Nixola Research

Hey all!

I bet you’re wondering…I wonder if Sarah is ever gonna finish that book she talked about writing.  Have no fear!  Life has been crazy and I’ve been thrown a few curve balls but I’m still here and I will bring Nixola’s story to life if it kills me!  Figuratively speaking of course. *wink*

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me tell you a little bit about my current WIP (Work In Progress).  Back in May, I graduated with a Masters in History.  In order to graduate I had to write a thesis.  I was allowed to pick from a vast choice of subjects but I felt drawn to journalism.  Specifically, I wanted to write about female journalists.  Next, I needed to narrow down a time period.  I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Gilded Age and the Industrial Era, so naturally, I wanted to see what happened next in the story of America.  What comes next is called the Progressive Era.  Note: Don’t think too much of the word Progressive.  It doesn’t mean today what it meant back then.  I started combing the time period for at least three female journalists that spoke to me.  Of the three I chose, Nixola Greeley Smith stood out the most.

Clipping from The Evening World - Newspapers.com

Nixola Greeley Smith is the granddaughter of Horace Greeley, a man who established The New York Tribune.  She worked on The New York World for most of her career as a journalist.  She interviewed well-known figures like Thomas Edison, Helen Taft, members of New York’s high society.   My favorites articles concern much more common issues of the day.  For example, for most of her career, she kept a love advice column.  (Think Sex in the City but just set in 1901, LOL)  She offered an award to “working girls” (prostitutes) to allow her to interview them so she could show the world what it was really like to become a “working girl.”  Nixola covered the Thaw Trial which was the first time a woman took the stand and had to describe her own rape in public.  She wrote about girls wanting to be boys so they wouldn’t have to follow so many rules.  She wrote about women cursing.  She wrote about marriage, about children, war, women’s votes and any other subject that struck her fancy.  This is where I think she shines.  She didn’t care if no one else would say it.  She knew the people wanted to hear the truth.

Recently I have made some tremendous progress in my writing.  I have finally finished 5000 words!  Eeeeeeekkkkk!  The most fascinating part of this process is the list of subjects I’ve researched.  It is an odd list.

  • Turn of phrase during the turn of the century
  • Curse words-native to the time period
  • Clothing for both middle and upper class
  • Vehicles, carts, trolley’s etc
  • Restaurants, vendors on the street etc.
  • Telephones, telegraph, messengers
  • Office environments, cubicles, set-ups
  • Brooklyn Bridge-when was it finished?
  • Common names for the time period
  • New or common food for the time. e.g. Gum

See what I mean.  I never thought about all these little things I would need to know a little bit about in order to recreate an authentic replica of the time period.  And I’m only three chapters in!

I didn’t think about needing to understand basic turn of phrase that fits the time period.  I found this to be the most fun subject I researched.  For example, a talkative woman was sometimes referred to as “a church bell.”  If you wanted to call someone brave, you might use the adjective “bricky.”

What is your research process like?  Do you use any particular sources?  Do you research before/after/during your writing process?  Let me know your tips and tricks!

Til then,

-Sarah the Nerd

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