Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker
The year is 1864 and the country is in the middle of the Civil War. While we spend lots of time on the names of generals and dates of battles, there is always a human side to the story.
In Lowell, Massachusetts, the mills are silent. Cotton isn’t coming from the south and the economy has come to a halt. The men are gone fighting the war. On the other side of the continent, people are mining for gold and silver and the West is a mess of growly, snarly men. Asa Mercer has the idea to bring the unemployed and unattached women of Lowell to Seattle to tame the growly, snarly men. While he was hoping for 200 women to sign on for the trip, he had just 14 with him when he docked in Seattle.
Those 14 are represented in 16 year old Dovey, who ran away from her ruined father’s plan to marry her off for the money. There is Sophronia, whose rigid religious ideals ruined her chances of finding a husband anywhere near Lowell. There’s Josephine, who is running away from an abusive marriage.
Troubles don’t stay put and the women find themselves growing and pulling together in tenuous friendships as they each try to forge a new life for themselves in muddy, wild Seattle. For all of the women and some of the men, there is a realization the new suffragist movement, with visits from Susan B. Anthony, looks to be the only hope the women have to improve their lot. The choices these three women made may not have been what Asa Mercer or they had in mind, but in untame Seattle there was a new freedom far away from the constrictions of the East coast
This story a retelling of true events and is a different spin on the years during our civil war showing us there is always something else, some other part of life happening somewhere away from the pages of history books we are handed in school.