Dear Great-grandmother Mary,
I hope you’re not upset. You might actually be flattered that I used you as the model for Abbie Bergholtz, one of the protagonists in my historical novel, To March or to Marry. In 1911, Abbie joins a women’s club—the Athenaeum Club, the same one you belonged to, my dear Mary. For a few years, Abbie experiences many events mentioned in the letters you saved.
Later in the book, during a period for which I have no letters, Abbie plunges into activities I seriously doubt you had anything to do with, and for this rashness on my part, I crave your forgiveness. The plot had certain requirements. I believe, if you had met someone like Louise Kelley, my other protagonist, a totally imaginary woman who becomes a suffragette, you might have been pushed beyond your comfort zone. You might have gone to Margaret Sanger’s first birth control clinic. You might have written a club paper on child labor, or gone to Washington, DC, to help out a friend when the suffragettes were arrested for picketing the White House.
I did my best to stay true to your personality. I believe Abbie’s reactions to Louise’s criticisms and fiery temper are similar to how you would have responded to such a person. But if I’m wrong, I apologize.
Although you might not approve of everything Abbie is up to, I suspect you might like participating in a story that will help modern readers understand just what challenges women of a century ago were up against, and how the clubs were part of the forward movement–even if many clubwomen were ambivalent about suffrage, as I suspect you were.
In any case, I thank you for the inspiration, and for leaving me documentation of your life as a clubwoman and as a wife and mother. I’ve just finished the first draft, and I’m convinced this book has real promise. It would not have been written without you.