Friday, October 23, 2015

Back to the Past

This week marked an interesting anniversary. If you were online, you probably saw a number of videos and memes running about in celebration. October 21, 2015, was the day Marty McFly arrived in the future to stop his son from robbing a bank in the second film in the Back to the Future franchise. I’ve always loved those films. The opening sequence for the first film, in particular, wastes not one second of frame. But remembering those films got me to thinking.

What would a young woman from 1865, say, find amazing in 1895?

This isn’t just an academic question for me. My current series is set in 1866 frontier Seattle, but I’m working on a special project for my editor, set in 1895 Texas. And I’m getting a real kick out of what I can do then that I never could do before.

Different Words. In any year, language changes, new words get added, and former favorites fall out of vogue. For example, hen party (a get together of ladies to chat and gossip, often over tea) was first recorded around 1885, so my heroine Nancy Snowden can attend one in 1895, but Maddie O’Rourke, the heroine in January’s Instant Frontier Family, cannot.

Changes in Fashion. Check out those sleeves! Even frontier ladies, it seems, mimicked the style. Skirts were more a-line as well. So while Maddie might have to squeeze her bell-shaped skirts through the doorway of a frontier cabin, Nancy might have to take care to keep from crumpling her sleeves. Either way, if Marissa's Fashion Forecasts ever reach 1895, I'll know what's coming. :-)

New Capabilities. Living in frontier Seattle, Maddie had to make much of what she needed herself or pay a hefty price and wait months for it to be shipped from San Francisco or parts east. She also walked or took a boat if she wanted to travel anywhere, with so few roads in existence. When Nancy wanted to travel the hundred-some miles to Waco to visit her new husband’s family, she could ride on a train. She could also avail herself of canned foods and factory-made clothing if she hadn’t the time to prepare them herself and had some cash to spare.

Of course, what didn’t change, indeed hasn’t changed in thousands of years, is the process of a man and a woman falling in love with each other. That’s the story that transcends time. “That’s the power of love.”

(Lead picture copyright Universal Pictures)

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