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Women as "legal property"

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Mythica
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Women as "legal property"

Post by Mythica » Mon April 29th, 2013, 10:58 am

I was browsing upcoming releases in HF and saw one which had this description:
The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.
I understand that women in the 19th century were lacking many legal rights and freedoms and as a result they were often financially dependent on the men in their lives. But that is not the same thing as being the legal property of a man. A man did not legally own his wife, right? Surely, that would make all women slaves, which they were not. Can anyone confirm/deny this?

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon April 29th, 2013, 5:02 pm

There were places where women were legal property at that time, but the Western world was not one of them. It might be simply blurb hyperbole, but if the plot continues in that vein, I'd hit the 'delete' button on my kindle.

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Mythica
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Post by Mythica » Mon April 29th, 2013, 5:13 pm

I just noticed it's Christian Fiction so I won't be reading it anyway. Is Christian historical fiction any less researched? Who writes the blurbs? Just curious.

Helen_Davis

Post by Helen_Davis » Mon April 29th, 2013, 8:56 pm

[quote=""Mythica""]I just noticed it's Christian Fiction so I won't be reading it anyway. Is Christian historical fiction any less researched? Who writes the blurbs? Just curious.[/quote]

Christian historical fiction is researched well from my experience, but can be somewhat preachy. If you don't mind the preachy aspect many of them are quite entertaining. Jill Eileen Smith has written some novels about the Wives of King David and I found them enjoyable, accurate, and good reading, and as an ancient history buff, I take any books dealing with that period I can get. If you don't mind Bible verses to begin the chapters, I'd give her a try even if Christian fiction isn't really your thing.

This one doesn't look very accurate though. What's the title?

And I was going to answer your question, but MLE beat me to it!
Last edited by Helen_Davis on Mon April 29th, 2013, 8:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Posts: 3556
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue April 30th, 2013, 1:31 am

Christian historical fiction is like any other HF as far as research goes, which is to say that it depends on the author.

My objection to Christian fiction is:
A: Because I am Christian, (or at any rate a follower of Jesus, some who claim the label might not like my particular take on what that means) (which disagreement is in itself is very historically accurate ;) ) I am more likely to be irritated / disagree with the author's version or perception of my faith than I would the frank unbelief of a writer who did not share it; and
B: any time there is more than one purpose to an effort, one tends to be emphasized and the other to suffer for it. I read fiction to be entertained, and that aspect tends to be the part that suffers. If I want doctrine, I'll read non-fiction.

This is not true of everything put out by Christian publishers, of course. Of late, they are spending more time on a good story.
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Tue April 30th, 2013, 3:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Mythica
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Post by Mythica » Tue April 30th, 2013, 10:11 am

[quote=""Helen_Davis""]Christian historical fiction is researched well from my experience, but can be somewhat preachy. If you don't mind the preachy aspect many of them are quite entertaining. Jill Eileen Smith has written some novels about the Wives of King David and I found them enjoyable, accurate, and good reading, and as an ancient history buff, I take any books dealing with that period I can get. If you don't mind Bible verses to begin the chapters, I'd give her a try even if Christian fiction isn't really your thing.

This one doesn't look very accurate though. What's the title?

And I was going to answer your question, but MLE beat me to it![/quote]

It's called Born of Persuasion - looks like a debut author: http://www.amazon.com/Persuasion-Price- ... ap_title_0

I don't think Christian Fiction would really be my thing even without the preaching. I know a lot of it doesn't have any profanity, sex, or violence and while those aren't necessarily elements I actively look for in fiction, I do think they are a part of life that often can't be skimmed over. I've also always assumed that the protagonists in Christian Fiction are probably saint-like and I prefer protagonists with some dirt on them. Maybe I'm wrong in that assumption.
MLE wrote:B: any time there is more than one purpose to an effort, one tends to be emphasized and the other to suffer for it. I read fiction to be entertained, and that aspect tends to be the part that suffers. If I want doctrine, I'll read non-fiction.
That has always been my other assumption/experience with Christian Fiction as well. The few Christian novels I picked up by accident, I definitely felt like the quality of writing, the dialogue, the characters, and even the plot were weak and contrived. It made me think that Christian publishers would take on anything Christian just because it's Christian, not because it's well written or a good plot. I'm glad they are upping their standards but for me, it wouldn't be worth trying to find the better ones.

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Thu May 2nd, 2013, 1:21 am

[quote=""Mythica""]I was browsing upcoming releases in HF and saw one which had this description:

I understand that women in the 19th century were lacking many legal rights and freedoms and as a result they were often financially dependent on the men in their lives. But that is not the same thing as being the legal property of a man. A man did not legally own his wife, right? Surely, that would make all women slaves, which they were not. Can anyone confirm/deny this?[/quote]

Well I think it was the publisher trying to put more weight on the subject matter than anything else.

I mean women were at men's mercy for sure. Husbands were known to discard their wives in asylums for being "crazy" and no one questioned it.
While he didn't "own" his wife like a plantation master owned his slave women didn't have a lot of say in things. If they divorced the men would get the children. So while they didn't own them, I wouldn't say women had a lot of freedom either. However in this face it sounds like the young woman is under age and has very few prospects. She doesnt have a father to guide her or another relative, and Victorian women were not left to their own devices for they could get into so much trouble! So this strange man is going to sweep in and be the gentleman and guiding hand every good Victorian woman needs. While the character might not want to do what he says she doesnt have much say because what are her choices? Whore. Nun. Governess. Nanny. Yippeee!

But really I just think the blurb was written so shock the reader into a scandalous story. And I dont think the author did that.
Last edited by Divia on Thu May 2nd, 2013, 1:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Mythica
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Post by Mythica » Thu May 2nd, 2013, 9:13 am

[quote=""Divia""]Well I think it was the publisher trying to put more weight on the subject matter than anything else.

I mean women were at men's mercy for sure. Husbands were known to discard their wives in asylums for being "crazy" and no one questioned it.
While he didn't "own" his wife like a plantation master owned his slave women didn't have a lot of say in things. If they divorced the men would get the children. So while they didn't own them, I wouldn't say women had a lot of freedom either. However in this face it sounds like the young woman is under age and has very few prospects. She doesnt have a father to guide her or another relative, and Victorian women were not left to their own devices for they could get into so much trouble! So this strange man is going to sweep in and be the gentleman and guiding hand every good Victorian woman needs. While the character might not want to do what he says she doesnt have much say because what are her choices? Whore. Nun. Governess. Nanny. Yippeee!

But really I just think the blurb was written so shock the reader into a scandalous story. And I dont think the author did that.[/quote]

No, probably not, the book may be entirely historically accurate.

I don't think it would have caught my attention if it had just said "property" because that's more open to interpretation but by saying "legal property" there is not really any room for a different perspective on what that means.

There's a woman in my tree who was in a similar situation - she was orphaned as a minor - her sisters married the same month they turned 18 but she obviously decided to go it on her own. Within a few years she was pregnant and unmarried. This was a little later in history, around 1920, but for me it still kind of highlighted how few options there were for women.

Helen_Davis

Post by Helen_Davis » Thu May 2nd, 2013, 10:20 pm

[quote=""Mythica""]It's called Born of Persuasion - looks like a debut author: http://www.amazon.com/Persuasion-Price- ... ap_title_0



That has always been my other assumption/experience with Christian Fiction as well. The few Christian novels I picked up by accident, I definitely felt like the quality of writing, the dialogue, the characters, and even the plot were weak and contrived. It made me think that Christian publishers would take on anything Christian just because it's Christian, not because it's well written or a good plot. I'm glad they are upping their standards but for me, it wouldn't be worth trying to find the better ones.[/quote]

Not always, Mythica. One of my novels had a decidedly Christian theme but was rejected because the agent told me that because it was alternate history that 'God wouldn't like you messing with history like this.' Very narrow view of both life and religion IMO, and one of the reasons I'm considering self publishing my alternate history series.

Still, when you find the better ones, it IS worth it. I don't mind what the religious theme is of a novel as long as it grabs me. For instance, I'm not Muslim, but Sherry Jones' novel about Aisha entranced me and I read it in one setting. Wish I hadn't lost it when I moved.

And I second MLE's objections to Christian fiction.
Last edited by Helen_Davis on Thu May 2nd, 2013, 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by DianeL » Thu May 2nd, 2013, 11:50 pm

And I third it - very well put, MLE, as usual. :)

I'd also agree this is probably one of those burbling blurb issues, where the marketing doesn't necessarily reflect the content. One hopes so, certainly!
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