March is National Women’s History Month. Today, I’m celebrating the legacy of women in American History with a look at educator, Mary Easton Sibley.
If you’ve read my four Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek novels, you know I like to include real life women from my setting and time period as secondary characters in my stories. In Two Brides Too Many, it was Sister Mary Claver Coleman of the Sisters of Mercy. Too Brides Too Many featured Cripple Creek businesswoman, Mollie O’Bryan. Dr. Susan Anderson and Pearl DeVere served as fictionalized real life characters in The Bride Wore Blue. In Twice a Bride, mine owner, Mollie Kathleen Gortner, comes alongside the heroine, Willow Peterson.
While I don’t have Mary Easton Sibley “make an appearance” in The Quilted Heart novellas because she’d already returned to St. Louis by 1865, I do reference her and part of her Missouri legacy, the Lindenwood Female College, now known as Lindenwood University.
Mary Easton, born January 24, 1800, moved to St. Louis, Missouri, with her family at the age of five. Her father served as a Territorial judge and first postmaster of St. Louis. At the age of fifteen, on August 19, 1815, Mary wed George C. Sibley, who had acquired a generous portion of land at St. Charles, Missouri, which he named “Linden Wood.” The year following her wedding, Mary began teaching at Fort Osage.
In 1827, the Sibleys moved to St. Charles, where Mary began teaching. Their log cabin completed at Linden Wood, in 1831, Mary taught in her home that accommodated twenty girls.
By the time period of The Quilted Heart novellas, 1865-1867, the Linden Wood School for Girls was renamed Lindenwood Female College. It wasn’t Emilie Heinrich’s idea to add higher education to her already busy schedule. But since it seemed of utmost importance to her father, Emilie enrolled at the Lindenwood Female College, which is mentioned in Dandelions on the Wind and Ripples Along the Shore, but serves as an actual setting in Bending Toward the Sun, the third novella in The Quilted Heart omnibus.
Excerpt from The Quilted Heart:
Emilie teetered between looking at her professor and glancing out the window. Quaid knew where she’d be on Mondays and Wednesdays. Now that he was making freight deliveries, she’d expected to catch sight of him last week.
Straightening in her seat, Emilie met her instructor’s steely gaze. “Yes, Miss Barbour.”
“Is there something outside the window that is more urgent than my instruction?”
“No ma’am. Please accept my apologies.”
“I realize not everyone is as enthralled with the works of Shakespeare as I am, but if you wish to rise above the chaff in proper society, you will do well to pay attention.”
Proper society? Would that be the farms flocking around the newest plowshare? Or the folks gathered around the checkerboard? She forced down a laugh, trying anew to focus on the classic quotes listed on the blackboard.
NOTE: Both photographs of Mary Easton Sibley were used by permission from Lindenwood University. Many thanks to Paul Huffman, University Archivist, for his generous research assistance.
Who is your favorite woman from American history?