incredible risks to expose corruption and injustice. She had herself locked in a mental asylum so that she could report on abuses there, arrested so that she could report on women's prisons. Her most famous achievement was going around the world in 72 days, thus shattering the record of the famous book. While reporting on an election in Mexico probed too deeply and she had to be whisked back to the states with a price on her head. In 1914 she was the only female reporter at the front in WW1.

So Molly is in good company. We'll have to see whether marriage actually cramps her style or not. I rather think not.


  1. I'll admit I am more interested in how real the Royal Spyness lead character might be.

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  2. Made my first trip to NYC this weekend - that did not involve a tourist bus or school visit. My next trip there I want to take a tour of all the places you mention in your book. Great series, and Molly a great role model.

  3. Whether it is 100% accurate or not, I still love this series. I just finished book 10 and could read another 20 books in the series if you wrote them.

    I have always loved to write and although not actively pursuing it right now, love to read books that give me ideas of how to be a better writer. And your books are definitely on my list.

  4. As a history teacher, I've loved all the appearances of real people, like Emma Goldman! I taught a class on the book Ragtime a few years ago and learned so much about New York history around the turn of the century. It's great to "revisit" those figures in your books!