Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin

In May, 1893, Violet learned two things that changed her world. When she was nine years old her father had told her that her mother left them because she was ill and needed treatment. Now, almost twenty-one years old, she learns that her mother just abandoned them. And now her father is engaged to marry a widow with two mean children. In order to get away from her father, the Widow O'Neill and offspring, she went to Chicago to stay with her grandmother and aunts. There she would get to know those relatives better, visit the Columbian Exposition and maybe meet her future husband. Aunt Agnes decided that she would present Violet to high society. This included meeting and greeting at teas and balls. Aunt Matt introduced Violet to the fight for women's rights, marching and stuffing envelopes for the cause. Aunt Birdie was a loving and supportive friend to Violet. Her main suggestion was that Violet should marry for love. Grandmother Florence introduced Violet to the realities of life in the poor sections of Chicago as they volunteered at Jane Addam's settlement house and with the Dwight L. Moody campaign. Violet soon realized that her training by Madame Beauchamps did not prepare her for life outside of high society visiting, teas and balls. Certainly she was not prepared for the filth and stench around the settlement house. But Grandmother was unaffected by the smells, only by the needs of the people. At each level of society Violet acquired a suitor. Aunt Birdie helped her search for her mother when possible. She wanted very much to find her before returning home. And somehow she would decide what she wants in a husband.

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