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Archive for 'Civil War'

Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Mary Ellen Pleasant — The Little Woman Who Really Started the Civil War (Contest + Excerpt)
Thursday, March 16th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…Colleen C!

When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, he is quoted as saying, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” While Uncle Tom’s Cabin stirred the hearts and minds of many against slavery, Mary Ellen Pleasant struck an actual blow against it.

Born free in 1814, Pleasant was brought to Nantucket to work as an indentured servant for the Husseys, an abolitionist Quaker family in whose store she developed a knack for business. While with the Husseys, Mary encountered the blacks of Newtown who grew into a prosperous middle-class thanks to the whaling industry. She married James Smith, an abolitionist who identified as Hispanic. They hobnobbed with the abolitionists of Boston and helped runaways get to Canada. Upon Smith’s death, Mary inherited a sizable fortune and continued her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. In 1848, she married John Pleasants, a former slave and abolitionist who worked with her for twenty years against slavery.

She moved to San Francisco during the gold rush of 1849 and created wealth as a commodity trader, a money lender, and owner of businesses like laundries and lodgings and the Bank of California. She continued her abolitionist activities by using her money to help slaves escape from their masters who brought them there. Her ultimate contribution to the cause of ending slavery came in 1858 when she went to Canada and gave John Brown $45,000, $1.3 million in today’s dollars, for the raid on Harper’s Ferry. She laid claim to being the author of the note found on him when he was executed. She dictated an account of this in 1904’s How A Colored Woman Aided John Brown.

Her fight for civil rights in San Francisco continued when she brought two racial discrimination suits against streetcar companies in San Francisco, both ultimately settled in her favor. She established black schools and fought for the repeal of Jim Crow laws, earning her the nickname, “The Mother of Human Rights in California.” In his book Black Fortunes, Shomari Wills shares how she amassed a fortune of $30 million dollars, making her one of America’s first black millionaires.

It never ceases to amaze me how women like Mary Ellen Pleasant used the skills they had, in her case, the talents of a cook and domestic with a keen eye for business, to make life better not only for themselves but for others as well. Being a philanthropist was just a way of life.

In Black Fortunes, I learned her last days weren’t free from the drama racism wreaks upon the lives of pioneers like her, but thanks to this video done on her by a local San Francisco TV station during Black History month she at least has been given her due for posterity…

For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, leave a comment on what you think about Mary Ellen’s life.

Better to Marry than to Burn

Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought…

A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.

Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.


Why would a woman of obvious education and means be willing to brave the hardships of life out West as an ex-slave’s mail order bride? With grave ceremony, he withdrew, unfolded, and then read the letter.

Dear Mr. King,

My name is Queen Esther Payne. I read your ad and found your inquiry both refreshing and intriguing. I stand five feet six and weigh one hundred forty pounds. All of my six brothers will attest that I am no wallflower and do not fear hard work. Also as I come from one of the most respectable families on Lombard Street, my Philadelphian stock guarantees I have the ability and the requisite knowledge to help you establish a legacy in Douglass. I can commit to the two years you require, provided the marital relations are limited to the “as necessary” stated in your ad. I am willing to negotiate if more than two years are required.

I have only had relations with women, so you need not fear I will fall in love with you. Thus your “love neither required nor sought” dictum proves no obstacle. However, my woman-loving-woman proclivities may disqualify me in your eyes. If so, I await your refusal. If not, I anticipate your proposal.

Queen Esther Payne.

Caesar read and reread the line again.

I have only had relations with women, so you need not fear I will fall in love with you.

His Emma had only known women too until she united with him. Could fate be so kind as to smile upon him twice?

Buy link:

Keta Diablo: Women in the Civil War
Sunday, November 25th, 2018

Researching the Civil War can be rewarding and fascinating. I particularly like to dig through the annals of history in search of information about women who lived through this turbulent and very bloody time.

Before the war, elite southern society considered their wives and women, in general, no better or no worse than their black slaves. At birth, girls became the property of their fathers (mothers had no ‘legal’ claim to their children). When they married, women became the property of their husbands, and so did any land or valuables they might have owned prior to that marriage. Their marital position placed them in charge of a household that catered to the needs of their “white family and their husband’s slaves”.

Before marriage, women were not expected to need much of an education because most married at a young age and spent the rest of their lives engaged in domestic work. After marriage, the fear of continued pregnancy gave them cause for worry as many of them died in childbirth.

Despite some of the gloomy statistics of how Southern women were regarded in society, many stepped out of their standard roles and excelled in situations far beyond their educations or knowledge when Civil War came to their towns. There are countless stories of women serving as nurses in make-shift hospitals, women making three hundred uniforms in one month for their particular army, and women inventing artificial limbs and medicinal concoctions for wounded soldiers. Although rare, some women even disguised themselves and served as soldiers in both the Confederate and Union armies.

But there was another type of soldier who proved to be more relevant and effective for both the Cause and the Union. These women were spies. They wore hoop skirts for a uniform, and their arsenal included charm, grace, and guile. Female spies performed a very valuable service to the war effort regardless of which side they spied for.

One of the most famous was Belle Boyd—beautiful, educated, and quite daring. She was the daughter of a Virginia tobacco plantation owner. One of the elite in Southern society, she became a war agent at the age of seventeen when she shot and killed a Northern soldier as he attacked her mother. That daring act was followed by many others after she was appointed courier for Generals Beauregard and Jackson. Her autobiography, Belle Boyd, in Camp and Prison, recounted stories of her dangerous deeds which spanned a period of nearly three years.

Belle once rode thirty miles overnight with news of a Yankee attack, and her successful mission was responsible for saving many confederate lives, but not without a personal attack upon her character. The Northern press labeled her a “village courtesan” who gained her secrets through “sexual conduct.” Belle was not discouraged but continued to gather vital information for the South. She used her feminine innocence to obtain the battle plan that allowed Jackson’s troops to capture Front Royal, Virginia. A Union major complained that Belle Boyd had done more damage to the Union than half the men of the Confederacy. Six times, she had been captured, sometimes imprisoned for months but often released. She was certainly an example of a Southern lady who made a difference through her role in the Civil War.

The heroine in Land of Falling Stars, Sophia Whitfield, is not a spy, but like many women of the time, she suffers drastic repercussions when the Civil War came to Fredericksburg, VA. I think the blurb sums up perfectly Sophia’s life as she struggles to save her beloved childhood home, Arbor Rose.

Land of Falling Stars

The United States is torn asunder by Civil War.

Two men, linked together by their love for one woman, Sophia Whitfield, answer the call of duty.

An arranged marriage to Jesse James Grantham has been in the works since Sophia and Jesse were children. When he leaves to fight for his beloved South, he promises Sophia they’ll whip those Johnny Rebs in no time and when he returns, they’ll get married under her mother’s rose arbor.

Sophia’s best friend from childhood, Gavin Langdale, enlists to fight for the North. Why does she feel as if he’s taking her heart with him the day he leaves for war? She loves Jesse…doesn’t she?

After Sophia’s parents die in a fire, she struggles to save Arbor Rose. Most of the slaves have run off, the South is in tatters and so is the only home she’s ever known. Another bluecoat is staggering down the hill, coming to steal the last of her meager possessions. Before the hated enemy has a chance to commit the vilest of acts, she shoots him.

And then discovers its Gavin, the champion of her youth.

Dark secrets lurk in Gavin’s memory, secrets much darker than the despicable acts of war. He carries a message for Sophia, a missive from Jesse. When he finds the courage to tell her what really happened to Jesse on that bloody battlefield, she’ll hate him—hate him until she draws her last breath.

A powerful story of lies, betrayal and a love that burns brighter than all the stars in Heaven.


What reviewers are saying about Land of Falling Stars

“Land of Falling Stars lured me in immediately with its lyrical title and instantly captivated me with the haunting love story of Gavin and Sophia.”

“The author pens a story that is unlike any other. Land of Falling Stars makes you believe in the possibility of retribution and the hope of finding your brass ring in the last place you look.”

“Diablo has penned a beautiful and haunting love story full of passion, deception, danger. Land of Falling Stars will leave you breathless and longing for more!”


If you’d like to read more about the Civil War and Sophia and Gavin’s haunting love story, you can buy Land of Falling Starsfor 99 cents for a limited time.  Available on all venues here:


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