Which Woman From History Would Have Been Your Best Friend?

Which Woman From History Would Have Been Your Best Friend?

Have you ever seen a celebrity interview that makes you think “Wow, she seems wonderful, I would totally be her friend!” (Sandra Brown-- If you’re ever in Houston and want to grab coffee, I’m all yours!) I’ve had this feeling not so much with celebrities of today, aside from Sandra, of course, but with extraordinary women from history. There are a few ladies who I SO wish were still around so we could grab lunch and gab about life. If our paths somehow crossed today, I could totally be best friends with ladies like...

Eleanor Roosevelt 

What a First Lady! Mrs. Roosevelt was outspoken, strong-willed and one of the first Presidential spouses to have her own newspaper column. If we met for lunch, I think we’d order cheeseburgers and chat about journalism. Her work with the United Nations in her later years earned her the title “First Lady of the World” from President Harry Truman. You go, girl!

Clara Barton 

Clara Barton was such a sweetheart! She was a hospital nurse and humanitarian, but she was most famous for her role as the first President of the American Red Cross. She totally reminds me of Billy Jack Tate from Fair Play. If we met for lunch, I think she could keep me occupied for hours with stories of all the things she saw and experienced.

Amelia Earhart

She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, so I know Amelia Earhart was  brave and daring! She was known for being incredibly driven, yet cool under pressure. I think we could all use a friend like that! As you’ve probably noticed from my books, I love the story of a woman making her way in a man’s world, and there’s no better example of that than Amelia!

So, now I have to ask: if you could pick one of these famous women from history to be your BFF, who would you choose? Outspoken Eleanor, Compassionate Clara, Adventurous Amelia, or someone completely different? Let me know in the comments or over on Facebook.


A Trip Down Memory Lane: Women's Fashion (Part One - 1893 to 1930)

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Women's Fashion (Part One - 1893 to 1930)

Many of you already know that I love vintage fashion and collect historical gowns. One of the most fun parts of writing about my historical heroines is getting to dream up what they would have worn in a given situation. I’ve done my fair share of research into women’s clothing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and even taught a room full of writers about the best way to undress a victorian lady.

If there’s one thing all this research has taught me, it’s that women’s fashion evolves constantly, and what’s in today will almost definitely be out tomorrow. Never has this been more apparent to me than the day one of my daughters, who was in high school at the time, asked me if she could borrow some of my old clothes for an 80s themed birthday party. The big shoulder pads and stirrup pants that had been a mainstay in my wardrobe not so many years ago were suddenly a comedic costume for her and her friends!

Since it’s women’s history month, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at how women’s fashions and silhouettes have evolved over the years. Scroll on to learn a bit about the trends from the 1890s to the 1920s and then let me know: which era would you have liked to live in from a fashion perspective? You can leave your thoughts here or let me know on my Facebook page.

I’ll be back next week to share more on trends from the 1930s to today!


The turn of the century was also a turning point for women’s clothing. The bustle, which had been a popular trend in the 80s, began to fade from fashion. “Balloon” sleeves became a focal point of many dresses. Tiffany Girl’s Flossie Jayne and her seamstress mother would have been experts in creating that kind of style.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Public Domain

During this decade, the swan-bill corset became quite popular, as did styles with high necks. This swan-bill corset had a stiff front that forced the hips back and pushed the chest out, giving women of this era a trendy “S” shape. It sounds uncomfortable, and it was!


The constricting corsets from years past went out of vogue during this era, and dressmakers began using boning not to change a woman’s shape, but to support it. Hemlines also rose above the ankle during this decade, making it easier for women to walk.

1920s - 1930s

Ah, the roaring 20s. Fashion changed drastically during this era as flappers and speakeasies came onto the scene. The fitted styles of the previous decade fell out of fashion, with women favoring a dropped waist and shorter hemlines. By the mid-20s, hemlines had crept up to--gasp!--the knee!

So what do you think? Which era would have been the most fun for you fashion-wise? Let me know over on my Facebook page and check back next week for a Part Two of this post!

What Would They Wear in 2015? The Flossie Jayne Edition

What Would They Wear in 2015? The Flossie Jayne Edition

A couple of months ago, I started wondering what the leading ladies from my books would wear today. What would she find familiar and comfortable? What would she find daring and appealing? Then I thought to myself: Maybe you’d like to get in on the fun!

Since I just finished Tiffany Girl, the heroine—Flossie Jayne—was, of course, the first leading lady who came to mind. How about I tell you a little bit about her, then give an example of what I think her 21st century style would look like? Then you can show us all how YOU think she would dress over on my Group Pinterest board or on Facebook.

"January’s wind caught the corners of Flossie’s mid-length coat and flung it back to reveal a bluish-purple skirt with subtle stripes of mignon. She’d never had a first-day-of-work before and wanted to make a good impression. Picking a gown should have been a simple task. Heaven knew she had a gown for every occasion, or so she thought. Yet there was nothing in Harper’s Bazaar or The Ladies’ Home Journal that discussed the appropriate attire for a Tiffany Girl...She’d tried on four different outfits before settling on her grosgrain. She hoped to heaven she wasn’t overdressed.” - Tiffany Girl





So … Flossie Jayne … where to start? Let’s see, her lifelong ambition is to be one of the first women in history to have her art work hanging in a museum right beside the currently all-male artists. But that’s not going to fly too well with good ol’ traditional mom and dad. He’s a barber and she’s a seamstress for New York City’s rich and famous, and they fully expect their daughter to do what every other female on the planet does: live at home until she meets a suitable man to marry. Problem is, women aren’t allowed to be in the workplace to begin with—and the few who do manage to bust their way in can stay ONLY if they aren’t married.

 Kinda puts Flossie between a rock and a hard place. If she wants to work, she can’t get married. But if she stays home while she works, her dad (being the male) will be given all of her pay. So when the famous Louis Comfort Tiffany visits her art class and offers her and several other female students the opportunity to help create his Tiffany Chapel for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Flossie not only jumps at the chance, she moves out of her home and takes up residence at a local boarding house as a “New Woman” who supports herself and lives by her own rules

Photo credit: djtomdog via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit: djtomdog via Flickr Creative Commons

I always try to pick a celebrity to use as inspiration for my characters—it helps me remain somewhat consistent. In Flossie’s case, I chose Sandra Bullock. I love that she’s beautiful, fashionable and sophisticated, but also a little quirky. Sandra doesn’t mind doing things her own way, and neither did Flossie.

Since Mom sewed all of Flossie’s clothes, Flossie was totally the most stylish woman at her boarding house. Her closet was filled with many of the same fashions as the rich and famous at a fraction of the cost. 

Somehow, making your own clothing has fallen out of vogue today, so I like to think that if Flossie were around in 2015, she would shop for trendy, high-end fashions at stores like Saks off Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus Last Call and Nordstrom Rack. That’s how she’d get the same look as the rich and famous without spending her whole salary from Tiffany Studios! Here are some ideas on how she might dress today to stay on top of the latest trends while working to fit into her role as a New Woman. Are those peach shoes on the girl in the middle to die for, or what? (Experiencing serious shoe-envy right now.)

Now it's your turn! Find an outfit you think Flossie would wear today, and add it to my Group Pinterest Board. Simply comment here or send me a note with your email address and I’ll add you to the group board so you can pin away!  Or, you can simply leave your images here or on my Facebook and I’ll make sure they get pinned!




A Day in the Life of a New Woman

A Day in the Life of a New Woman

The late 1800s were quite the crazy time to be a woman. Or a man, for that matter! For the first time in history, women were no longer satisfied being housewives. They found themselves wanting to get an education, a job and a life outside of the one their mothers had and the one they were raised to want. These changes were impacting men, too, as the family structures they had grown comfortable with were turned on their heads.

A New Woman having a quarrel with her husband.

A New Woman having a quarrel with her husband.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Public Domain 

Flossie, the protagonist of my latest book, Tiffany Girl, experiences this first hand. After being recruited to create stained glass for the Chicago World’s Fair, she tells her family that she will be moving out of the house and into the city to become a working woman, or a “New Woman" as they called them back then.

Women workers in New York City 

Women workers in New York City 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Public Domain

A typical day in the life of a New Woman would include activities that were in the past only deemed appropriate for men, and for many, these new roles were hard to understand. Women were breaking down barriers and transforming the status quo.

Check out this chart that compares the roles of traditional women and New Women at the turn of the century: 

Do you think you would have gone the more traditional route, or would you have been a more controversial New Woman?



Jobs Women Could Have at the Turn of the Century

Jobs Women Could Have at the Turn of the Century

You had to be made of some pretty stern stuff to be a New Woman at the turn of the century. The odds were definitely not in your favor. Nobody (other than your fellow New Women) would support you in your decision to get a job or break away from your traditional role in the household. The refrains of “Girl Power!” were nowhere to be heard in the 1890s, that’s for sure. No, traditional gender roles insisted us women had to be meek, passive, timid, nurturing and emotional, while men should be powerful, brave, rational and independent. LOL. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a powerful, brave, rational and independent man. But I also love making my heroines bust free of their oppressive stereotypes!

And when I researched Tiffany Girl, I quickly discovered that getting a job in a male-dominated world was no easy feat. It wasn’t until years later, when men went off to war, leaving a gaping hole in the workforce, that women finally saw significant opportunities to leave their traditional roles in the home to go to work.

Since only about a dozen of the women in NYC were Tiffany Girls, I wondered what would happen to Flossie (the heroine) if she lost her job. What kind of jobs would be be available to her? And this is what I found out:

Textile Mills 

Those of you who have read It Happened at the Fair will remember Cullen’s mother visited a textile mill. What I didn’t have time to highlight in that book was that the women working there turned cotton into fabric or yarn. They faced 10-12 hour shifts in unsafe, unsanitary conditions with dangerous machinery chugging along all around them. Their roles in the factory ranged from Spoolers, those responsible for running the machines that combined threads together, to Weavers, those who actually turned the threads into fabric. The pay was terrible--so bad that many brought their children to work alongside them for extra income. What a far-cry from the on-site childcare that many forward-thinking companies offer women today, right? It broke my heart to read about the conditions these women and children worked in.


As many of you know, I’m a collector of historical gowns. One of the things that continually amazes me about these complex gowns is that they are done completely by hand--no sewing machines. Can you imagine? I can tell you one thing, if that were the case today, I’d have a very small wardrobe and my husband would get A LOT of space back in the closet.

Back then, women with a talent for needlework were employed as dressmakers for the wealthy upper classes. When I read about one in an old journal, I decided to have Flossie Jayne’s mother be a seamstress in Tiffany Girl. But even then, she handed over all her wages to her husband. Much like the textile workers, she faced pitiful wages and LONG hours. Strict order deadlines meant sewing hunched over dim lighting until all hours of the night. Really gives a new meaning to the phrase “burning the midnight oil,” huh?


 Of course, the most widely expected and preferred occupation for women was being the sole caretaker of their home and children. I had to include this job on the list even though choosing it wouldn’t have technically made you a New Woman. but one thing I know for certain--having been one myself--being a SAHM is hard work! At the turn of the century, though, many believed that being a homemaker was the only job a woman should take on. The tides were beginning to turn in the 1890s, and I loved exploring that in Tiffany Girl, but by and large, most women were expected to maintain the household, raise their children and make life easy as possible for their hardworking husbands. Work outside of the home simply wasn’t an option.

Would you be satisfied if these were your only options for a career?

PS: Here’s a fun fact: The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago was the first to honor women's achievements with a separate Woman's Building. My heroine in Fair Play was based on a female doctor who worked in the infirmary of the Woman’s Building. How fun is that?


Primping and Priming Then & Now: Flossie Jayne’s Morning Routine

Primping and Priming Then & Now: Flossie Jayne’s Morning Routine

Who says girls don’t have toolboxes? I have a toolbox, it’s just that inside it I have curling irons, hair spray, lipstick and bobby pins! Oh, the joys of being a girl! Funny thing is, the same thing was true of women at the turn of the century, though the tools and trends have changed. Women like Flossie Jayne (the main character I spent so much time getting to know for my new book) didn’t have access to all the modern tools I have, but for her and for them, primping and priming was still a big deal.

What I find fascinating, though, is how the beauty standards of each era has changed. Women like Flossie were expected to have pale skin and a very natural, makeup-free look--a far cry from the fake eyelashes and hair extensions of today. At the turn of the century, only lower-class individuals worked outside in the sun all day, so having that bronze glow we covet was a major no-no for them. Pale skin was a sign of belonging to the middle or upper class, and showed that you spent your time indoors taking care of your home like a “respectable” woman should. Crazy, right?

To keep her skin looking healthy, Flossie invested in facial creams instead of makeup. And do you know what I found out? This is when Pond’s facial creams really took off. I love it when I find companies like Pond’s who have survived over all these years despite the changing trends in beauty and fashion.

For Flossie, beauty was all about subtlety, so to highlight her features in a non-dramatic way, she’d use crushed herbs as a blush or lip stain, but nothing more than that. Heavy lip colors and eyelid shadows were only worn by ladies of the night and actresses. And don’t quote me on this--but I think those were the only women who shaved, too. (Something I’m careful not to point out in my books. I mean, who wants a heroine with hairy armpits! Ha!)

One of my favorite hairdos from back then is the “Gibson Girl” style, shown here in an illustration drawn by Life Magazine illustrator Charles Dana Gibson. And Flossie was an expert at i. To achieve the Gibson Girl look, she piled her long, wavy hair in a pompadour or bouffant style on top of her head in a way that managed to look both effortless and elegant at the same time. Now, being from Texas, I’m all about big hair, but even I would find the Gibson Girl doa challenge--especially if I did it every day!

Still, I find Flossie’s beauty routines and those of turn of the century women impossibly fascinating and love to experiment with recreating their sense of style. If you’d like to try a few “Gibson Girl” inspired hair styles, check out this post and let me know how it turns out! You can share your pictures on my Facebook page right here!  


 What it was Like to Work as a Woman at the Turn of the Century

What it was Like to Work as a Woman at the Turn of the Century

One of my favorite parts of writing Tiffany Girl was researching the changing role of women in the late 1800s. It certainly was an interesting time to be a lady! My research had me tearing through books and historical documents, visiting historical sites and traveling through New York see the city through the eyes of a “New Woman.” It was quite the adventure! Throughout the process, I couldn’t help but compare my modern life to the life of a woman at the turn of the century.

While I pride myself on being a working woman today, the hurdles I’ve had to jump to build a career while still maintaining my role as a wife and mother don’t even come close to what “New Women” experienced at the turn of the century.

Just consider some of the hurdles New Women faced when entering the workforce:

Inadequate wages.

Most New Women left their family homes to join the workforce with very little financial support. With wages as low as $3.00 per week, most women struggled to pay rent and feed themselves. Low wages were a problem for men too, but for women, who had few opportunities for upward mobility, things were even worse. 

Photo Credit: RabidSquirrel via Pixabay Creative Commons 

Photo Credit: RabidSquirrel via Pixabay Creative Commons 

Long Hours.

Many women held jobs in factories and worked painstakingly long hours. If they were paid by the hour, supervisors would breathe down their necks to make sure they were working at a very rapid pace. Women could work up to 13 hours each day, or even longer during the holidays. Some of the accounts I read and pictures I saw were heart wrenching.

No time off.  

Many women worked six or sometimes even seven days a week. I like to think that I’m a hard worker, but I can’t imagine the working conditions they endured! They might occasionally request a half holiday, but wouldn’t dare do it often. In one article I read, a woman working as a ticket agent at the Elevated railways in Chicago would regularly work a 12 hour day, 365 a year. Not ONE SINGLE day off!! That’s just messed up.

Terrible working conditions.

The factories many women worked in were not clean, nor were they safe. They would make my office look neat and tidy even on its most cluttered days! To make matters worse, the work that women performed within these factories was difficult physically and would leave them with swollen feet, throbbing ankles, and a host of injuries, from carpal tunnel to arthritis.

Still, despite all this, many women chose to buck the status quo and enter the workforce. I am in total awe of them and tip my hat to say THANK YOU for paving the way for women like us to do work we enjoy.

What about you? Do you think you would have chosen to work as a woman at the turn of the century?


Would You Have Been a New Woman?

Would You Have Been a New Woman?

Women working in a box factory, 1910, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-53225

Women working in a box factory, 1910, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-53225

In my latest novel Tiffany Girl, the main character Flossie Jayne is a New Woman in New York City at the turn of the century. Women like her, New Women, who chose to leave the comfort of their family homes before marriage to get a job and support themselves, were considered unconventional by some, and downright crazy by others. Back then, a woman’s nirvana was, supposedly, to marry and devote her life to keeping up her home and raising her family.

But some women wanted more than that. They wanted to control the wages they earned, forge their own paths and establish themselves as contributing members to society. That’s not to say SAHMs were not contributing members to society. The very fact that they were raising the next generation of government officials, inventors, scientists, etc, make them some of the biggest contributors to society there ever were--and still are! But today, we have a choice about whether or not we want to be a SAHM. And if we do--or don’t--we also get to choose if, when, and how we’d like to work or volunteer outside the home. We aren’t told/forced into specific tasks men have chosen for us.

Women working in a textile factory, 1910, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-59520  

Women working in a textile factory, 1910, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-59520


When I was researching the New Women, I was amazed at the uphill battle those gals had. If I could talk to them today, I’d certainly give them a hearty “you go girl!”  Still, the New Woman’s path wasn’t for everyone. I often try to imagine whether I would have been a New Woman myself, and honestly, I’m not sure. I like to think I’d have had the courage to strike out on my own, but with the pressures of society, the overwhelming opposition the New Women faced, and the deplorable working conditions they endured, it would have been an awfully big challenge.

Image depicting the "New Woman"  on wash day, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-75653

Image depicting the "New Woman" 
on wash day, Library of Congress,

It’s such fun to imagine what our lives would have been like in the past! I guess that’s why I write and read historicals and why I enjoy tracing family genealogies. What about you? Do you think you would have been a New Woman?

If you had become one, do you think your family would have approved?

What do you think your life have looked like if you’d gone against family and society? (I just realized you’re now getting a glimpse of some of the questions I asked myself when I plotted out Tiffany Girl!)

How to Meet a Man at the Turn of the Century

How to Meet a Man at the Turn of the Century

I absolutely loved hearing my grandma talk about what it was like when she was dating. Her stories always started with the same refrain: “Well, back in my day we did things a little differently…”

What understatement, right? Today, people meet on the street, online, at social gatherings and in school. But when I got to researching the dating scene of the Victorians, well meeting your match wasn’t even in the same ballpark .

Back then, women were just starting to break stereotypes and go off on their own to become “New Women.” This label instilled fear in many during that time period. There were certain rules women had to follow and paths they were expected to take from childhood through to adulthood and marriage--and they were sticking to them. For one, women were to live at home with their parents until a well-suited gentleman asked for their hand in marriage. Then, and only then, would women move out of the house and in with their man. Daughters were raised to be excellent housewives, so that when the time came they would be ready to step up to the plate.

So how did these women meet their gentlemen suitors?

Photo Credit: zhouxuan12345678 via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit: zhouxuan12345678 via Flickr Creative Commons

“Mother knows best”

Now that I’m a mother, I have much more appreciation for the saying “Mother knows best.” But even still, I’m not sure I’d want the responsibility of choosing my daughter’s spouse.  At the turn of the century, though, many women met and chose their future husbands through the the recommendations of their parents. And if mom and dad didn’t approve, both the suitor and the daughter were out of luck.

Photo credit: Glamhag via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit: Glamhag via Flickr Creative Commons

Balls & Parties

Today, we have homecoming and prom. At the turn of the century, they had formal balls. But the purposes of ours and theirs were very different. Women in Victorian times attended balls in hopes of snagging a husband. Not exactly what were are shooting for at the homecoming dance--thank goodness!

Photo credit: Vinoth Chanda via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit: Vinoth Chanda via Flickr Creative Commons


As for the church, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to run into a very Victorian-like practice today. At the turn of the century, many women decked themselves out in their “Sunday’s best” and were on the constant lookout for men in their congregations who would make worthy suitors. A match chosen from within a girl’s church was almost guaranteed to get a stamp of approval from her family. Not so different from today, right? Not that all girls who go to church are on a man hunt. I’m just sayin’ that while they’re there, it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that they might take a gander of the guys in the pews around them and, well … you get the picture.

So, which of these three ways would you prefer to have met a man if you were a woman at the turn of the century?


Getting Hitched Then & Now

Getting Hitched Then & Now

I used to play “wedding day” when I was a little girl. This was especially true the year I turned six and Santa laid out a genuine, second-hand wedding gown beneath the Christmas tree. Smartest thing he ever did. That gown and the fantasies it induced kept me occupied for hours and days and months on end. So, it should be of no surprise that I’ve decided to end my February blogs--whose themes have been courting rituals, Valentine’s Day and love in general--by taking a look at what a Victorian-era wedding looked like. *sigh*

Source: Wikimedia Commons- The Celestial City 

Source: Wikimedia Commons- The Celestial City 

It’s only been within the last couple of decades that the wedding industry has taken things to a level never seen before, but make no mistake, weddings were a big deal back in Victorian times, too. I have a set of stereoscopic cards from back then that show each phase of the wedding from “The Proposal” to “Married and Settled.”


"Second Call" 

"Second Call" 

Unlike today, the wedding planning for Victorian couples began only after a formal engagement. (I’ve noticed that lots of girls these days begin planning their weddings before they even meet a man!) Matches were usually made between a man and a woman in the same social circle, and they weren’t allowed to be alone together until after they were married. (Boys will be boys, though, and they did manage to sneak in a kiss or two when no one was looking--see the stereoscopic card with a sleeping chaperone.)

After the proposal was accepted, the dashing gentleman suitor presented his future bride with an engagement ring to symbolize his commitment to her--a tradition that we still keep and cherish today!

"Showing the Engagement Ring"

"Showing the Engagement Ring"

Victorian-era wedding ceremonies  began in the early mornings, usually before breakfast, and were held at the church or at the bride’s home in front of a small number of family and friends. Can you imagine having an early morning ceremony today? Those brides would be up at the crack of dawn to get ready in time!

"The Wedding Breakfast" 

"The Wedding Breakfast" 

Speaking of getting ready, did you know that brides used to simply wear their usual Sunday best for their weddings? The trend of wearing beautiful white dresses was started by Queen Victoria after her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840. Since the ceremony was conducted in the morning, the reception that followed was usually an informal breakfast for the guests and bridal party. In days following the wedding, family and friends came to visit the newly married couple before they left on their honeymoon.

"Married and Settled"

"Married and Settled"

Victorian weddings were quite a bit more reserved than the ones we attend today (no chocolate fountains, fireworks or DJs), but they were still considered an extremely meaningful affair for both the couples and their families.


What’s your favorite part of weddings--either today or back then?


Falling In Love with History: An Exclusive Interview with Yours Truly about Writing Tiffany Girl [PREVIEW]

Falling In Love with History: An Exclusive Interview with Yours Truly about Writing Tiffany Girl [PREVIEW]

You readers are always full of questions, and I love to answer them! By far and away, the most common question I get is: What does your writing, researching and planning process looks like? Well, you can bet it’s a time consuming and difficult process, but after 11 books (ohmygosh has it really been 11?!) I’ve figured out a process that works really great for me.

If you’ve read my books, you KNOW I love the historical details. Making you feel like you’ve just visited the Biltmore Estate during the summer of 1898 or that you’ve experienced the Chicago World’s Fair first hand is SO important to me as a writer. From the first spark of an idea all the way to the final copy, the process of researching and weaving historical details into a story is just as interesting as the books themselves, at least for me.

In order to give you a peek into my writing world, I sat down with Brittany Benson of Prosper Strategies and answered some questions about my writing process for my upcoming book, Tiffany Girl. You can start reading below, or you can download the entire interview here! Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers!

If my interview sparked any unanswered questions, you can tweet them to me @deeannegist or write on my Facebook wall. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

BB: How did you find out about the Tiffany Girls?

DG: The discovery of the Tiffany Girls is very new. Until recently, Louis Comfort Tiffany was credited as the creative force behind all the iconic glasswork Tiffany Studios produced during Louis’ life. Then, in 2005, scholars discovered letters written by Clara Driscoll, the director of the Women’s Glass Cutting Department at Tiffany Studios at the turn of the century. In her letters, Clara discussed with her family the design ideas she and the other Tiffany Girls had created for various lamps and windows. While many of these letters between Clara and her family were saved and treasured, they were ultimately lost over time. Until, that is, 100 years later, when a distant relative found some letters thrown into a box and stored in an attic. These letters left no room for doubt, Clara and the other Tiffany Girls were responsible for some of the most famous design work to ever come out of Tiffany Studios.

I first found out about the Tiffany Girls in an email from my mother. She’d learned about them from watching a PBS History Detectives episode that mentioned a strike organized by Tiffany Studios’ male employees, followed by Louis Comfort Tiffany’s decision to hire female art students in place of the men. Mom sent me an email immediately after the program ended, and after reading it, I knew I’d be telling the Tiffany Girls’ story...read the rest here

Header photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr Creative Commons


A Male to Match

A Male to Match

If I’ve learned anything from talking to you wonderful folks on Facebook last week, it’s that we all LOVE having a romantic literary character in our books-- especially if his name is Darcy! And who can blame us? Falling in love with a handsome, romantic man is almost every woman’s dream, right? (Even if he’s only fictional, that’s ok, too!)

Since so many of you responded to my Facebook post last week about your favorite male literary character, I decided that I want to share with you my take on the three most romantic male characters in my books! Keep in mind, these are in no way my favorite characters. I couldn’t possibly pick those, it’s like picking your favorite children- impossible!

Hunter Scott- Fair Play

Our World’s Fair guard, Hunter Scott may be the toughest fellow west of any place east, but his work with heroine Billy Jack Tate--work like rescuing abandoned children--gives him a softer side. That doesn’t keep the two of them from clashing, though. He doesn’t think women have a place outside the home, and she doesn’t think men are the only ones with the smarts to work in professional fields. Still, they team up to save a foundling, and Hunter finds his softer side along the way.



Mack Danvers- Maid to Match

Mack is as caring and sweet as he is rugged--what more could you ask for, ladies? While his work at Vanderbilt’s Biltmore chateau doesn’t quite thrill him, (how could a former mountain man be thrilled by servitude?) the wages he can earn would go toward rescuing his sister from an orphanage. Mack is strong, handsome and has a big ol’ heart-- perfect for becoming a favorite literary character.


Luke Palmer - Love on the Line 

Luke is a Texas Ranger who mixes danger and love. He works undercover to infiltrate a notorious gang of train robbers - very manly. But he doesn’t much like it when love gets in the way of his work. Everyone loves a man with a sensitive side and one in a uniform (think Texas Ranger with cowboy hat, cowboy boots, low-slinging gun belt, five-pointed star, and that famous Texas swagger). But even when he sheds those to go undercover and has to wear denim overalls, Luke makes those overalls look mighty good--and Georgie definitely notices!



By now you’re probably wondering where my inspiration for all these impossibly romantic and swoony fellows comes from. Click the play button below and I’ll personally give you All the Juicy DeeTales!

Meanwhile, who would you name as the three most romantic characters in my books?

Which Deeanne Gist Book Is The Perfect Fit For You?

Which Deeanne Gist Book Is The Perfect Fit For You?

You’re always asking me which of my books is my favorite. And I’m always saying, “I don’t know!” That’s such a tough question! In many ways, my books are like children. I love them each equally, but in different ways. That’s because they, like my books, bring me joy and laughter, tears and frustration, all tied up with a big dose of affection.

If you’re new to my books, I know that answer won’t do you any good when trying to decide which to read first. But, I woke up in the middle of the night with a great way to help you decide: a quiz! You know, kind of like those quizzes we took in teen magazines, except this one is focused on matching you up with the perfect title to start out on. (If you’ve already read them all, think of which one you’d recommend to someone else, then take the quiz for fun and see if it matches!)

Take the quiz here!

By answering a few quick questions about your favorite pastimes, places to travel and personality, you’ll reveal the Deeanne Gist book that’s best suited for you. Will it be Maid to Match, It Happened at the Fair, the forthcoming Tiffany Girl or one of my others? Only the quiz will tell! Take it here.

Tweet me or write on my Facebook wall and tell me which book you’ve been matched with. If you have any questions, tweet/post those too and I’ll share more insights about my books and do my best to tell you what I love most about each.

Happy quizzing and reading!

Valentine’s Day: 1893 and Today

Valentine’s Day: 1893 and Today

Being a romantic at heart, I thought it’d be fun to see what Valentine’s Day would be like if we lived in 1893 versus 2015. First off, we’d have to become extremely prim and proper (I’m in trouble already). We’d have to follow a set of rigid social customs … or else! And absolutely NO showing of physical affection. Can you imagine?!

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Remember that 468 page etiquette book I mentioned in my post last week? Those Victorians were not kidding around! With PDAs being a huge no-no (think no dates and no time alone), we’d have to resort to handwritten letters and small tokens of affection. Since we’re traveling to 1893, our moms and dads would have been of the generation that exchanged “traditional” cards, decorated with beautifully drawn pictures like the one above that depicted what they’d like to do, but couldn’t due to those strict conventions and were, for obvious reasons, closed with a wax seal. (Yes, Valentine Cards pre-date Hallmark!)

Their cards became more and more elaborate, but by the time 1893 hit, they were mass produced instead of created by hand.  Even still, they’d have everything from lace paper to beading, and feathers to poetry. 

Fast forward to today. Without the burden of a chaperone, we can go on romantic dates, exchange gifts and spend all the time we want together. And though sending flowers, buying jewelry and gifting chocolates are some of the most common ways we say “I love you!” to our sweeties, I find myself tapping into my inner-Victorian and making handmade cards--just like they did. Of course, mine aren’t nearly as beautiful as theirs were, but it’s not the end product that matters, right? It’s the thought. Reminds me of a wedding anniversary we had a few years back. It was a milestone anniversary and Greg knew I would make him a handmade card--so he surprised me with one, too. And guess what? I saved it and it still brings a smile and a giggle every time I take it out of my keepsake box.

What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day gift? Do you love getting candy, jewelry or other tokens of affection? Or are you happy with a heartfelt card like the ones that gave birth to this crazy holiday in the first place?

Five Fun Valentines Gifts for Historical Fiction Lovers

Five Fun Valentines Gifts for Historical Fiction Lovers

I have a terrible time remembering anniversaries, birthdays, and even Valentine’s Day. My husband never forgets. I’m always the one running out at the last second to get a card or gift. So this year, I started early, but instead of finding something for him, I found the coolest ideas for, well, me! If Valentine’s Day wasn’t a romantic holiday, I’d be tempted to get some of these for the female friends in my life. But they’d all fall over dead with shock if I did something sentimental, so instead, I thought I’d gift you with a list of items that I thought would be particularly appealing to us historical fiction lovers. Perhaps you can print it out and leave it around for the man in your life to find. ;)

Photo by Maria Aguiar via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Maria Aguiar via Flickr Creative Commons

1. Antique jewelry

Who doesn’t love  jewelry - especially on Valentine’s Day! But if the gift is for a historical fiction lover, why not find an antique jewelry store and buy a piece with a past! Or, in true Valentine’s Day fashion, why not give your Valentine the key to your heart by gifting a one-of-a-kind skeleton key?

Photo by Martinak15 via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Martinak15 via Flickr Creative Commons

2. Old Book Candles

Even though reading by candlelight would kill my eyes, I might be tempted to give it a try with this “pages” candle, which is rumored to actually smell like an old book. Who knows, if you’re a significant other and you’ve found this article on your coffee table, maybe you should try lighting this candle to set a romantic atmosphere. It just might take things to a whole new level. Worth a try, right?

Photo by Kara Witham via Etsy

Photo by Kara Witham via Etsy

3. Secret Safe Book

Is this so cool? It’s a Secret Safe Book from Esty. The question then becomes which precious heirlooms to hide inside it? I’d probably end up putting my car keys in it, then I’d never lose them! And it would look right at home on the shelf with all my other historical fiction. Definitely drooling over this one.

4. Tiffany Girl

Okay. Call me shameless. But if you really are a significant other, and your woman really did leave this on the coffee table, then she’s most likely one of my readers. My brand new book, Tiffany Girl, is coming out May 5, but it’s now available for pre-order it. Maybe she’s mentioned it? Dropped a few hints? Said something about how back-in-the-day the heir to Tiffany’s jewelry empire was left without a staff when his glassworkers went on strike and he had to hire a group of female art students to finish the mosaic chapel he was making as an exhibit for the World’s Fair? But nobody believed the work could be done in time--least of all by a set of young, inexperienced women? And that our heroine, Flossie Jayne, answers the call? Either way, I’m pretty sure that if you pre-order this for her, you’ll earn major brownie points. Just sayin’.

Image by Tophee via Flickr Creative Commons

Image by Tophee via Flickr Creative Commons

5. Vintage Cufflinks

As long as we’re talking to significant others, what do you, sir, think about these stylish antique vintage cufflinks? No? You’d rather have a Bug-Zooka for catching bugs--aim, fire, suck that fly up? That’s what I thought. *sigh*

So, did I miss anything? What Valentine gifts do you like to give/receive?

10 Things You Never Knew About Courting at the Turn of the Century


Being “courted” sounds so much more romantic than “dating.” At least it did until I started writing books set in the 19th century and saw how different courting is from our modern dating practices. Since we’ve come upon the romantic month of February and Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the quirkiest practices Victorian era men and women participated in when looking for a spouse.

Here are the 10 I found most interesting:

  • First order of business: Let the guys know you were of marrying age by doing away with your pigtails and replacing them with an up-do. Back in the day, this milestone was referred to as “she turned up her hair.” I don’t know about you, but I still had occasion to put my hair in pigtails when I was in my forties.

  • Women “came out” around ages 17-18, depending on their family’s financial status. This meant that they had successfully completed their education and were now eligible for marriage.

  • Once they were “out,” young women of high-ranking families were never allowed out of the house alone. For the first several years of their social lives, they were escorted everywhere by their mothers, or a close female relative. Ohmygosh. Just kill me now.

  • Social customs prohibited women from speaking to those of a higher social rank unless introduced to them by a mutual friend. Those girls from the 19th century were not about to put up with that, though. If they saw some hottie across the room that they hadn’t been introduced to, they could tell him they “found him most attractive” by closing their fan and placing it over their hearts. There were a TON of communication gestures women used their fans for. But we’ll save that for another time.

  • Unmarried couples were not permitted to be alone together at home. If an unmarried couple were in the same room together, one member of the couple’s family was required to sit with them. Ohmygosh. Kill me twice.

  • Couples had to adhere to very strict rules concerning their behavior when in public. Women were told to never adjust their appearance, gossip, discuss finances or use crude language. Men were expected to behave in a noble manner, to take relationships slowly and to never hold a woman’s hand unless he was supporting her. I have an etiquette book written in the 1890s that’s 468 pages long. Yikes.

  • Victorian women used dance cards to keep track of the men they wished to dance with at balls and other social events. You couldn’t dance with the same guy more than two times without creating a scandal, though.

  • Love tokens were sent between men and women to relay messages they were unable to verbalize in public. Flowers, gemstones and other tokens each had a specific meanings that were meant to be decoded by the recipient. Okay. I like this one. Reminds me of a scene in the time-travel movie Kate and Leopold where Leopold explains to a 21st century guy the meanings of all the flowers he’d just picked up for his love interest. Ha.

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  • Men were encouraged to never show affection to only one woman, unless they intended to propose to her. Seriously? I would not be too happy if my guy was showing affection to everybody and their sister. Nope. Not happy at all. I’d probably have to get out my handy-dandy fan and “make threatening movements” with it to indicate my acute displeasure.
  • Couples were supposed to be “balanced” in looks and temperament - meaning that if you had a dark complexion and an outgoing personality, you would be best paired with someone who was lighter complected and more reserved. I’m 5’2” and my man is 6’5”. What do you think? Balanced or ridiculous looking?

So what do you think? Are you a “Courting” or a “Dating” kind-of-girl? Any of these practices ones you’re glad you don’t have to endure? Any you’d like to see come back?

What Would They Wear in 2015? Rachel Van Buren

Each week we are picking a new leading-lady to feature and sharing ideas about how we think she would dress in 2015! Scroll below to see how I imagine she would dress, then you can show me how YOU imagine she would dress! Just upload a picture to the comments section here, or on Facebook, and the outfit YOU CHOOSE will be added my new Pinterest board. (Then we can all see each others ideas!)

This week, I'm featuring Rachel Van Buren from my second book, The Measure of a Lady. (Be sure to follow the Pinterest board so you'll see your outfit when it's posted!)

Johnnie was halfway out of his chair before he realized it had been well over a year since he’d stood up for a lady. But lady she was. Standing amongst these disreputable miners in her coat, skirt, and sunbonnet. Caked in mud and looking so blasted pretty he could scarcely catch his breath.

Every eye in the place was on her. Even Rattlesnake appeared to have forgotten he’d just lost his fortune. And the lady? The lady’s attention was fully and completely focused on Johnnie.

And she was none too pleased.
— The Measure of a Lady


To get an inside peek at my inspiration for the characters of The Measure of a Lady, go here.

As for Rachel, my original inspiration was this model from the Neil Hamil Agency.








Rachel Van Buren was all about following the plethora of Victorian rules that governed what a woman should do: speak politely, dress modestly, and rise above temptation. She lived in San Francisco, which today is one of the trendiest and funkiest cities in the USA. Here's some ideas on how today she might conform to the conservative demands of her day, yet allow a bit of personality show through.

Now it's your turn! Find an outfit you think Rachel would wear today, and I'll add it to my Rachel Van Buren Pinterest board! Just leave the image here or on my Facebook!

What Would They Wear in 2015? Constance Morrow

I LOVE the gorgeous dresses that women wore back in the day and I always incorporate some in my books. That got me to thinking--if my heroines lived in the 21st century, what would they wear? With that in mind, I scrolled through Pinterest (so addicting!), and found some fun styles I think my heroines would love!

For fun, what if each week we pick a new leading-lady to feature? I can show you how I imagine she would dress, then you can show me how YOU imagine she would dress! Just upload a picture to the comments section here, or on Facebook, and the outfit YOU CHOOSE will be added my new Pinterest board. (Then we can all see each others ideas!) This week, I'm featuring Constance Morrow from my first book, A Bride Most Begrudging. (Be sure to follow the Pinterest board so you'll see your outfit when it's posted!)

‘He wants a fifteen thousand pound settlement,’ Drew said.
Constance widened her eyes. ‘Fifteen thousand!’
‘He says you’re a great deal of trouble.’
She hesitated for one startled moment before choking back a laugh. ‘I am.’
‘I thought so.’
Her father leveled Drew with a look. ‘If I pay you the fifteen thousand, do you swear to keep her?’
Drew reared back his head. ‘Forever?’
Her father scowled. ‘Forever.’
— A Bride Most Begrudging
My original inspiration for Constance, and Emma Stone in *The Help*

My original inspiration for Constance, and Emma Stone in *The Help*


To get an inside peek at my inspiration for the characters of A Bride Most Begrudging, go here.

As for Constance, my original inspiration came from a picture of a doll I saw in a magazine while I was waiting for a prescription to be filled. I gasped and thought, "That's her! That's Constance as a child."

If I had to pick out an actress to cast as Constance, I'd chose Emma Stone--especially with the way her hair was worn in the movie *The Help.* (Who would you choose?)




Constance was a true red head and covered with freckles. Feisty, headstrong, and intelligent, if she were shopping for clothes today, she'd probably look for something tasteful and exquisitely made with a lot of class. A kind of Princess Kate look.

So, with that in mind, here's some things I picked out for Constance if she were living in 2015 ........


Now it's your turn! Find an outfit you think Constance would wear today, and I'll add it to my Constance Morrow Pinterest board! Just leave the image here or on my Facebook!

Dee Just Wants To Have Fun

Each member of our family took a personality test based on Taylor Hartman's The Color Code.  I like it so much better than the Meyers-Briggs for a couple of reasons.  Meyers-Briggs has 16 categories, The Color Code has four.  Meyers-Briggs tells us how the personality types act, The Color Code explains why.

The Color Code breaks down everyone into four basic color groups:
    1.    RED: The annoying bossy types
    2.    BLUE: Moody artists
    3.    WHITE: Unmotivated layabouts
    4.    YELLOW: Party animals

That's obviously an oversimplification, but your color explains the motivation behind your behavior.  And your color is not something learned, it's something you're born with.  Though I mentioned the weaknesses of the personality types above, there are also many positives attached to each color (for example, Reds are fantastic, natural-born leaders).

At RWA I was having lunch in Orlando with NYT bestselling author Kristan Higgins when Goofy happened by. We stopped for a photo op. 

At RWA I was having lunch in Orlando with NYT bestselling author Kristan Higgins when Goofy happened by. We stopped for a photo op. 

To find out what color you are, click here and take a free 15 minute test (you don't have to sign up for email lists or anything).  At the end of the test, you'll find out what color you are.  I'm a yellow.  Take a peek at what motivates me (everything is spot-on except for the "uncommitted" part ... I'm very, very committed and very, very loyal).

Each person also has, of course, a strong secondary color.  Mine is Red.  So, the red in me is constantly trying to train the yellow in me!  Ha.  My overall pie chart indicated that I was:
    1.    60% party animal
    2.    30% annoying bossy type
    3.    9% moody artist
    4.    1% unmotivated layabout

To find out your secondary colors, you have to pay for it, though.  :(

  This is bestselling author Tamera Alexander and me when we were both nominated for a RITA (which she won, the dog--I've never let her forget it, either!!) :)


This is bestselling author Tamera Alexander and me when we were both nominated for a RITA (which she won, the dog--I've never let her forget it, either!!) :)

In this one I'm at RomCon and they had a big cardboard replica of a book cover with a hole where the heroine's face went. I got behind it and poked my head through.

In this one I'm at RomCon and they had a big cardboard replica of a book cover with a hole where the heroine's face went. I got behind it and poked my head through.

In our family, we have 2 reds, 2 yellows, 1 blue and 1 white!  No wonder things were always in an uproar around here!  :)  Anyhoo, take the test and leave a comment telling us what color you are!