I’ve said it so many times now, it longer embarrasses me: I discovered the subject of my first novel while Googling myself. Most of the other Anna Solomons didn’t interest me: a real-estate broker in L.A., a social worker in Brooklyn. But one, Anna Freudenthal Solomon, captured my full attention.
She was on a website called Stories Untold: Jewish Women Pioneers.
Take any one of those words and you’ve got me hooked. I quickly learned that Anna Solomon, along with her husband Isador, founded the town of Solomonville, Arizona in 1876. I also learned about other Jewish women toughing it out on the frontier, including Rachel Bella Calof, who came to America in 1894 as a mail-order bride to North Dakota.
Though Rachel Bella became the main inspiration for my book, THE LITTLE BRIDE, I often think of that little town – Solomonville – which no longer exists on a map but lives large in my imagination.
In Solomonville, Anna Solomon slept on a mud floor, cooked on the ground, and raised three babies without any help. Eventually, she and Isador built the Solomon Store, then the Solomon Hotel – where “continental pastries” were served each morning – which Anna ran with the help of a Chinese cook named Gin Awah Quang. In all, she raised five children, grew her own fruits and vegetables, oversaw the Solomon Ranch and the Solomon Store, and maintained her family’s Jewish traditions.
Supposedly, life has gotten a lot easier. I’m writing this from a desk chair more comfortable than Anna Solomon’s bed (and probably faster, if you got it going downhill, than her buckboard wagon). Still, I often feel like I’m living on my own frontier: a post-modern, post-feminist, high-tech, locally-grown, do-it-all territory unlike anything my mother or her mother (or Anna Solomon) knew.
I write novels, and I write copy for a PR firm. I teach fiction writing, and I teach my daughter how to wipe herself. I Skype with a book club who’s read my book, then I realize I still haven’t ordered a Thanksgiving turkey. I have a new idea – a brilliant idea! – which I become so engrossed in I forget to change the laundry (for days). Or I have a new, brilliant idea but by the time I’ve changed the laundry and gone to the post office and picked up my daughter, it’s gone.
I’m far from alone. You have your own version of Solomonville, I’m sure. So I hope you’ll come along for the ride, and share your own stories.