Independence Day, 1888
During the parade to celebrate our country’s one-hundred-and-twelfth birthday that hot Seventh Month day, I found the militaristic marching distasteful. But I giggled and pointed along with the rest of the crowd at the various horribles (as they call them) walking by. My favorite was policeman dressed as a British bobby pulling an outhouse on a cart labeled “Amesbury Lockup.”
Thee might be aware that, while the rest of our bustling mill town of Amesbury enjoyed a day of rest and festivities, babies can decide to come into the world at any moment. As a midwife I was fortunate to have none appearing so far, but if I was called to a birth, I would go.
After the parade the new statue of Josiah Bartlett, an Amesbury resident and the second signer of the Declaration of Independence, was to be dedicated. My friend and fellow Quaker, the famous abolitionist and poet John Greenleaf Whittier, had been asked to write a poem for the occasion. Because John did not care for public speaking a professor from Andover, the assigned reader, rose and cleared his throat. The familiar cadences ended thusly:
And thou, O Land he loved, rejoice
That in the countless years to come,
Whenever Freedom needs a voice,
These sculptured lips shall not be dumb!
It was just like John to make sure freedom was mentioned. After the speech, I found myself following some paces behind a tall colored man whose jaunty gait looked familiar.
“Akwasi,” I called. “Is that thee?”
He halted and craned his head to glance behind him. “That it surely is, Rose. What a delight to see thee.” He pivoted and held out both hands to greet me, squeezing my pale hands in his when I arrived. His smile was broad and white in his dark face, and smiling made his ears stick out farther than they usually did. He was a warm and generous member of the Society of Friends, but he hadn’t always been. John Whittier had sheltered a teenaged Akwasi in the hidden quarters in the cellar of the Meetinghouse as part of the Underground Railroad during the last year of the War for the Union. Akwasi had chosen to stay on in Amesbury even though not all local residents had welcomed him. He’d been diligent about his studies, mentored by John, and had become a member of the Meeting.
“Did thee hear the poem of Friend John?” I asked.
He released my hands and laid his right hand on his heart. “‘Whenever Freedom needs a voice, These sculptured lips shall not be dumb!’ Let us hope that comes to pass, Rose. Let us pray it does.”
You can read more about Rose in Called To Justice, the second book in the “Quaker Midwife” historical mystery series.
Quaker midwife Rose Carroll is enjoying the 1888 Independence Day evening fireworks with her beau when a teenaged Quaker mill girl is found shot dead. After a former slave and fellow Quaker is accused of the murder, Rose delves into the crime, convinced of the man’s innocence. An ill-mannered mill manager, an Irish immigrant, and the victim’s young boyfriend come under suspicion even as Rose’s future with her handsome doctor suitor becomes unsure. Rose continues to deliver babies and listen to secrets, finally figuring out one criminal – only to be threatened by the murderer, with three lives at stake. Can she rescue herself, a baby, and her elderly midwifery teacher in time?
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About the author
National best-selling author Edith Maxwell is a 2017 double Agatha Award nominee for her historical mystery Delivering the Truth and her short story, “The Mayor and the Midwife.” She writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries; as Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Her award-winning short crime fiction has appeared in many juried anthologies, and she is honored to served as President of Sisters in Crime New England.
A fourth-generation Californian and former tech writer, farmer, and doula, Maxwell now writes, cooks, gardens, and wastes time as a Facebook addict north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs at Wicked Cozy Authors, Killer Characters, and with the Midnight Ink authors. Find her at edithmaxwell.com and elsewhere.
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Called To Justice is available at retail and online booksellers or you can ask your local library to get it for you.
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Called To Justice. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends April 9, 2017. Good luck everyone!