The Woman behind the Story

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A Sweet Little Dream offical coverHello everyone! ^_^ To celebrate a YEAR today (May 13th) that my first collection, “A Sweet, Little Dream,” was published, I wanted to write a post about the true woman behind my first story that I wrote at age 14-15.  Enjoy this history lesson about one determined woman.

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Most of the stories I wrote in my collection, “A Sweet, Little Dream,” began as assignments for my ninth grade Language Arts teacher, Mr. Tim Banger. His bold energy and enthusiasm radiated from him, his passion for his core matter apparent in his voice. He declared loudly one day, with a dramatic slam of the door, that he was going to write his book. We, being fourteen year old freshmen, snickered and continued our work.  He shouted my name, making me jump in my chair.  He told me I would make a good character for his future book. After I got over my private giggle fest, I pondered that if this over-the-top man could write a book, I could certainly try.  With this spark igniting in my soul, my eyes were able to see inspiration everywhere I turned and weaved it in a trait for my tale.  Within two weeks, thanks to Mr. Banger’s outburst, I had 90% of the story of “Spirit Vision,” my first published work I ever wrote, in my head.

My drive to write fueling me, I signed up my sophomore year for a Creative Writing elective with Mr. Banger, determined, especially after Mr. Banger informed me bluntly one day (that’s how he rolled): “You’re writing is very good, but your mechanics suck! You won’t get anywhere this way!” At that statement, I was hurt, slapped, ice water drenching my being, but it gave me a rare stubborn streak to prove to him I could fix my mechanic faults. He is part of the reason I am where I am today as an author and I make sure to tell him and his students that when I guest speak.

Creative Writing allowed gave me a longer leash for creativity, but I was not set lose to roam the town.  Mr. Banger made us write six short stories that semester and two poems for grades, but at least half of them had a catch.  One in “A Sweet, Little Dream,” “The Choice of Faith,” we had to make the main character named Amaranth and a porch had to be involved.  In a darker story, “A Cure for Sorrow,” all our stories had to start with the same sentence: “Her doctor said her infection would go away in a few days.”  All these stories are found in my collection along with the two poems, “Dear Angel” and “The Warmth of Colors” are published in the collection, stepping stones to the career I have today.

These challenges expanded my mind to accept to write in genres outside the paranormal of “Spirit Vision,” showing even at sixteen, I was not a one-trick pony. However, one close short story from my Mr. Banger days is my first one: “Margaret’s America.”  Mr. Banger and my father co-taught often.  We were discussing America’s entry into World War I in my dad’s American History class and Mr. Banger wanted us to write a story about an inspirational woman during the era in his mind: Mrs. Margaret Sanger.  At the time, I was unaware that contraceptive control was not a concept formulated in my mother’s time.  Margaret Sanger had a vision to save women whose bodies were weak from bearing too many children and wanted to help make the population manageable for all. Choice.  She was giving women choice, options, the best way for them to be a part of the decision of family making, a huge pillar in marriage.  My mind questioned what made Mrs. Sanger fight so hard for this belief? A job? A milestone in her life?  I wanted to craft my own version of a young Margaret and see what answers my historical fiction would lead me to, but her true story I discovered was an incredible journey, this woman a pillar of inspiration in numerous ways:

Margaret Higgins was born in 1879 in New York, one of twelve children.  Her mother had eighteen pregnancies in her life, dying early due to her body unable to fight off a disease.  In 1900, Margaret went to college to be a nurse.  Two years later, she met her husband, becoming Margaret Sanger, and they eventually had three children together.  At this time, women’s rights were becoming strong and heated and the Sanger clan got swept away into the fanfares.   In 1910, the Sanger family moved to New York City, where Mrs. Sanger worked as a nurse, quote from biography.com: “at the Lower East Side, at the time a predominantly poor immigrant neighborhood. Through her work, Sanger treated a number of women who had undergone back-alley abortions or tried to self-terminate their pregnancies.”  All the horror, disfigurement, and deaths witnessed through this job blazed the embers for Margaret.  She said every women needs to be in control of their own body.  To set up this path, in 1914, Sanger started a feminist publication called The Woman Rebel.  The unheard of handout promoted a woman’s right to have birth control, which at the time was illegal to women in America.  Enraged by the ‘graphic’ images and details, considering them criminal, Margaret fled to Europe to let the commotion die down, learning about other methods of contraceptive.  She returned to America in 1915 and the following year, opened up the first birth control clinic in the United States.  The clinic was closed soon after and Margaret and her staff arrested.  When released, she published The Birth Control Review. In 1921, she established the American Birth Control League, a precursor to today’s Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She created more organizations for doctors to give contraceptives and by 1936, birth control and other methods like it were allowed for legal and private use in the United States.  However, this was not enough for Margaret. She dreamed of a pill to do this, something easier, most comfortable, and less embarrassing for women.  With research and collaboration with other indivisibles, her goal was achieved; the first birth control pill.  She passed away at the age of 81, in 1966, seeing her dreams achieved the year before.

This is the true Margaret Sanger, a strong character that existed. With a drive so bold, a heart so full of passion for her cause, willing to break laws to change it, why would I pick anyone else for my first short story heroine?

My Margaret, being fictional, is a tad different in her background, but her kindness, her love to help women and children, and her ultimate goal are still the same.  My Margaret is seventeen years old, an apprentice under a nursing station at a hospital.  She lives with her older brother, Brandon, whom she loves dearly.  Their parents passed away four years earlier and they are everything to each other, but with the United States entering World War I, Brandon is being called to war, breaking Margaret’s heart.  Seeing her brother off at the train station in their beloved New York City, Margaret sees her first encounter of a couple with too many children and what it has done to the mother, shocked that women were not aware contraceptives exist.  She vows to make a change, to do good while her brother is “over there,” and start her journey as an activist for birth control.

No matter which Margaret I look at, I see a woman who follows her ambitions with her heart, for family in the beginning.  She is a hand to hold, to educate women and her drive is awe-inspiring, more so than myself never giving up on my dream as an author. How many women truly change a nation for half a century like she did?   I can see why Time magazine, in 2010, placed her in the “Top 25 Most Powerful Women in the Past Century.”

She fuses the woman, writer, and teacher inside of me and I think this quote of her’s sums it up: “Every child should be a wanted child.”

You can read more about what inspired me to write this post in my short story: “Margaret’s America,” found in my collection, “A Sweet, Little Dream” through Paper Crane Books. You can listen to me reading the first page of this story on the fourth episode of our Indies’ Reading Block Podcast.

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To learn about Margaret Sanger and her accomplishments, you can go to these websites that I used to help write this post. All credit goes to them:

http://www.biography.com/people/margaret-sanger-9471186#legacy

http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2029774_2029776_2031825,00.html

Photo: http://www.plannedparenthoodadvocate.org/pop-culture/

 

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