Leaving Coy's Hill
Katherine A. Sherbrooke
Pegasus, 2021 (2021)
Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle
atherine A. Sherbrooke's
Leaving Coy's Hill
is a fictionalized account of the life of Lucy Stone, who became an important part of the fight for emancipation and women's rights in the nineteenth century. Born in 1818, Lucy lived on a farm in New England with her parents, two brothers, and three sisters. Her father was tight-fisted, controlling all of the household money. Her mother had to ask him for money to buy necessities such as fabric or yarn that she needed to make clothes for her large family, even though she worked hard taking care of all the household chores. Even after selling cheese that she had made, her mother had to give the proceeds to her husband.
s Lucy grew up she learned about the laws governing marriage that took away all of the rights of the wife and gave them to the husband. Everything that a bride had owned before she wed became the property of her husband. Lucy learned this as a child when her cousin Abigail got married. Abigail's new husband had arranged to sell her beloved horse during the wedding ceremony without telling her ahead of time. This was a devastating loss for both Abigail and Lucy, and it led Lucy to tell her mother that she would never marry.
lthough divorce was then possible, a woman would lose her children and livelihood in a divorce. Many women stayed with abusive husbands for these reasons.
Lucy's father believed that the only education girls needed was learning to read, write, and do simple arithmetic in preparation for marriage and raising a family. Lucy was determined to become educated and someday go to college and she read everything she could get her hands on. Her father wouldn't pay for her college education, so she had to work and save her money for several years before she could afford to enter Oberlin College. When she found out that she would need her father's permission to take a class in oratory if he were supporting her, she refused any financial help from him, continuing to work part time while finishing college at the top of her class.
lthough Lucy's father was an abolitionist, he disapproved of her decision to speak in front of groups about emancipation after she graduated from college. Public orating by a woman was considered immoral. Lucy became such a strong orator that she convinced many people to join the anti-slavery cause, even though for a long time she had to put up with sneering and verbal abuse from men in her audiences. She was fearless and remained outwardly calm, answering their hostile questions with questions of her own that frequently backfired on the hecklers. After meeting Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy expanded her efforts, speaking out against the position of women in society and working tirelessly for Women's Suffrage.
his is a wonderful account of the early fights for emancipation and women's rights. It reads like a novel with likeable characters and villains, many of whom were real people. Lucy's situations and those of other women and enslaved people are described in graphic detail. When she first started her work, Lucy plodded through mud on rainy days, and she had a hard time finding places to sleep that allowed her to bathe or wash her clothes. She went hungry at times when she ran out of money, but she never faltered in her quest. This is the best sort of historical fiction, teaching about real lives and events through an engrossing story.
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