Sunday, February 26, 2017

Widowhood in Georgian England

Ages ago, I wrote a post about British mourning customs . In a slightly related note, for my Regency/Georgian romance story I'm currently tinkering with--The New Bride of Banner's Edge--I needed to know a few salient points on being a widow in those days because early on in the story, Jane Windham is widowed. The story is about her finding a second chance at love with Miles Keegan, Pearl's employer in Pearl and father of the two girls Pearl nannies.

Miles is a widower, but things were different for men.

Feme covert
In the Georgian/Regency era into the mid-19th century or so, when a woman married, anything she'd inherited or owned--money or property--became her husband's. In law terms, a married women didn't exist as her own separate legal entity. It was known as coverture and a married woman was legally called a feme covert--a covered female, under the care of her husband.

If she went into the marriage with a good fortune but no safeguards like a marriage settlement in place, her husband could spend that money the way he saw fit and the wife had no legal recourse. If they separated, he could leave her destitute and she had no rights to their children, property, or money. If she earned any money during the marriage, it was his. She couldn't even deny him conjugal relations.
Baby Princess Victoria (future Queen Victoria) and her mother in mourning, 1819

Marriage Settlements
A lot of aristocratic and upper middle class families hammered out a marriage settlement for their daughters, which outlined how much she brought into the marriage (her dowry), how much of the dowry was set aside for her children to inherit and for the woman to live on if she was widowed (a jointure), and how much pin money (an allowance) she got from her husband.

So really--any girl with a decent fortune who was stupid enough to run away to Scotland to get married quickly (the Vegas of the late eighteenth and early ninteenth century) was truly stupid if the marriage went sour.

Poorer, working class women had it differently, naturally. They often didn't bring anything into a marriage anyway, so they didn't do marriage settlements. If she worked, her earnings belonged to her husband. Her children belonged to her husband. And divorce was practically impossible to get (you needed an Act of Parliament in England), so I suppose many women simply endured if their marriage went bad or their husband was ill, abusive, alcoholic, or a bum.

If a woman went into the marriage with a marriage settlement (Jane absolutely does), legally she's entitled to her dowry and to one-third of her husband's estate to live on. Also, she becomes her very own legal entity once again--a feme sole--and is allowed to own property and keep her own money.

Working class women also became feme sole in widowhood, but their position could be either livable  or precarious. A husband's death could mean ending up in the poor house. Working class men and women, if they lost their spouse and were left with a lot of children, often married fairly quickly because they needed financial stablilty or someone to care for the kids.

Jane's husband is a baronet, which isn't aristocracy but gentry and is one of those inheritable titles. They don't have a son to inherit, so when Jane becomes a widow, she has to move out of her home. In her social circles, she'd be expected to wear black for at least a year. She would be well-off enough to not have to marry soon after and in fact, it would be frowned upon if she married too quickly because, like, what if she happened to be pregnant by her dead husband?

Men, though? They could marry quickly after if they needed to. Who was going to raise the kids if he didn't?

Widows generally had more social freedom than married or single-never-married women. Yes, they were expected to swaddle themselves in black for a year, but they could live comfortable lives if the finances were good. Having been married, they didn't have to be as sheltered as a never-married woman was, so if they were discreet, an affair or travel or a profession wouldn't be completely out of place.

If she married again, everything she had became her new husband's and she became a feme covert again.

Jane Austen's World: Dowagers and Widows in 19th Century England
Historical Hussies--Marriage Laws in Regency England
Status of Women
Heroines in an Era Lacking Women's Rights
Survivors' Guide to Georgian Marriage
Show Me The Money: Marriage Settlements in Regency England

Saturday, February 18, 2017

On Japanese Names

In high school, I was assigned a really fun essay: it was all about your name. Why did my parents name me that? What does your name mean? What's the language of origin? Is it a cultural name?

I duly searched baby name websites for the Japanese half of my real first name, Rei, which is from my grandmother's name Reiko. (The other half of my real first name is a pretty common name, often used for middle names these days) They said that Reiko meant "pleasant child" (-ko, a common suffix in girls' names, means "child").

The kanji for "ko"

So, then, "Rei" must mean "pleasant."

Except when it doesn't.

Japanese names are often written in kanji form; that is, in Chinese characters (though the Japanese read the kanji differently to Chinese people). But because a variety of kanji can be read in a variety of ways, the meaning of a Japanese name--even if it sounds the same--can be different, depending on the kanji that is used.

My grandmother's Reiko, for instance, originally used a character for "Rei" that she didn't like, so she  used a different one. In my full name in Japanese, my character for "rei" isn't my grandmother's--in many families, a kanji character is passed down or used by successive generations. (On my grandfather's side, the kanji "ya" was passed down--Yasujyo, Yachio, Yajuro, Yasuhiko...)

My "rei" does not meant pleasant; it means mountain summit. Here are the different kanji you can use for "rei."  Pieced together, my Japanese name is said the same way as one would say it in English, but the kanji meaning is "tranquil mountain summit" which is, um, well... I guess it's a personality to strive for?

But if you're searching on baby name sites for meanings for Japanese names, just know that the meaning there might only be the most common meaning, based on the most common kanji rendering of the name. Or just some uninformed meaning. Which is completely fine if you're just looking for a quick name to use for a character and you think you might want to go Japanese.

I named a character in Book the First Hikari, which means "light," which fit the character. I named a character in a short story Kimiko, because I wanted her to have a quick English nickname that she's known by while her full name often gets ignored.

If you're writing a story about Japan, with Japanese characters, then I expect a little kanji talk and some kanji research--a common conversation: "Wait, she uses that character for 'Yasu' in 'Yasuko?' Really? I didn't know that could be read like that!"

Popular Japanese Girls and Boys Names: 2015
Behind the Name: Japanese names

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy 8th Birthday, Blog!

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday dear bloogggggiieeee

Happy Birthday to you!

What? I'm allowed to wish my own blog a happy birthday-anniversary-whatever, aren't I?

The Sunflower's Scribbles is 8 years old today.

That's 737 posts total. I have no idea how many words those 737 posts add up to, but I'm going to guess they're fairly substantial at this point.

For past blog birthdays, I've dug through the blog archives, I've posted short stories, I've shared memes and quotes.

This year? Have a recipe!

In the past year or so, my cooking has come along. I've still very much a beginner-type cook--also a fairly lazy cook, in that I don't want to make anything overly complicated.

Turkey Burgers

My mom really, really likes my version of this recipe for turkey burgers.

1 pound of ground turkey
Mushrooms, chopped finely. I usually do a whole thing of mushrooms. Doesn't matter what kind.
One whole bell pepper or several mini bell peppers, chopped finely.
Two to three green onions, chopped.
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup of dijon mustard
1 egg
salt and pepper and other seasonings to taste

Put all the ingredients into a bowl.
Mix together.
Form into patties--I can usually get 6 patties out of this recipe.
Oil in a pan.
Once the oil is heated up, patties in the pan.
Leave the patties cook about four to six minutes on that side before flipping it over.
Check that it's cooked; make sure the turkey meat has turned whiteish. Stick a fork in the center. If the juice coming out runs clear, you're good.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Victoria on Masterpiece

From The Radio Times

For the past few Sundays, PBS' Masterpiece (the people who aired Downton Abbey as well as a shit ton of great British dramas) has been airing Victoria, starring Jenna Coleman as the queen and Rufus Sewell as her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne.

Victoria begins on the morning that the 18-year-old Queen Victoria becomes queen. This past Sunday's episode covered Victoria and Albert's wedding.

Like The Crown and Versailles (though, frankly, more The Crown than Versailles, if you get my meaning), the program is a sumptuously shot television show taking place in the mid-nineteenth century. The costumes are gorgeous--and like Downton Abbey, there are scenes of the palace's servants going about their work and lives and what it is like to serve the Queen of England.

But it isn't exactly the Victorian Era as we come to know it later; photography is still brand new and
the men, at least in the palace, are still wearing stockings and knee-breeches as if it were the Regency era. The common people are agitating for wider voting rights. I suppose the 1840s were a transitional time.

Victoria's coronation portrait

But at the center of it all is a merry eighteen-year-old girl who has been brought up in a very sheltered environment. Her father died when she was an infant and her German mother doesn't like the licentiousness of her in-laws.

But Victoria, all four feet and eleven inches of her, is a very determined young monarch, though in need of guidance in the guise of her prime minister Lord Melbourne. But now she's married Albert, her first cousin, and the man that we all know Victoria would wear black for for over sixty years.

Prince Albert in 1840, the year he married Victoria

It's an interesting, dramatic look at a young Victoria and times in which she began her rule. By 1901, when she died and the Victorian era came to an end, the world had changed drastically.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

IWSG: February

It's IWSG time for February! The IWSG is a group that encourages writers and we post every first Wednesday of the month! Come check us out here.

In January's IWSG post, I laid out some writing goals for 2017. They were:

-Stay the hell off social media. Not forever, mind you, but on it less. I found that it was crowding my brain a bit too much in 2016.
I have not been very successful at this--frankly, there's too many important things going on in the world right now. But I'm learning to temper the crazy with my own brand of crazy.

-Maybe finally move this blog onto another platform? I want a more professional look. Maybe. I'll probably change my mind in about five minutes.

-Finish the Victorian novel and get started on the second draft (finishing the second draft would be nice, too, but let's not push it) I've made a little progress on the novel, but not much because...

-Send "Haunted Lake" to a beta and figure out what to do with it (I'm leaning towards finding a magazine to submit to)
Done. Sent to a beta, revised, and I just sent the edited version to other betas as well. Also, researchng where I can submit this thig.

-Draft and finish "The New Bride of Banner's Edge," which is more Regency romance than historical fiction. I've started the first draft and I think it'll be novella length.
Made progress here--I think I can see the shape of the beginning of the story, at least, and I know which direction I want it to go in.

-Get back into the research I had done for Pearl and draft her brother Julius's story.
Still reading a book that could be helpful here.

-Interspersed with other things as time and attention allow

When I get around to submitting "Haunted Lake," it would be my first time submitting a story to magazines, zines, or websites. What is that process like, writers? Any tips?

And now getting around to the IWSG question:
How has being a writer changed your perspective as a reader?

I was a reader before I tried writing and for the longest time, my reading experience wasn't really affected by my being a writer. I got lost in the story. I went on the ride with the characters. And for the most part, I'm still able to read and go on the journey with the characters.

But I am a heck of a lot more critical about what I read. There's always a part of my brain that is analyzing the plot, word choices, background characters, and dialogue when I'm reading fiction. I also have more respect for the written word; I don't usually review books on my Goodreads as "this is a bad book." Someone worked on that book, they sweated over that book, they did the best they could--even if it didn't work for me in many ways, I can't just flat-out say, "That was a bad book."

I can, however, point to why something I've read doesn't work for me.