Navy wife Michelle Ule is a graduate of UCLA and the author of five novellas and a novel. She lives in northern California with her family where she works at a literary agency, teaches Bible study, plays in a woodwind ensemble, and writes. She’s a long-time lay counselor in both crisis pregnancies and budget counseling. She loves to travel and is an accomplished genealogist. You can learn more about her at www.michelleule.com
Today, Michelle tells us a little about how she researched part of her novel, 12 BRIDES OF SUMMER:
It’s always interesting when you start the research involved with writing any new story. The use of money in a business was a subplot of The Sunbonnet Bride because I’ve known so many women who have tried to run small businesses out of their homes with often limited success.
To that end, I gave Sally Martin a familiar skill—sewing—a slightly unique approach: sewing a sunbonnet whose brim kept its shape even in a tornado; and provided two men with different ideas about using their talents in a disaster.
Sally learned to her surprise that she couldn’t continue to donate her time and talents to help neighbors who have lost their homes, if she didn’t keep back some resources to refresh her supplies. That meant I had to learn how much things cost in 1875 Nebraska.
Google, of course, helped.
Her needs were few: narrow reeds (free from the creek), a thimble, needle, thread and calico. The rest she could do with a borrowed iron and her skills.
How much would it cost to sew a sunbonnet?
A yard of calico cloth cost seven cents a yard, while a spool of thread cost a dime.
I never did learn the cost of a thimble, perhaps they could be handed down, but today on ebay, you can purchase a silver 1875 thimble for $75! Way too expensive for Sally.
A needle? According to Godey’s Magazine, volume 81, published in 1880, you could buy 10 needles for four cents
So, the tools cost about 17 cents for a full yard of material, thread and needle. You could probably get at least two sunbonnets from that much—so a sunbonnet would cost about eight cents in materials to sew. Is that so much to ask.
Her time, of course, was a completely different matter and 1 Timothy 5:18 reminds us “a laborer is worthy of his/her hire.”
Sally’s two very different suitors—Josiah the banker in a pristine suit and Malcolm the teamster sweating as he toted goods to the tornado victims—both argued with her about keeping some of the money as “seed corn” for the sunbonnets she sold.
It was hard for sweet generous Sally, but as she puzzled out what type of businesswoman she wanted to be, she came to see a man’s heart toward the poor was a fine indicator of the type of husband she wanted.
And in the end, it all came down to the purchase of seven sunbonnets!
The Sunbonnet Bride
By Michelle Ule
part of The 12 Brides of Summer, Collection # 1
Bumbling teamster Malcolm MacDougall vies with suave banker Josiah Finch for the hand of the lively hat maker Sally Martin after a tornado touches down in the neighboring communities.
While Josiah sees an opportunity to make plenty of money to support a potential bride in style, Malcolm adds up the facts against his Bible and realizes helping those in need is more important than turning a profit.
When Sally’s hats become the stylish rage of southeastern Nebraska, will she choose a teamster or a banker for her life’s happiness?
Thanks, Michelle, for being my guest today and giving us a glimpse of what it takes to be a historical writer! Good for you–I’ll stick to contemporary!
Until next time…GOD BLESS & GOOD READING!
I’m so proud to be your sister
I agree–It was interesting.
Well, I sure learned something! Thanks!