Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Farewell

Those who know me well can bear witness to my intention to continue to write novels based on Addie’s life, beginning shortly after her divorce in 1869, until I ran out of stories to tell. And with that in mind, I earnestly continued my in-depth research. However, I inevitably ran into a dilemma:  her vast life of complex and controversial interests made the task of telling more of her stories nearly impossible.
For example, in 1870 alone, she logged over 4000 miles as a medium; a spirit artist; and a lecturer of Spiritualism, prison reform, and woman’s suffrage. And she would become ill from exhaustion, recover, and resume her schedule, saying, “My life is dear to me, because scattered through the West—parts of that life, and dependent upon it—are my children. Therefore I shall live and labor so long as I can.”
And she did—right up to her death in 1916.
Just keeping to the years 1870–1873 could easily fill several novels and/or history books on Spiritualism (and some valued religion and some hocus pocus performances), prison reform (and the unconventional theories of why a person would commit a crime), woman’s suffrage (often referred to as the “Shrieking Sisterhood”), free-love (which gained a reputation for being free lust), and the quick rise and fall of Victoria Woodhull (whom Addie supported and is one plausible reason she moved on to California in 1874).
My excellent research skills kept me submerged in the past, and I want to live in the present by following my muse into a creative new adventure.
So after fifteen years of research and producing several books on this intoxicating Ballou family, I have simply had enough. It’s time I pursue something else.
Until we meet again, stay well.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Woman's Suffrage à la 1872

Gen. Butler introduced in the House, on Wednesday, an enormous petition, purporting to be signed by 35, 000 American women, asking Congress for a declaratory act giving women the right of suffrage. We very much doubt whether a majority of the women of the United States could be induced to sign such a petition, and we believe that even were the right of suffrage conferred upon them nineteen-twentieths of the best women in the country would refuse to exercise it. The view of the woman suffragists is, however, that the cares of politics ought to be imposed upon the sex, and that almost any dodge or device is allowable to bring about this result. The Nation thinks that all this comes of the ravages made by metaphysical views of human society upon the morals and manners of a small body of speculative ladies. They tap their breast, think they hear “a something within them” which says women ought to play exactly the same part in regulating the affairs of society that men play – and then bid good-by to scruples about means.
Winona Daily Republican, January 25, 1872

Addie L. Ballou was among those who signed that petition.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Oh, to age gracefully....


           Still a Child

The landscape of life looks like winter
Age colors my hair like the snow
My form becomes bended and weary
My steps they are stumbling and slow

Is it I have grown so decrepit?
Is it me, looks wintry and wild?
Ah the body is what grows aged
My spirit still feels like a child.

The same love of flowers is with me
Their color still pleases the eye
The “violets blue” still attracts me
As in years that have long gone by.

And love of all beauties of nature
Its grandeur of mountains so wild
Is pleasing me now as ever
It did in the years when a child.

Then a mother’s kind form bended o’er me
Her presence an angel of light
What would I not give to be able
To rest in her presence tonight.

And a father’s kind words of approval
We feel we would love them as then
O why do we think we’ve grown older
When we feel we are children again?

I pray you don’t say we are older
My Spirit rebels at the thought
But say—that we always seem younger
If life has been lived as it ought.
                             A. D. Ballou
                                March 21st 1888.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Who was Addie L. Ballou?

“Who on earth was Addie L. Ballou?” you might ask.
Born in 1838, Addie (Hart) Ballou was a nurse during the Civil War, participant in social reform alongside the likes of Susan B. Anthony, Victoria Woodhull, and Clara Foltz. Addie was a practicing Spiritualist (clairvoyant medium, lecturer, and licensed clergy). She was an artist: who painted the portraits of notable people. She even painted the official portrait of California’s 18th Governor, Henry Markham, in 1897. It now hangs in the capitol in Sacramento (which I think is one of the coolest things ever).
This woman logged thousands of miles lecturing in the Midwest, the South, and the Pacific Coast. Then she traveled to Australia in 1885. And to Paris in 1900.
Did she have family? Oh, yes. She gave birth to four boys (one died in infancy) and a daughter. The surviving four lived into adulthood, married, and had families of their own. But Addie also got a divorce in 1869, when the children ranged in age from three to thirteen.
“Wow. Divorce was scandalous back then,” you say.
So why haven’t you heard of this scandalous woman who shared a Chicago stage with Susan B. Anthony in June 1870? Who previously had offered her services to the Governor of Wisconsin and began working as a nurse in the Oshkosh camp of the 32nd Wisconsin regiment, where there were many ill (they hadn't even left the state)? Or who became a correspondent to newspapers, covering reform and Spiritualist conventions?
Spiritualist conventions? 
I don’t about you, but I certainly was not taught in school about the part Spiritualism played in women gaining the vote, or loosening her corset strings, or how the notion of love as we know it today came into being. Maybe you've already read Ann Braude’s Radical Spirits (ISBN 978-0-253-21502-4). I have. And it was only the beginning of how I came to learn about Addie’s part in American history. Most pages of my copy of that book are marked up, dog-eared, and highlighted. I was stunned to find Addie’s name in the index. But that was only the beginning.
My best guess, after more than ten years of researching the life of Addie Ballou and sharing that information through my writing, is that in order to be memorialized, it takes being arrested (Susan B. Anthony), being the first to run for president (Victoria Woodhull), or being in a family who appreciates the significance of your many and varied interests.
Yet, Addie Ballou was a Spiritualist reformer, a journalist, a poet, an eloquent speaker, an artist, a suffragette. A mother, a grandmother, and a philanthropist.
So why haven’t you heard of her?
She wasn't well-liked by her family, for one thing. Her paintings were disregarded. Her poetry kept hidden in the sock drawer. And her ex-husband made sure the story he’d made up—about how she’d abandoned her family—stuck.
Nonetheless, Addie knew who she was and where she fit in the world. That’s more than many of us can say.
She was fearless. Talented. Bright. Self-educated.
I've come to believe Addie Ballou’s life offers us new insights into American history. Clara Foltz May have been the first notary public in California, but Addie was the second. And the story of how these two women worked together, went to the legislature, and finally got appointed is significant.
And surely Addie wasn't the only woman to publish her poems. But Driftwood (San Francisco: The Hicks-Judd Company, 1899, © 1896) is the only collection I know of that recorded history. If you understand the context of her poems. 
I’ll be writing more about those poems. And Spiritualism, as it was back then, when people truly believed-they-believed that talking to the dead was possible. And some could make them materialize before their very eyes.  
You see, by 1870, there were nearly 10,000 Spiritualists in Chicago alone.
You can expect to hear more of this woman who traveled—alone—to spread the gospel of Spiritualism and social reform, whose painting “Morning” was refused at the California State Fair in 1890 because it was of a nude. The woman who lived life to its fullest and left us a trail of breadcrumbs into a time and place we might not otherwise know existed.
If it were not for her writing—columns in Spiritualist newspapers, letters to editors expressing her opinion about something or someone, her published poetry, and her 1873 diary—we might have missed Addie Ballou entirely.
I leave you with the sampling of that 1873 diary:

Friday, March 7 — Augusta, Georgia
Reached Augusta about 6 o’clock this morning after a very comfortable ride — the conductor having provided me with a pillow from the sleeping car. Slept nearly all night.
Found Mr Stalling at the train. Walked with him over to his house – the morning air was delicious & invigorating – Mr S & family are of the former poorer classes & to a great measure ignorant so far as educational culture is concerned. The poverty of their financial affairs & apparent destitute circumstances can better be excused than the sloth’s want of cleanliness & seeming indolence on the woman’s side of the house. They use to great excess snuff in its worst & lowest sense & spit with a naiveté well becoming the filthiest tobacconist. This excessive use of tobacco I am told stupefies the brain & makes the user drunk almost.

"Shedding new light on American history through the life of Addie L. Ballou (1838-1916), one story at a time," I cannot stop now!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Correcting 1837, Other Dates

The following is from page 375 of the revised biography of Addie L. Ballou (Addie L. Ballou: Spiritualist Reformer, Poet, and Artist,  ISBN 978-1502496324). It corrects her date of birth and states my research findings and conclusion.

Author Notes — Second Edition

1.  There is a misconception that Addie was born April 19, 1837, and it appears in everything from genealogy records to Wikipedia. It undoubtedly originates from the family information submitted by Albert Darius Ballou for inclusion in An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous in America, published in 1888. I have a copy of what he sent in ... in his own handwriting, so I know he was the source of the misinformation.
In truth, Addie was born April 29, 1838. James M. Hart’s Genealogical History of Samuell Hartt from London, England, to Lynn, Mass., 1640 ...., published in 1903 states she was born on April 29, 1838, in Russell, Ohio (soon after her birth, that part of Russell became part of Chagrin Falls).
When I began writing this biography, I concluded the April 19 from the Ballou source was a typo and talked myself into accepting 1837.
However, I had not yet been privy to Addie’s 1873 diary, which confirms her date of birth as April 29, 1838 (thus the need for this second edition).
I include that diary entry here, for it is representation of Addie’s character. For those of you who have also read my historical novel, Mrs. Ballou, it will have added significance:

Tuesday, April 29, 1873Terre Haute, Indiana
Went with Mrs Pence to call on Mrs Woods & Mrs Trish this a.m. Had a very pleasant call at each place. Mrs Woods is a very well informed & naturally intelligent woman & much better in conversation than I had thought her to be, tho from the children whom I have seen often & who are both remarkably bright but exceedingly courteous, I knew they must have no ordinary mother. Mrs Trish, hers also a very nice family. They were amusing themselves — born a baby rabbit — when we were there.
A few flakes of snow fell even while we were out riding. This is my 35th birthday and like most of the predecessors it has gone unnoticed if not unremembered.
Wrote to Mr Flower & to Mother.

2.  As well, the misconception that Evangeline (Eva) was born April 27, 1866, appears in everything from genealogy records to Wikipedia and originates from the same submission by her father to An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous in America.
However, James M. Hart’s Genealogical History of Samuell Hartt.... correctly states Evangeline was born April 11, 1866.
Addie’s 1873 diary confirms that date:

Friday, April 11Terre Haute, Indiana
This is my Eva darling’s birthday. She is 7 years old now. Seven years of what rapid changes. Seven years ago today — the darkest shadows of distress & doubt were encompassing me....

3.  To continue correcting the misconceptions: Albert Darius Ballou and Addie Hart were not married on Christmas day, 1854. They were married on the 26th, as stated in James M. Hart’s Genealogical History of Samuell Hartt ....
I have a photocopy of the letter Addie wrote to her friend, referring to the wedding as occurring the day after Christmas (see Chapter 11 of this biography). The photocopy is of the actual hand-written letter.
Albert simply didn’t know the correct birth date of his former wife or his daughter. But, in his defense, when he submitted the family’s information, he didn’t have a wife around to verify facts – she’d divorced him and taken their daughter with her in 1869.

List Price: $23.95
Publication Date: Sep 27 2014
6" x 9" (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
418 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1502496324
ISBN-10: 1502496321
LCCN: 2014917346
BISAC: Biography & Autobiography / Historical

 Anyone care to take on getting the dates changed in Wikipedia? Shoot me an email if you're interested. aliceallan34@gmail.com

Friday, October 24, 2014

In case you hadn't heard....

My public profiles (see below) are all now up to snuff, yet always subject to revision and improvement!

And my debut novel is out: Mrs. Ballou: A novel inspired by actual people and events (ISBN 978-1499575538). She's available through my website, Amazon (including a Kindle version), or other fine retail outlets.

I'm pleased with the Kirkus Review, too, regarding Mrs. Ballou:
"A historical novel based on the real life of a 19th-century spiritualist feminist....
Allan's dedication to highlighting the life of an early proponent of women's rights is admirable. Spiritualist researchers will be grateful for Allan's thoroughly researched work (inspired, she says, by Addie's original diaries). Newcomers to the subject matter may also find Addie's journey interesting, if not inspirational." -- Kirkus Reviews 

So forgive me if I sound boastful, but I worked really hard to get this far and still have my sanity and good health. :)

I promise I'll calm down and return to telling more stories of historical interest.