December 23, 2020

By | bellis@denverpost.com

“Something Worth Doing” by Jane Kirkpatrick (Revell)

“I’m powerless,” Abigail Scott Duniway thinks when her husband co-signs a note for a neighbor without consulting her. The neighbor fails to repay the loan, and the Duniways lose their farm.

In 1859, women had almost no control over their lives. A husband’s debts passed to his wife if he died. She could not work without his permission, and her earnings belonged to him — along with the children if they were divorced.

An early Oregon immigrant, Abigail vows to do something about women’s rights.  It takes a 40-year struggle, but eventually she and others secure the vote for Oregon women.

Author Jane Kirkpatrick is known for her novels based on the lives of real women. Something Worth Doing is her most powerful. Abigail comes alive as a driven woman, strident and sometimes insensitive to her those around her. In Kirkpatrick’s portrayal, Abigail is not always likeable but always admirable.

She marries in haste because her father is about to force her into wedlock with a man she despises. She works alongside her husband, fretting that at the end of the day as he rests, she must continue her never-ending chores. Along with the drudgery of housework, she raises children, writes novels, takes in boarders and runs a retail operation. Eventually, she establishes a feminist newspaper and competes with her brother, the powerful anti-suffrage editor of the “Oregonian.” She travels the country, giving hundreds of speeches promoting women’s right.

Something Worth Doing tells of the lengthy struggle to give women the vote and the toll it took on Oregon’s most prominent suffragette.”

Read the review here

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