Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Historian Writes A Historical Novel by Ruth Rymer, Author of Susannah, A Lawyer (Guest Post and Giveaway)

Today's guest blogger is Ruth Rymer, author of Susannah, A Lawyer - From Tragedy to Triumph. You can read an excerpt from this novel by visiting the author's website. Make sure you stick with us to the end though, because we're ofering you a chance to win a free copy of this novel that has been called "a gripping historical novel which is difficult to put down."


For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write a historical novel. As a history major, I traced my ancestors back to 1720 colonial Pennsylvania. When I graduated in 1966, few colleges hired women as history professors, so I headed to law school. After being admitted to the California Bar in 1971, I discovered that law firms rarely employed women as lawyers. I was fortunate to establish my own practice without worrying about having to please a boss. I specialized in family law and enjoyed my career until 2000 when I retired to marry, travel and write.

Originally I had wanted to write a biography of my great-grandmother, Pollyanna Mead Reynolds (1857-1918) but I couldn’t find enough material about her. With Susannah, I retained my great-grandmother’s birth year, 1857, her status as the fifth child in the family, and her birthplace of upstate New York.

I had long admired Myra Bradwell of Bradwell v. Illinois (83 U.S. 130). Jane Friedman’s biography of Bradwell, The First Woman Lawyer in America, portrayed how lawyers practiced in 1860-1890 Chicago. The then common, now criminal actions of jury tampering and embezzling from clients’ settlement funds seemed inappropriate to Mrs. Bradwell, but were no more scandalous than divorce. Historic Myra Bradwell provided an excellent model & mentor for the fictional Susannah Reed.

Professional historians are strict about two rules. First, sources must be from primary material that is, created contemporaneously with the event. Second, the use of speculation and imagination are not allowed.

As a novelist, I could break the history restrictions. Still, I did not want to vary too far from the primary source rule. Two of my favorite historical novelists, Jane Kirkpatrick and Florence Weinberg, rely heavily on original documents.

W. Howells, in A Modern Instance (1882), was the first American novelist to address divorce and describe a fraudulent procedure common in Indiana. Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie captures the atmosphere of 1875-1890 Chicago, paints a vivid picture of how folks lived, where they ate, and how much they earned, as well as what happened to someone unlucky enough to be the “other woman.” Much of Dreiser’s world I verified by reading classifieds in the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune reported unusual divorces from all over the country and even described some lurid cases, especially when fraud or murder was involved. Susannah addresses situations similar to those described in the Tribune. The classifieds also gave me an accurate picture of women’s jobs at the time--cook, nursemaid, factory worker, and “typewriter” (a woman who owned a typing machine and hired it and herself out to businesses on an hourly or daily basis).

Of those who are acknowledged for helping create Susannah, the most unusual person is Warren Newman of the Cody Firearms Museum in Wyoming. I would describe a potential scene to him and he would tell me what model of gun the character could have used.

An early women’s rights scholar, Ruth Rymer practiced Family Law and lectured on “Women and the Law” in California under the name of Ruth Miller before retiring to write.

She holds a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Systems from The Fielding Graduate University and wrote her dissertation on the historical, sociological, and psychological aspects of divorce.

Dr. Rymer, listed in the "Best Lawyers in America," 1988-2000, is Past President of both Queen’s Bench (Bay Area women attorneys) and the Northern California Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

The author lives in the Bay Area with her husband. Susannah is her second book. Visit the author at

Here's how to enter our giveaway:

1) Comment here with your working email address so that we can contact you if you win.

2) Get one additional entry for blogging about this contest. Leave a comment here telling us where you blogged about it.

3) Get two additional entries for tweeting about this contest. Don't forget to let us know here that you tweeted!

This giveaway will run from today until midnight (Eastern) on September 30th. A winner will be announced in early October.

This contest is open to all residents of the United States and Canada.

Follow Ruth's virtual book tour. Look for her at:

9/15-10/1 GoodReads -

9/15 Gather - Booklovers Forum -

9/15 Reading & Reviewing Blog -

9/16 History Buff Blog -

9/17 Curled Up with a Good Book -

9/17 Curled Up with a Good Book -

9/17-9/30 Library Thing -

9/17-9/30 Library Thing -

9/19 The Book Connection -

9/20 Beth's Book Review Blog -

9/23 Coffee Thoughts Blog -

9/23 Coffee Thoughts Blog -

9/23 Coffee Time Romance -

10/5 Lyrique Tragedy Review Blog -

10/5 Dawn Papuga -

10/8 Pop Syndicate Book Blog -

10/20 Calling All Authors Radio -

TBD Audible Authors -


Bridget said...

I'm first again! Just posted this guest post and giveaway on Win A Book.

Esme said...

As a lawyer this one sounds interesting.

chocolateandcroissants at yahoo dot com

Esme said...


cococroissantsSusanah a Lawyer giveaway

chocolateandcroissants at yahoo dot com

kate2world said...

An intriguing image ~ creating an 'otherworld' from our past and making it real today.
Keep Writing!

Diana D said...

Would be interested in reading this book. Thanks for the wonderful giveaway.

dianad8008 AT gmail DOT com

Pam said...

Sounds not only interesting, but also informative. Count me in please!

melacan at hotmail dot com

erunuevo said...

this is a great giveaway!

erunuevo said...

i posted this on my myspace blog

erunuevo said...

tweet (1)

erunuevo said...

tweet (2)

MoziEsmé said...

I'd love to read this!

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

gaby317 said...

I'd read about this book on Goodreads - it sounds so interesting! I've been working as a lawyer for about 9 years and have found it quite tough at times but that is nothing compared to what other women lawyers went through. I'd love to hear more about Ruth Rymer's experiences and Susannah sounds fascinating.

gaby317nyc at gmail dot com

traveler said...

Fascinating and wonderful book. Love to read this. Thanks for this opportunity. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

CherylS22 said...

This book looks interesting. In this day & age, we sometimes forget that women just didn't do certain things like being a college professor or a lawyer. Those that ignored the norm laid the groundwork for women to be whatever they wanted to be.

Thanks ~ megalon22{at}yahoo{dot}com

Nancye said...

This looks like a very interesting book! Thanks for the chance!

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Nancye said...

Tweet! Tweet!

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net


Nancye said...

Tweet! Tweet!

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net