In 1916 Idaho, Katie Jones has dedicated her life to the campaign for women's suffrage. Until now she has successfully avoided the ties of marriage, fearing it would obscure her message. Will her growing love for childhood chum Ben Rafferty compromise her calling?
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By Robin Lee Hatcher
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2003 Robin Lee Hatcher
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Homestead Weekly Herald Homestead, Idaho Friday Morning May 19, 1916
Local Woman Returns to Homestead
The Homestead Herald has recently learned that Miss Katherine L. Jones, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Yancy Jones of the Lazy L Ranch, is returning to Homestead next week after residing in the East for several years. Miss Jones was born and raised in Long Bow Valley and is a 1913 graduate of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.
A welcome-home potluck is being planned for Friday, May 26, at the Homestead Community Church. Everyone is invited.
The wind tugged at Katie's hat, and mud splattered her duster as the motorcar bumped and rocked its way toward Homestead. Katie had driven on more than a few bad roads in recent weeks, but none so deplorable as this one between Idaho's capital city and Katie's hometown.
Not that she hadn't been warned.
"You ain't meanin' t' take that 'mobile up thataway, are you?" the old man at the Boise hotel had asked her last night. "That road's not fit for those confounded contraptions. If'n you had a lick o' sense, you'd wait and take the train, young lady."
It certainly would have been easier to heed the man's advice, but she hadn't wanted to wait until Friday. The Susan B, as Katie fondly called the intrepid-and often cantankerous-Model T Ford, had come too far, had climbed too many hills in reverse, to be left behind now. The motorcar wasn't about to be undone by a few more deep ruts or other adverse road conditions.
Nor was Katie herself.
She thought of her father as she tightened her grip on the steering wheel. Yancy Jones wasn't going to be any too pleased when he learned that his daughter had motored, unaccompanied by an escort, across the country in her own automobile. Her father was old-fashioned in many ways. Although she knew he loved her and tried to be tolerant of his freethinking daughter, he didn't care for many of Katie's newfangled notions.
That's why she hadn't told her parents in her most recent letter, which informed them of her upcoming visit to Homestead, that for the past several weeks she'd been a participant in the Suffrage Special, as it was known in the newspapers. Touring the West by motorcar, the gifted speakers and leaders of the suffrage movement were calling upon women voters to help form a new political party dedicated to the passage of a national woman's suffrage amendment. Katie had felt privileged to be a part of the entourage, for she was an impassioned supporter of the movement.
Suffrage would give women full rights of citizenship. It would give them access to better educational opportunities. It would open doors to their ability to serve in professions such as medicine and the law. It would help women campaign for social purity and for adequate housing. It would help win the fight against permissive work laws. Suffrage would offer protection for women who were abused or abandoned. It would give them more autonomy in matters related to property rights and child custody.
Katie couldn't understand why there was any resistance at all, especially among Christian women, to the passage of suffrage. Evangelical Christianity, which had spread with the Second Great Awakening in America, emphasized the moral and religious autonomy of women and established women's moral authority in the priesthood of all believers. Many of the leaders in both the National American Woman Suffrage Association and in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union were women of strong faith as well as strong convictions.
The front tire hit a large hole, sending the Susan B jouncing toward the edge of the road and the sharp drop-off to the river below. Katie felt her hair slipping free of its pins as her hat slid sideways on her head. The end of her scarf flew up into her face, blinding her. Quickly she braked, bringing the motorcar to an abrupt halt. She let out an exasperated sigh as she tried to right her touring hat, but all she succeeded in doing was loosening the remainder of her hairpins, causing her hair to tumble into her face.
"Oh, bother," she muttered in frustration. She removed the straw bonnet and shoved back the mass of hair. "I've a good mind to cut it all off." Men wore their hair short so they didn't have to be concerned with such nonsense. Maybe she would cut it once she got to Homestead. Nothing like a fast hairstyle to get folks talking.
With a quick twist and the jab of a few hairpins, Katie secured her hair atop her head once more, then set her hat back in place. A glance at the sun hovering above the canyon rim told her she'd best hurry if she wanted to reach town before dark. Although the Susan B was equipped with headlamps, it would be hazardous to negotiate this winding river canyon after nightfall. Katie certainly didn't warm to the idea of spending the night on the road, sleeping in the motorcar.
Besides, she was excited about getting home. It had been three years since her parents had come back East for her graduation from Vassar College, and she hadn't seen her brothers, Sammy and Ricky, in seven years. They were young men now instead of the boys of ten and nine she'd left behind.
Then there was Ben Rafferty. Dearest, best, beloved Benjie. It would be grand to see him again. He was the only one who hadn't tried to dissuade her from remaining in the East, working for the NAWSA. His letters while she was at school and then in Washington had been filled with encouragement. He'd always told her to pursue her calling, no matter what stood in the way.
That was exactly what she'd done.
She'd had dreams for Ben, too, and she wondered why he'd returned to Homestead after his graduation from college. He could have had a marvelous career in any number of cities around the country. He could have made a name for himself, become a famous man of letters. Instead he'd gone to work for the Homestead Herald and then purchased the newspaper when Mr. Bonnell, the owner, died.
But wasn't it lucky for me that he did?
Katie accelerated, her mind churning as fast as the tires on the bumpy road. She had much to accomplish now that she was coming home.
Home. She was surprised how good the word made her feel. Of course, it wouldn't be the same town she'd left behind. So much must have changed. Some of the older folks had died. Some of the younger people had moved away. Most of her schoolmates were married and had children.
What will they think of me?
She knew the answer to that question. They would think her as strange as they always had.
"Too headstrong for your own good," her father had told her more than once.
"Just like me," her mother had countered every time. "I knew what I wanted and went after it. That's how I got your father to marry me."
Katie grinned at the memory. Yes, it was good to be coming home. Until recently she hadn't realized how much she was needed in Idaho. Not until Inez Milholland, the spirited suffragette lawyer, had explained to Katie the good she could do.
"Miss Jones," Inez had said a few months ago, "you come from one of the few enfranchised states in our Union. But are the women of Idaho exercising their right to participate in their government? I fear not in the numbers they should. We must find a way to see they do so, for all our sakes. It is women for women now and shall be until the fight is won. We shall stand shoulder to shoulder for the greatest principle the world has known, the right of self-government. Victory is in sight, Miss Jones. We must not let it slip away for lack of attention."
Katie felt a shiver of excitement roll up her spine as she recalled Milholland's words. She must not fail the women who were working so tirelessly in support of a federal suffrage amendment. She must do her part. She would do her part.
Her attention returned to the road as the mountains suddenly parted and she beheld her first glimpse in seven years of Long Bow Valley and, in the distance, Homestead.
Katie was home.
* * *
Ben frowned as he read over his editorial for the third time. It was boring. The words were as dry as dust, pure and simple. With a sigh, he dropped the papers onto his desk, then leaned back in his swivel chair and rubbed his eyes with his knuckles. He wondered if he was ever going to get it right.
Staring at the ceiling, he allowed his thoughts to drift once again to Katie. Only three more days and she would be here. And it was about time, too. When he'd left Homestead to go to school eleven years before, he'd never dreamed it would be so long before he saw his dearest friend again. He hadn't expected her to go off to college four years later and then choose not to return. His mother feared Katie had been gone so long they wouldn't recognize her, but Ben knew that was impossible.
He remembered the little girl with the thick black braids reaching to her waist and the enormous brown eyes that had seemed too big for her face. He remembered the tomboy, often dressed in shirt and trousers, scabs on her knees, scrapes on her hands. He remembered the girl who could swing a baseball bat as hard as any boy in Homestead and who was absolutely fearless as she raced her horse alongside the train. He remembered his childhood pal in a hundred different ways, and all of them made him smile.
Katie Jones was unforgettable.
She was certainly different from Charlotte Orson, the young woman Ben had been keeping company with of late. Charlotte, the daughter of a minister, was quiet and unassuming. Not in his wildest dreams could he imagine Charlotte in trousers or swinging a baseball bat or riding a horse astride. No, Charlotte was much more conventional than the irrepressible Katie.
Ben closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead with the fingertips of one hand.
There were many in Homestead who'd already decided Ben and Charlotte were perfect together. A few figured they'd be married before year's end. But Ben wasn't convinced. Not yet anyway. He was fond of Charlotte, of course, and he hoped his feelings would deepen with time. The Bible said, "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord." He believed that to be true. He wanted a home and a wife and children. But how did a man know when he'd found the right woman to be his wife? Was fondness enough? He didn't know. He just didn't know.
With a shake of his head, Ben opened his eyes and looked at the partially written editorial on his desk. It hadn't changed itself in the last few minutes while he'd been daydreaming. It was still boring, boring, boring. He picked up his pen, promising himself that he would finish it, even if he had to sit there until the wee hours of the morning.
Maybe if he added a paragraph right here, and then-
"You're working late, Mr. Rafferty."
He glanced up, surprised that someone had entered without his hearing the door open.
The woman smiled. "Haven't you a welcome for an old friend?"
Ben stood. "Katie?"
"Have I changed so much?"
Had Katie changed? Yes! When had she become a woman? A beautiful woman? And despite the flecks of mud on her cheeks and clothes, she was beautiful. She hadn't been beautiful before, had she? Ben didn't think so. She'd just been Katie.
A frown replaced her smile. "Well, for pity's sake, say something."
He moved from behind his desk, stepping toward her, studying her face for some sign of the gawky schoolgirl he remembered. Her eyes were the same luminous dark brown, but they no longer seemed too big for her face. Her complexion was smooth, her skin the color of honey. She was still tiny, a good foot shorter than he was, but she was noticeably more curvaceous than the girl he'd left behind. The braids were gone, he suspected, but he couldn't be certain because of the broad-brimmed hat and scarf she wore.
"Have I really changed so much?" she repeated.
"I can't believe it's you."
Her dazzling smile returned. "It's me all right, Benjie." Then, without warning, she threw herself into his arms and kissed him on the cheek as she hugged him tightly. Her laughter warmed the office like a fresh ray of sunshine. "Oh, Benjie, it's so good to see you."
Suddenly he laughed with her, all else forgotten. "It's good to see you, too." He set her back from him, his hands still on her upper arms. "How did you get here? You're not expected until Friday."
"I arrived in Boise City yesterday and decided to drive up. My motorcar is out front."
"All the way from Washington, D.C. I've been following the Suffrage Special on its tour of the West in the Susan B."
"The Susan B?"
Katie took hold of his hand and drew him toward the door. "She's my Ford touring car. I named her for Susan B. Anthony. Come take a look at her."
This was Katie all right. Leave it to her to be the first valley resident to own an automobile. Leave it to her to motor clear across the country regardless of conventions that said a woman shouldn't do such things.
"There she is." Katie waved an arm toward the Model T Ford parked in front of the Homestead Herald office. "Isn't she scrumptious?" She squeezed his fingers as she turned toward him. "Will you drive out with me to the Lazy L? I'm sure Papa will loan you a horse to get back to town, and I'd love to talk with you awhile. It's been so long since we've seen each other, and I want to catch up on all the news."
"Don't want to face your father alone, huh?"
She lifted her chin defiantly. "That's not it at all."
Katie pursed her lips for a moment, then broke into a smile. "All right. Maybe that is it. A little. But just a little." She stepped closer, and he caught a whiff of rose water. "Honestly, Benjie, I do want to talk with you."
When Ben was twelve and Katie just shy of eleven, she had told him she wouldn't ever marry. She'd wanted to accomplish something special. Even then, Katie had been a girl with big dreams and a desire to change the world for the better. Now, seeing that she was no longer the girl of his memories, he wondered if there was a special man in her life, someone who might change her ideas about marriage and settling down.
"Say you will, Benjie. Please?"
Memories of Katie saying those same words rushed over him-Say you will, Benjie. Please?-and he knew it was useless to argue. She would get her way before she was through. It had always been so between them.
He nodded. "Let me get my hat and lock up."
Excerpted from Catching Katie by Robin Lee Hatcher Copyright © 2003 by Robin Lee Hatcher. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book started out slow put when it picked up it was so great. It was heartfelt and wounderful with an unexpected twist in the end!
Very sweet story, and really cute romance