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The Abortionist’s Daughter: A Historical Novel That Is All Too Timely

Several years ago, I became curious about young women before the first World War (1918).  In particular, how did they express sexual feeling and feelings about their bodies, when there was no vocabulary for it? No teachings?   A single kiss meant that you were as good as engaged.  Women were not prepared for what happened in the bedroom.  The only birth control was abstinence.  Women, particularly lower class women, had large numbers of children, sometimes as many as fourteen or fifteen.  They got pregnant again as soon as their bodies were ready.

They rarely had any power over their lives.  Women did not work.  Either they married, or, if not, lived with their parents.  Women of today have difficulty comprehending such a world.  But much of the government would like to send us back there, with no control over their bodies.

My curiousity led me to write, “The Abortionist’s Daughter: A Novel” set in 1916.  The titular character, Melanie, believes that her father’s activities have ruined her life.  (He was sent to prison after accidentally killing a woman while aborting her twelth child.)   The novel’s journey follows her from sheltered small-town girl to budding feminist and working actress.

Melanie’s friend, an unmarried woman, tries to kill herself rather than have her life and career destroyed by an illegitimate baby.  Melanie asks her father to help.  For the first time she understands why he does what he does. They reach a fragile truce.

At the beginning,  Melanie faces being an old maid.  When ...