Susan, why do you write Thousand Islands Gilded Age stories?
Susan: The American Gilded Age was a time of rapid technical advances, industrialization, and thousands of new inventions from about 1870-1910. Mark Twain coined the term in his 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today that satirized the era of social problems that were masked by a layer of thin, gold gilding. It’s a fascinating time in history, especially in the Thousand Islands.
All of my books are set during the Thousand Islands Gilded Age when the wealthy came and scooped up the islands and built lavish summer homes, mansions, and castles. It was an era of economic growth. Since wages were higher than in Europe, massive immigration drew about twenty million to the U.S. shores. Unions fought to stop child labor and establish an eight-hour workday. Social reforms included women’s suffrage, prohibition, and other civil changes. In the cities, labor unions became important in regulating industry, while trusts grew stronger in several industries. Education, prohibition, and racial inequalities dominated politics as did economic affairs of money supply and tariffs.
Unfortunately, it was also a time of unequal distribution of wealth where the rich got richer and the poor working-class suffered. Many young women worked as servants until they married, and that’s what my stories are about—those nameless, faithful women who cooked and cleaned and served tables for the rich and famous. These “downstairs” women had fascinating stories to tell, and I plan to tell many of them.
The Gilded Age titans of industry changed our world—people like John D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, George Pullman, and others who were sometimes called “robber barons.” But there were others who quietly made a difference—people like Frederick Bourne who took the Singer sewing machine around the globe as highlighted in my novel, Devyn’s Dilemma.
During the Gilded Age, America led the world in innovation. A half-million patents were issued for new inventions including hundreds by Thomas Edison, Westinghouse, and others. Thanks to inventions such as the delivery of electric power, the world became lighter, safer, more convenient and comfortable, and all-around better.
So this is why I write Thousand Islands Gilded Age stories. To share the rich heritage this era gave us and better understand what it was like. What fascinates you about this time? I’d love to know.
Colleen Sullivan conceals secrets when she joins her aunt on Comfort Island to work in the laundry and await her betrothed’s arrival. She loves to draw and dreams of growing in the craft. But tragedy strikes when her fiancé perishes in the sinking of the ocean liner RMS Empress of Ireland on his way to meet her. With her orphan dreams of finally belonging and becoming a wife and an artist gone, what will her future hold?
Austrian immigrant, Jack Weiss, enjoys being the island’s groundskeeper and is smitten by the lovely Irish lass. But Colleen dismisses him at every turn, no matter how much he admires her art, tries to keep her safe, and waters the blossoms of love. Perhaps introducing her to the famous impressionist, Alson Skinner Clark, will brighten her opinion of him. But rumors of war in Europe mean Jack must choose between joining his homeland’s army or staying safe in the Thousand Islands as he makes a life with Colleen. If she will have him.
Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books.
Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma, and Katelyn’s Choice have each won multiple awards, and book three, Peyton’s Promise, comes out May 2022. Rachel’s Reunion is coming soon. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise, and Reagan’s Reward, are award winners, too. Susan is also a published author of two premarital books, two children’s picture books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling around the world. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.
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