Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Why not Trump now? REAL CHANGE that benefits everyone. Writer Marc Zegans' observation echoes mine

 Real change will come on terms that would benefit the entire nation, including Trump's supporters, not from a Trump presidency, but from a political realignment that not merely brings Clinton to office, but that brings a Democratic majority to both the House and the Senate. Imagine a Congress interested in legislating, a Supreme Court that undoes the damage of Citizens United, and a President with vast experience in building consensus, forming alliances, working across the aisle, and deep substantive policy expertise in both domestic and foreign affairs. That would be real change, rather than the degradation of national character that would be the inevitable result of a Trump Presidency. So the next time a Trump supporter says, this is a change election, say "Yes, and that's precisely why we need Hillary in the White House and Bernie as Senate Majority leader."

--Marc Zegans

Monday, August 29, 2016


One of the first female Sheriffs before the vote.
Jesus Christ in the body of a boy detective 
A lover who contemplates his wife's garden

LADY COP MAKES TROUBLE by Amy Stewart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Sept.) is the sequel to GIRL WAITS WITH GUN, a book I completely enjoyed. Based on the life of Constance Kopp,one of the first female sheriffs in the U.S., the debut novel introduced the three Kopp sisters, who had lived on an isolated farm, in an era where women didn't vote, have jobs outside the home, or live independent of male relatives. These sisters were different. Norma, the farmer, who also raised carrier pigeons, was the domestic one. Teenage Fleurette made ingenious dresses and dreamed of a public life. The narrator is the eldest, Constance, a large dynamic woman with an instinct for justice. When their buggy was run down by a powerful factory owner in a motor car, she pursued damages, despite threats that escalated to gang warfare with bricks, bullets and fire. The sisters and the local sheriff, jointed forces and Constance worked to bring her attackers to justice. She also found her vocation as a Sheriff's Deputy.

The second book, LADY COP MAKES TROUBLE, which is also based on newspaper clippings covering Constance in 1914-15, takes place less on the farm than in Sheriff Heath's Hackensack jail, where Constance is employed as a "women's matron." (Seems a Deputy cannot be female, since the candidate must be able to vote). Yet when a dangerous convict escapes, Constance finds herself doing both jobs. The convict must be found!  The stakes are high and personal--her and the sheriff's futures in law enforcement. Stewart's tale takes Constance to an exclusive New York City women's hotel, tenements of the near-destitute, an abandoned asylum in suburban Passaic, and Fleurette's musical debut. Constance and her sisters begin to emerge from reclusive farm life into public life of their era.  I look forward to the third installment.

J.Bradley (Pelekinesis Press) has imagined a detective with a miraculous skill set and a uniquely strange situation in THE ADVENTURES OF JESUS CHRIST, BOY DETECTIVE. The release summarizes: "Trapped in the body of boy detective extraordinaire Timmy Hightower, Jesus Christ is forced by his father to solve mysteries no mortal should ever solve. With the help of Timmy's uncle, a fourth generation circus knife thrower/acquitted serial killer Leopold Franz, they search for answers and for a way home." In this extraordinary adventure on a brutal gangster-style earth, JC has to battle cosmic card sharks, the Devil, an infamous fallen angel and his earthly surrogates, among others. He also has to take orders from his Father yet be his own man. While in constant explosive action, JC explores the existential "Why Am I here?' question, the meaning of The Garden of Eden, and works with Peter to find a way back to his source.  The story is bizarre, oddly familiar and entertaining,

Janyce Stefan Cole's THE DETECTIVE'S GARDEN: A Love Story and Meditation on Murder (Unbridled Books,September) introduces Emil Milosec, a retired detective  and lover. Much of this novel he contemplates his deceased wife and their life together, secluded in the beautiful garden she created. The garden is his refuge from the hot Brooklyn waterfront of 1995, full of clashes between developers and residents, old-timers and hipsters. It is also a place to grieve for his beautiful wife, whom he met in post-war Slovenia. Though deceased a couple years, the letters she wrote to him have remained unopened. Emil, whose loss is undiminished by time, sees his wife's hand in every facet of the garden. Yet his analytical detective's mind notes discrepancies in her planting of a tree and a pepper patch. There is also a supposedly friendly neighbor's oblique references to Elena that differ from his memories. Emil begins to read her notes for clues, as an unsavory item is unearthed in the perfect garden. As his enshrined memories are called to question, he begins to investigate the garden's secrets and those of his beloved wife. The woman who emerges proves very different from the wife of his memories. And, as Emil's understanding accommodates reality, his grief is excised and he finds a way forward in his life. This is a mystery of subtle emotional shifts that add up to a climactic change.

Like Graham Greene's heroes, Emil is totally enmeshed in an emotional state, unable to resolve an external mystery until he addresses the internal one. And whether he can separate the two is a question, as well as the huge personal cost. There's also a similar noir style and religious overtones, but deliverance for Stefan-Cole's detective is more of a possibility. The human condition is aligned with his garden.


Monday, July 25, 2016

THE LYNCHING: The Epic Courtroom Battle that Brought Down the Klan, explains the link between hate rhetoric and violence

THE LYNCHING: The Epic Courtroom Battle that Brought Down the Klan (William Morrow Hardcover) is an exciting and impressive read, a page turner that is also a history of a pivotal event in the Civil Rights struggle. As a Northerner, the Southern attachment to slavery and later segregation, as part of "traditional values" has always been a personal disconnect. I once publicized Klan-Destine Relationships: A Black Man's Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan by Daryl Davis, a Grammy award winning musician, who risked his life on a mission to understand hate. Were these people monsters or would he find a common humanity? Davis found shared ground but didn't address the origins of hate crimes.

In Laurence Leamer's THE LYNCHING, racial hatred is explained in the context of the personal histories of those involved in a horrific hate crime in 1981, when Jim Crow was a fading memory. The incident was sparked by a trial of a black man accused of murdering a white Police Sergeant from Birmingham, Alabama. An almost all black jury (1 white) could not reach a verdict, the match that set off  Alabama's (UKA), United Klans of America, retribution. Two small-time Klansman Henry Hays and James Knowles, set out to find a black man to kill. Lynching often went unpunished in the South, where police were often Klan sympathetizers. The Klansmen cruised around before deciding on 19 year old Michael Donald. He was tortured and hung from a tree on the residential street where Henry's father, Benny, head of the local Klan, owned a house.

The photos of the corpse are shocking. A chance photo also captured Hays and Knowles in a group lounging on a car. From this beginning, Leamer explains the cultural roots of hate crimes, through the histories of these men and their Klan. Hate didn't take much to provoke, when being white or well born, didn't mean you had a viable future. And "uppity" northern blacks in the struggle for Civil Rights, were making their way south. Soon blacks wouldn't sit in the back of the bus, eat at colored lunch counters or use separate restrooms. There was fear and resentment at blacks taking white jobs and places in public universities. Segregation was equated with "traditional Southern values," a righteous cause for Shelton, head of the United Klans of America and Congressional up and comer, George Wallace. Crowds of Shelton's supporters were mesmerized by Wallace's honed hate rhetoric, which sent him to the Governor's mansion. Never would a black enter Univ. of Alabama. He would physically block that doorway! And the first one to try to enter that University, was confronted by such hatred, she had to withdraw.

Morris Dees, a poor sharecroppers son, grew up with a sense of injustice that propelled him to law school. He started out a segregationist, like most southerners, even briefly worked for Wallace. But as he was jostled from the sidelines to center of a Civil Rights Demonstration, he had to become involved. A mail-order millionaire by the time he graduated college, Dees used his money to found The Southern Poverty Law Center. Though he became a Pariah in his town and family, Dees continued to take on Civil Rights cases at no charge.

After the criminal trial that sentenced Hays and Knowles for Donald's murder, Dees filed a civil suit on the behalf of Donald's mother. His objective was to charge those responsible for giving the order, as well as creating an environment where hate speech encouraged violence. Dees sued Benny Hays, the local Klan authority, and Shelton, the national leader and was told he could not win by colleagues, a skeptical judge. Even his staff thought he had overreached. Before it was over, he narrowly escaped with his life. What happened in this case, was a major breakthrough for Civil Rights.

The scope of the U.K.A.'s activities under the Imperial Wizard, included the infamous bombing of a Birmingham Church and the death of four black girls. The story of how the evidence and intelligence was gathered reflects the tenacious work and intuitive genius of Dee and his staff. In the end, he got his Klan crippling $7 million judgment from a jury who had moved into a desegregated future. The most crucial element was a legal precedent that organizations that promote hatred and violence can be held responsible for the criminal actions of their members.

The SPLC lawyers were able to use this to cripple racist organizations from the White Ayran Resistance in 1990 to the Imperial Klans of America in 2008. Read this book in our time,when hate's got big audiences again and Black Lives Matter are on the march. Those who don't know history may be doomed to repeat it, but it never appears in the same form. This book gives a start of recognition. The attractions of hate rhetoric today follow very similar patterns.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Sing along with IRON HEEL! Down w/Capitalism in Jack London's Socialist Dystopia, adapted by Edward Einhorn, JULY-AUGUST NYC

Edward Einhorn has adapted London's novel. New Play Network's synopsis: 
An adaptation of Jack London's 1908 novel, the first-ever dystopia, written as a socialist propaganda piece. It tell the story of Avis and Ernest Everhard, two leaders of an envisioned socialist revolution in the 1920's, when the oligarchy has taken on a totalitarian edge (The Iron Heel). Praised by Leon Trotsky and George Orwell. Set as a "reenactment drama", being told 600 years in the future, in a world that has become a socialist utopia. Using folksongs from the early 20th century throughout, some with altered lyrics.


Jack London's socialist dystopia, IRON HEEL, is rarely read in schools.  Somehow I missed it, thought a student of both utopias and dystopias. I did read Einhorn's adaptation and found it both rousing and quaintly pertinent to today's politics. But the "today" in this play is a socialist dominated future, whose leaders are recounting the revolutionary struggle against the Capitalists in an alternative 20th century. The story within a story is about Ernest and Avis, he the Socialist rebel, she the lovely daughter of a capitalist, a professor and stockholder in the mill.

When Ernest crashes a party at Avis's father's stately house in Berkeley, California, it's the instant attraction of opposites. He's a "trouble maker" dismissed from the mill for "impudence," She's the lovely dutiful daughter. But as his world and hers join, love and politics become a violent clash with the ruling Oligarchy, His Socialist ideals, which have the majority of support by Americans, are focused on ending Capitalism. But it's a nasty fight. Capitalists of the Oligarchy have no mercy.

The righteous heroic struggle leads to martyrdom. This is not Shaw's Socialism, witty and satirical. But there is are folk songs Woody Guthrie might enjoy and stories as true as Erin Brockovich, Sanders' supporters may enjoy this unusual taste of early Socialist ideals. London thought Socialism was a logical progression and perhaps Anarchy. My question for London, if he were around, is his assumption that Socialism was an end result. What would he think about Socialism becoming Communism's "Worker's Paradise?" But in London's story the struggle is enough. The tellers of his story are the present day victors.

I can see how this story may have inspired Sinclair Lewis' IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE, as well as Orwell. In Lewis' dystopia, the U.S. devolves from capitalism to fascism with a glib Ad-Man president. Obviously, this character is far too on target for election 2016.

 My own dystopia, "Paradise Gardens," reverses the passage of Feudal society to Capitalism with corporate business estates underground. It's looking at the corporate exodus in 2050 of the earth's inhabitable surface for the underground (after the dissolution of the Old Fed),  and life on the estates in 3011. More's Utopia is with me yet...

IRON HEEL the production has "People's Rates," even free nights. The play is a must see for idealists, lovers of political philosophy, agit prop theater, folk music or anyone pondering late stage Capitalism. Join the rabble!  This is the good fight!



Many of our shows are limited seating, and for those we ask for advance reservations.  But in the socialist spirit, we provide discounts.  Tickets are normally $20, but can't afford that--pay $15!  Can't afford that--pay $10. Or even just $5 or $1.  The one thing we ask is that you reserve sooner rather than later.  The venues are small, and the reserved seats available even smaller--we need to accommodate press, grant givers, and our own staff.   So reserve your seat now by clicking here.  Audiences of the world, unite!  And buy our tickets while you can.  As you will see on our ticket page, we currently have all payment options.

From the book by Jack London

Adapted & directed by Edward Einhorn

The first modern dystopian novel, written as a socialist
propaganda piece in 1908. An election between a socialist candidate and an oligarch.  What happens if the oligarch wins?  Presented on the 100th anniversary of Jack London's death.

Join us as we gather for light snacks, folk songs, and performance.
Craig Anderson, Kevin Argus, Fred Backus (on Governor's Island only), Charles Ouda, Yvonne Roen, Victoria Rulle, and Trav SD

Costume/prop design: Ramona Ponce
Sound design: Chris Chappell
Stage manager: Blake Kile
Assistant director: Rebecca Silbert
Production assistants: Deonna Dolac, Yael Haskal, and Mark Hunstein

"Audacious...genuinely prophetic"

To buy tickets for pay what you can shows (suggested price $20)
Call 212-352-3101 or  click here
Free performances can be attended without reservation

Sat July 23 1pm (Governor's Island, FREE)
Sun July 30 1pm (Governor's Island, FREE)

Thu July 28 7:30pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Fri July 29 7:30pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Sun July 31 5pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Fri August 5 8pm (Freedom Hall, Pay What You Can)
Sun August 7 3pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Mon August 8 7:30pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can
Thu August 18 7:30pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Fri August 19 7:30pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Wed August 24, 7pm (Judson Church, FREE)
Fri August 26, 6pm (Jackie Robinson Park, FREE)
Sat August 27 7:30pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Mon Sep 5 5pm (West Side Community Garden, FREE) 

South Oxford Space, The Great Room, 138 South Oxford Space, Brooklyn
Freedom Socialist Party, Freedom Hall, 113 W. 128th St., Manhattan
Governors Island, House 8B in Nolan Park (part of the Dysfunctional Collective)
Jackie Robinson Park, bandshell, 85 Bradhurst Ave, at 145th St, Manhattan
Judson Memorial Church, Assembly Hall, 239 Thompson Street, Manhattan
West Side Community Garden, 142 W 89th St, Manhattan

Thursday, July 7, 2016

150 YEARS OF OBAMACARE by Daniel Dawes looks at the long history of health care reform in the U.S.

"Everyone has had at least some experience with the health care system, and advocates on either side of the debate are passionate and vocal about their cause. For more than a century and a half there have been bitter struggles over advancing health care access and improving delivery of care in this country. So how did advocates of health reform and health equity in 2010 achieve the most significant milestone in United States health law and policy?"

So writes Daniel Dawes in his preface to his new classic, 150 YEARS OF OBAMACARE, the only book to explain the huge achievement of the Affordable Care Act. While the public may think health care reform is a new concern of one president, it's actually a the culmination of an effort toward health equity that began in 1792, when President John Adams signed into law the Act for Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.

Dawes, a health care attorney and advocate for health equity, says that like most advocates, his "Aha" moment came while working in a S.Florida emergency room. A Haitian immigrant, obviously in a good deal of pain, tried to tell the staff about her problem and was met with blank stares. She only spoke Haitian Creole, and as he saw her try to make herself understood, he thought, what if her condition is life-threatening? Every second would be critical. He saw how vulnerable patients are and how complicated health care delivery could be in the U.S.

From there in this very comprehensive text, he explains the history of advocacy for health care reform and  health equity, reform in mental health. He also discusses the role of the 2008 elections, where reform was a major issue. It was a breakthrough later, when the Tri-Caucus, the CBC and National Working Group health equity advocates were invited to the White House for a stakeholder meeting. Health disparities and health reform was being taken seriously,

Understanding the policy that developed, the fight to get it made into law, the role of legislature and the judiciary give insight into a rare instance of common purpose accomplishing what must happen. But it was touch and go throughout. Would the new law stand or be found unconstitutional? On the way to a flight, Dawes thought all the work had been for nothing, Then, in a reversal, he learned it had been reported incorrectly.

The book's mission is well summed up by David Satcher, 16th US Surgeon General, "150 Years of Obamacare provides an honest assessment of the health care law and an unparalleled explanation of
 its provisions, especially those impacting vulnerable populations. It depicts the persistence, passion and patience required to inform health policy in the United States with the goal of eliminating health disparities and promoting global health equity."

Interestingly, Dawes intends this book for those who will build on the law and improve it. History shows it's far more difficult to build a foundation for change than stymie it. Reform, like the new law, is a work in progress. The next generation can make it their own.

Though obviously no page turner, this lucid, thoughtful book is essential reading for anyone in the field. It is also useful for nonprofessionals, who want to understand the history  and possible future of our health care system. This is an instance, where the adage, "If it's not broke don't fix it," couldn't be more wrong.


  afterand the roles of legislators

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Today many of us work outside of the home. And one of us is going to be President.
But in Eva's time, working outside the home was especially difficult, as daycare was virtually unknown. Women had to rely on arrangements with friends and relatives that often broke down.
At the Swan Island Shipyard, however, there was an innovation: The Kaiser organization understood that the women workers, upon whom the shipyards relied, needed safe, reliable care for their children. And the women wanted their children to be nearby.
At first the centers that were open in the shipyard itself were viewed with skepticism by mothers; they were quite sure they would never leave their children full-time with strangers. Soon, however, the bright clean centers, where children played, learned, napped and ate nutritious meals, were a huge hit. Soon, the Kaiser day care plan was held up as a national model. You would think this idea would have been taken up nationwide.
But when the War ended and the shipyards closed, the day care centers closed too and it would be decades before most women who wanted to work outside the home had the option of safe reliable care.
Moral: Let's not take our gains for granted. And if  a corporation could do this then, why not more widespread now?  Why not have a national system?  What's the value of women's work to a nation? WW2 it was critical.

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Finally, Events for author Diane Simmons in Manhattan, Brooklyn.
[Words] Bookstore Maplewood, NJ - September 16, 7:30 - wine and discussion - Diane interviewed by Meredith Sue Willis, author of In the Mountains of America and Meli's Way.
Cornelia Street Cafe -- 29 Cornelia Street, NYC - October 18, 6 p.m. - Hidden Histories Women and War - Diane with Rachel Hall, author of Heirlooms, discuss stories based on re-discovered World War II letters Details
The Shed Space - 366 6th Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn --November 12 @ 8. Diane in discussion with spoken-word artist Chris Vinsonhaler. Wine, snacks and the great tunes of the Forties and Fifties.

FDR visiting Shipyard women at Eva's Portland shipyard.

FDR  visiting one of the Kaiser shipyards in the Portland area where Eva worked.   Roosevelt has come to see the christening of the SS Joseph Teal, a Liberty Ship built at the shipyard in a record-breaking 10 days.  Industrialist Henry Kaiser arranged for one of the shipyard women to meet the President.  

FEMALE WW2 PILOT FINALLY LAID TO REST IN ARLINGTON…/family-prevails-fight-bury-f…/story…

Why did this woman’s family have to fight so hard for an honor she had earned? See
This is a nonfiction based on 800 letters of another female half of “The Greatest Generation” which explains how these women were not exactly honored for their war contributions,

Eva's life showed what happened to women during and after the War. The book by University of Iowa Press, is an Amazon hot release in hoaxes and deceptions. Here are some links:

Marriage obsession and Bigamy in the 1950's, the atmosphere in which Eva married Vic in THE COURTSHIP OF EVA ELDRIDGE, a true story.


As this cover of Cosmo from the Fifties shows, marriage--and how to survive the perfect suburban life--was a national obsession. Eva had loved her independence; but, single in 1957, she understood how dangerously out of the mainstream she had become. Vick understood it too.
Anybody who watched movies in the Fifties could see the desperation of single women's lives. In The Blue Gardenia --just one example of this-- a young woman is dumped by her fiance. Without that invisible shield of protection, she becomes vulnerable to a dangerous womanizer, and ends up on trial for murder.
The 1953 film, "The Bigamist," came out just as Vick's own career was moving into high gear. Maybe Vick, who actually looked a lot like Edmund O'Brien, picked up on what seems to be the movie's main message: Women desperately need to be married. Somebody's got to do it


Passport to Independence
 At the beginning of the war, the need to get women into the workplace was so intense, that the incentives offered were not just patriotism.  It was also suggested that women could learn to do good jobs and make good money that would be all theirs.  It must have been hard for young women like Eva to grasp how radically these attitudes would change as the war came to an end. 


A lot changed for women when they went into war plants. As this poster showed, women had to change how they dressed; instead of dressing to be attractive, they needed to dress to be safe. This was more of a problem that we might realize as work clothes and heavy shoes were not, at first, made in women's sizes. And too, everyone was worried if women would lose their femininity if they dressed for safety rather than looks. One solution: the daily shipyard newspaper often ran with a bathing beauty on the cover. 

FDR's car was rolled right into the shipyard so that he could watch one of the huge ships launch from the Swan Island where Eva worked. Behind the president is industrialist Henry Kaiser whose innovative methods--simpler assembly line work, faster training--meant that the yards could take on unskilled workers, many of them women. One women who was there that day remembered that FDR looked thrilled and that he called out to one of the women workers, "Hey Blondie!"

Men were few, many ships were built by women

Most workers in West Coast shipyards--whether male or female-- had never built or even seen a ship before coming here. But using the Kaiser assembly line techniques, they repeatedly broke their own records fo rproduction time. At the start of the war it took 355 days to deliver a ship like this. By1942 the average delivery time was just 60 days. Later Winston Churchill would remember, "The foundation of all our hopes and schemes was the immense ship building program in the United States." (Photo Courtesy Vancouver Columbian.)

More untold history of the female half of "the greatest generation"

At the beginning of World War II, women like Eva were not all sure they should take up war jobs. During the Thirties, women were criticized for working outside the home, taking jobs from men. And too, factories were considered too "rough" for a nice woman. But a huge government campaign with posters like these convinced women that they were both needed and wanted in wartime production.

Though women like Eva were frantically recruited for war work, many--like this man--weren't sure they were up to the job. As the war went on, it was recognized--sometimes a little grudgingly--that women could do a lot more than keep house. It was, though, a short-lived recognition. Even before the war ended, the message switched: now homemaking was a woman's only true calling.

Today is pub date of The Courtship of Eva Eldridge. Here’s a birthday photo that captures marriage fantasy that became mania in the 1950’s. Women had few career options and bigamy was not uncommon. 
“The writing is vivid and tight, with a touch of American noir reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and Joan Didion. Simmons’s writing brings to life the dark side of a country trying to move on in the wake of war. She blends history and her own detective work to tell a story of betrayal and shattered dreams.”
– Peter Chilson, author, Disturbance-Loving Species: A Novella and Stories. Winner AWP award for non-fiction.


Here also interview with Diane Simmons on her new nonfiction and two new reviews

 "The writing is vivid and tight, with a touch of American noir reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and Joan Didion. Simmons's writing brings to life the dark side of a country trying t omove on in the wake of war.  She blends history and her own detective work to tell a story of betrayal and shattered dreams." -- Peter Chilson, author,Disturbance-LovingSpecies: A Novella and Stories.   Winner AWP award for non-fiction.  


"We Can Do it," Women and the War-- More Lost Women's History
            We all know the poster: the clenched fist and fierce gaze. What most people don't know is that it was not seen by the public during World War II. It was not even about women's efforts. Rather,it was used for a week by Westinghouse to discourage labor unrest. We only know the poster because it was taken up by the feminist movement of the seventies;it is far more representative of their aspirations than of attitudes toward woman workers during the War.

            The career of Rosie the Riveter--and her treatment by American government and society--is more cautionary than the poster suggests and than most of u sunderstand. What happened to women in the Forties should be properly understood by those who support women's rights now. 

            It is true that women were key in building the ships, planes and tanks that turned World War II around. Surely if there was ever a moment to acknowledge women's strength and ability, that time had come. No wonder we assume the "We Can Do It" poster is symbolic of World War II attitudes. 

            Butit isn't. Women had been the object of an immense propaganda blitz in 1942,urging them to go to work and shaming them if they didn't. Then they were dumped in 1946--even though 80 percent told pollsters they wanted to keep working

            Wven before the War ended, the contribution of women was derided in Time Magazine and elsewhere. As Margaret Hickey, head of the Women's Advisory Committee of the War Manpower Commission, said in a speech: The courtship of women was intense, but it appears that "intentions were not honorable." 
            The real story of Rosie the Riveter--and the fact that most of us don't know it--should make us stop and think. As a woman appears poised for the presidency, we should not be complacent. We need to understand how rapidly attitudes can shift despite apparent gains. 
            I learned the deeper story of women in World War II,while researching my non-fiction book. Eva  was one of the women who came of age in a wa rplant, fell in love with independence, then emerged into the Fifties with a bleak set of options.
   Diane Simmons, author of The Courtship of Eva Eldridge (University of Iowa Press)

            Lost Women's History.
Diane Simmons on Bigamy in the 50's.

Love and Marriage:  We're Really a Lot Better Off Than in the Good Old Days

            As we struggle to find our way in today's complicated landscape of love and marriage, perhaps it is comforting to know that--in many ways--things have gotten a lot better.  Though they faced a different set of problems, our mothers and grandmothers, those who came of age in the 1950s, had to navigate a profound nuttyness about marriage that we wouldn't dream of putting up with today.

            Looking back, we can understand how it happened.  The whole marriage mania began right after World War II as people tried to recover from the greatest upheaval the country had ever seen. At the same time Americans were terrified of the new  A-bomb; nobody knew when it might wreak instant nuclear Armageddon.

             In the face of all this, many Americans yearned for the safety of home, the security of marriage.   And  those who didn't: well, society made them get married anyway.  As anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote in Life magazine, "Marriage is the only truly acceptable pattern in American life. No normal man or woman will willingly remain single."

            Naturally nobody wanted to be abnormal, so everybody rushed to marry.   By the early Fifties, with half of women marrying at nineteen, twenty-five-year-olds were considered hopeless old maids.  To make them even more nervous, the movies were full of desperate single women.  In Picnic, for example, a tearful, thirty-ish Rosalind Russell goes down on her knees to beg her reluctant beau to marry her.

            And men were not excused from this national frenzy. The average age of marriage for them was twenty-three, and those who failed to marry were not considered fully adult or full masculine.

            For bachelors over thirty, psychotherapy was recommended, a nod toward fears of homosexuality, though the subject was seldom publicly mentioned.  Though society demanded that everyone mate up, gay marriage was not even dreamed of, even by gay people.

            The Fifties had its playboys, of course, like the one portrayed by Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap. But, as the movie's title suggests, there is never much doubt about Frank's ultimate fate.

            With marriage such an obsession, it is not surprising that some people went overboard, producing a phenomenon that we don't see so much of these days: bigamy.

            As a 1960 Cosmopolitan article reported, bigamy was on the rise along with a booming economy. Men could afford more than one family. And perhaps--given the truly desperate need to be married--women weren't asking as many questions as they should have.
            Bigamy, by the way, is where a married person marries again without getting a divorce or informing his partner that their union will not be legal.  Big Love fans please note:  bigamy is not the same as polygamy, where those involved know of and approve the practice of multiple wives and families, sometimes within the same home.

            The bigamists of the Sixties were usually travelling men commuting back and forth between two wives and two families.  A cinematic version of this is the 1953 movie, Captain’s Paradise, in which a ship’s captain, played by Alec Guinness, has one wife in Morocco, another in Gibraltar.  On the wheelhouse wall is a reversible portrait with a wife on either side. Midway between ports, the captain flips wives.

A less light-hearted but still sympathetic portrait is found in the movie, The Bigamist, in which a married businessman has an affair with a lonely waitress.  When she becomes pregnant, he does the right thing and marries her.  When the bigamy is revealed and the man is taken to court, even the judge is sympathetic.  As everyone knows, these women have to get married somehow.  

            The very fact that the case came to trial was highly unusual.  In 1960, district attorneys across the country reported that bigamy was one of the easiest crimes in the world to get away with.  Only a tiny percentage of bigamists were ever found out and of these only a very few were every punished. Of those punished, it was again only a slim percentage who ever served as much as year in jail.

            And, as I learned in researching my non-fiction book, The Courtship of Eva Eldridge: A Story of Bigamy in the Marriage-Mad Fifties, in a time before internet searches and online records, it was virtually impossible to find out whether the person you were planning to walk down the aisle with was in fact married to someone else.  When Eva married handsome and loving Vick, she had no way of knowing that he had four previous wives and would go on to marry five more after her.
             Besides, single at thirty-five, Eva really needed a husband.

             Certainly, the desperation of single woman was something that Vick took advantage of again and again. He wasn't really a mean guy: he just loved weddings and honeymoons.  Just like everybody else!  Afterward, though, he tended to get a bit bored and would soon disappear, moving on--often within months--to the next loving, grateful single woman.

             Unlike most bigamists, Vick did end up in jail for a couple of months.  But it took ten wives to bring him to the attention of the authorities

Today, to be sure, we have our own problems that were not known in the Fifties.  Social media, for example, has revolutionized dating, making it easy to strike up relationships. But some argue that it's also making us more fickle, always moving on to the next cute picture.  And the economy has made it harder to marry and raise a family: not too many couples today can make it on one salary, a given in the Fifties.

But one way in which we've made progress is in marriage.  Now, at least, society lets us wait to tie the knot until our brains are fully formed and until we have a fighting chance of knowing who we are. And of figuring out who that adorable other person might really be.

 And if you don't feel like getting married: well, that's OK too.  Fifty percent of Americans are right there with you.
              Diane Simmons, author of THE COURTSHIP OF EVA ELDRIDGE

Another five star Goodreads Review: 
I was so excited to get this book. . . . Finally a different take on the home front during World War II. It follows the story of Eva and her short marriage that leads her on a journey of discovery. It explores the consequences for some after returning home. The author works in the letters and background information about the era and a woman's role. It touches on all the ways that war changed a woman's role in society.

Rosie the Riveter was everywhere, yet how she was pictured shifted w/thinking about women.

Diane Simmons' THE COURTSHIP OF EVA ELDRIDGE: a Story of Bigamy in the Marriage Mad Fifties (August, University of Iowa Press), tells the true story of one woman, whose life was transformed by World War 2 and its aftermath. Here is the rarely told female side of  the "Greatest Generation,"her war work, the shifting government propaganda about women's roles, and the charming man she loved, married, and strangely lost.

Eva Eldridge was an Oregon farm girl, who looked forward to marrying her high school beau and when he went to war, Eva knew her duty was to wait patiently for his return. Despite the recruiter, who tried to convince Eva and her mother (as did articles and broadcasts) that it was Eva's patriotic duty to work, she resisted. Besides, Eva had been raised in the 30's, when no decent girl took a job from a man.

In 1943, when Eva finally went to Portland's Swan Island, she was caught up in the excitement of a shipbuilding community. For the first time, she earned good money. She had a dorm-style room, friends, and an endless flood of invitations from servicemen. She was also promoted for doing a good job. Even so, propaganda that lauded women also cautioned them to retain their "femininity." In 1946, "femininity" meant they had to give up their jobs.

Suddenly Eva's world vanished. With few skills, she was desperate to join the marrying throngs. When hers didn't work out, she still chose a tiny apartment and a hostess job at a hotel over the farm. There she met Vick, a handsome chef. When they married, in 1957, the author was the flower girl. Diane knew Eva, the pretty high-spirited young woman, who lived in her own apartment. Now Eva was in love and had respectability. She was happy, until the day she came home and found Vick's belongings gone with their car. Was the dream over, after only a year?

Award-winning journalist and fiction writer, Diane Simmons, unearthed this story in hundreds of letters. She traces Eva's efforts to regain the man she believed damaged by the War, only to find a string of women like herself--attractive, hard-working independent wives! The mystery of Vick's bigamy is revealed piece by piece. In the end, you appreciate the tenacity of Eva, who reinvents herself yet again. She gets the life she chooses, though her courtships, by her government and her lover, were somehow less than honorable.

Margaret Hickey of the Women's War Bureau wrote it was wrong for democracy to use women's talents in an emergency and then kick them out. She said the courtship of women by the government may not have been honorable.

This book explained gaps in women's history that made no sense. The fact was 80% of women wanted to keep their jobs. They had no choice, but didn't want to lose their independence, the money and respect. (in 1946, media said they didn't do such a good job after all. And now their job was to go home and create happy families--make America strong and safe) Of course some women suddenly without jobs, like Eva, no longer had fiances to marry and genuinely liked living on their own.

Much was made in the late 50's and 60's about the dissatisfaction of women but never why they couldn't just go back to the farm after experiencing achievement in the world, the ability to make their own decisions, and live as they liked.  Betty Friedan's pivotal book came late, decades after women were displaced. Many buried wartime experience and ambition to create homes, caring for men, who were shell-shocked and needed support.

By writing Eva's story, Simmons makes sense of why in the "marriage mad fifties," every one had to get married (according to Margaret Mead) and most did in their twenties. Eva at 35 and Vick at 43 were odd ducks. Eva was ready to marry, but who can explain Vick's marriage obsession? Read the book and find out. Truth, in this nonfiction, is more revealing than a fictional miniseries.


“Diane Simmons hasbrilliantly used a collection of never-before-seen World War II letters to tella story that has all the twists of a true crime novel. At its heart, this is apoignant, extraordinary tale of a woman who married a man with a secret and troublingpast.”
--Andrew Carroll,editor of the New York Times bestseller WAR LETTERS

The Courtship of Eva Eldridge is both a riveting narrative ofdetection and a moving story about individual lives caught up in the changinggender roles generated by World War II. Diane Simmons employs doggedresearch, smart analysis, existing scholarship, and lively prose to create ahistory that is hard to put down.”—Susan Hartmann, author, The Home Front and Beyond: American Womenin the 1940s