RHYS BOWEN: Edith Maxwell is one of our favorite and loyal Reds, so I was delighted when she
So when the book came out, I asked Edith to become a Red instead of a commenter and tell us about it. Welcome Edith!
I’m delighted to be back on the front side of Jungle Reds. Thanks for inviting me, Rhys!
You did a post recently about the real events that happened while fictional Molly is alive, and I
thought I’d echo that.
My Quaker Midwife Mysteries are set in 1888, which came about from a simple news story
I read in our local paper in 2013. It described the Great Fire of 1888 in the mill town of
Amesbury, Massachusetts, where I live. The fire, on the night before Good Friday, burned down
many of the carriage factories – and Amesbury was world famous for producing graceful well-
annex whom, so the municipal fire-fighting equipment hadn’t been updated. The fire raged,
spreading to the telegraph and post offices, so they couldn’t send for help to other larger towns.
Only an overnight rain helped reduce some of the damage.
I was walking to Quaker Meeting one Sunday morning after reading that article and a short
story about a Quaker mill girl who solves the mystery of the Carriage Fire arson popped into my
head. Poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier had a bit part in the story, too. And now I
have a three-book contract for a series featuring Whittier, that mill girl, and her aunt Rose
Carroll, our midwife-sleuth protagonist (ooh, and an Agatha-nominated story with the same
setting and characters!).
It turns out 1888 is a really interesting time in which to set stories, even though I came upon
it by accident. The germ theory of infection was beginning to be known, so Rose washes her
hands a lot, and most babies were still born at home with midwives. There’s a recently built
hospital across the river where Rose’s beau David Dodge practices medicine, and it even has the
new chain-pull toilets.
Electricity was around, although it wouldn’t have been used in my midwife’s modest home.
The first successful electric street railway was opened in Richmond, Virginia in 1888 by Frank
Sprague, but the horse-drawn trolley in Amesbury didn’t get electrified until 1890.
Similarly, some of Rose’s more well-off clients had telephones in their homes – but not
Rose. She relies on the twice-daily mail service to communicate, or pays a passing boy to deliver
a note for her.
George Eastman perfected the Kodak box camera in 1888, the first camera designed to use
roll film. I wonder if George might not pay a visit to Amesbury in my next book! And speaking
of pictures, Thomas Edison filed a patent for the first motion picture camera that same year.
It’s been interesting researching police procedure of the era. Fingerprinting wasn’t yet used,
nor was the technology to identify the exact weapon a bullet had been fired from. They didn’t
know about blood typing yet, either.
The International Council of Women met for the first time in Washington, DC in 1888.
Women leaders representing 53 women's organizations from 9 countries gathered to advocate for
human rights for women. Susan B. Anthony presided over half the sessions, and Rose Carroll’s
mother, a women’s suffrage activist, attended.
The Great Blizzard of 1888 had raged just a few weeks before Delivering the Truth opens in
early April. The storm paralyzed the east coast from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine, shut down
the railroads, and kept people confined to their homes for a week. Rose needed to strap on
snowshoes to attend a birth after the storm ebbed.
What else happened in 1888? Jack the Ripper was leaving bodies around London, and
Brazil abolished the last remnants of slavery. In America, the National Geographic Society was
founded, the Washington Monument was opened to the public, a 91-centimeter telescope was
first used at Lick Observatory in California, and Grover Cleveland won the popular vote for
President but lost the electoral college vote to Benjamin Harrison. Of those events, the last is the
only one that would have affected Rose’s life. Her irreverent friend, postmistress Bertie
Winslow, rides a horse named Grover around town, and I’m sure Bertie’s not going rename him
Readers: What do you know about the late-1800s? Do you have a favorite historic event of
Delivering the Truth, Quaker midwife Rose Carroll becomes a suspect when a difficult
carriage factory manager is killed after the factory itself is hit by an arsonist. Struggling with
being less than a perfect Friend, Rose delivers the baby of the factory owner’s mistress even
while the owner’s wife is also seven months pregnant. After another murder, Rose calls on her
strengths as a counselor and problem solver to help bring the killers to justice before they destroy
the town’s carriage industry and the people who run it.
Agatha-nominated and Amazon best-selling author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker
Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie
Day), and the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries (as Tace Baker), as well as award-winning short crime
fiction. Her story, “A Questionable Death,” which features the same 1888 setting and characters
as Delivering the Truth, is nominated for a 2016 Agatha Award for Best Short Story.
Edith is Vice-President of Sisters in Crime New England and Clerk of Amesbury Friends
Meeting. She lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs with the other Wicked
Cozy Authors. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and at her web site,