Last month we introduced you to Decades: A Journey of African American Romance, a unique twelve book series written by twelve talented authors, and to the first book in that series. This month we have first time guest author Kaia Danielle joining us at A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet (ALBTALBS) to share with us her contribution to Decades. I hope you enjoy this peek inside life as an African American woman in the 1910s as much as I did!
Welcome, Kaia, to ALBTALBS!
Kaia Danielle Explores African American Womanhood in the 1910
Note: A Secret Desire is the second book in the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance series. This series consists of 12 books, each set in one of 12 decades between 1900 and 2010. Each story focuses on the romance between African American protagonists, but also embraces the African American experience within that decade. Join the journey on our Facebook page.
Welcome to A Secret Desire, the 1910s installment in the Decades: A Journey of African-American Romance series. I have been interested in the history of African-American women in the early 20th Century long before this series came along. What interested me about this 1910s decade is that American women found themselves in a very rigid social position. The Cult of (White) Womanhood was in full swing. They were expected to be homemakers. To Perpetuate the image of being a lady. They were thought to be too delicate to handle their own financial affairs or live independently. A father, husband or some other male relative was expected to take care of them. A “proper” lady lacked the intelligence to run her own business.
Following the first World War (1914-1919), women experienced a major shift in available opportunities and societal expectations. They began working outside of the home during the war. “Volunteering” for these jobs would be a more accurate description. Women became increasingly independent in the 1920s. The divorce rate increased. They had increased opportunities to control to financial destinies. The first wave of feminism burst on the scene.
So that’s why I created a heroine who defies all of these 1910s social expectations. Meet socialite Halle Duncan. She’s over forty. A widow. African-American. And, she falls in love with a man eight years her junior. Definitely not your average historical romance heroine. However, she is a more typical African-American woman of her era.
Because she is African-American, a woman like Halle Duncan would have had more social leeway than her Caucasian contemporaries. It was rare for an African-American woman of the times not to work. A “good” job held by African-American men was never secure as evidenced by President Woodrow Wilson’s order to segregate the Federal workforce in 1913. Many highly educated African-Americans struggled to find employment in academia. For example, the faculty at Washington, D.C.’s famed M Street High School (later known as Paul Laurence Dunbar High School) held PhDs.
Also “cougar” relationships were not unheard of in the 1910s African-American community. Former Underground Railroad conductor and Civil War hero Harriet Tubman, who died in 1913, was married to a man twenty-two years her junior. Successful beauty culturist Lucille Campbell Green was five years older than her second husband Asa Philip Randolph, who later organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the 1963 March on Washington, when they married in 1913.
In A Secret Desire, even though Halle’s late husband had a successful career, she still found herself penniless upon his death. And because she had had an arranged marriage at the age of sixteen, she was not interested in marrying again any time soon. She has a thirst to live independently for once in her life.
But can her desire for independence stand up to the appeal of an irresistible young doctor who has a secret desire of his own – to make Halle his woman?
Nick gripped Halle’s arms a little rougher than he would have liked, basically ripping her out of Mr. White’s arms.
“You are out of line, Nick!” Halle yanked her arm away. She quickly scanned the room and then patted her hair to calm her nerves. She clearly was embarrassed.
“We need to talk,” Nick all but snarled into her ear. This time, he took her hand firmly in his and dragged her off the dance floor.
“Young man, you have no right to manhandle me like this. I’ve said all that I’ve had to say to you about any and all matters between us. The resort’s grand opening is finally over. There is no reason for us to have to speak to or look at each other or anything else together ever again.”
By now, Nick had led Halle into the coat room near the entrance. Nick slammed the door shut behind them and flicked on the lights. He practically towered directly over her. The small room was filled to the point of bursting with mohair coats and furs and other finery that they were forced to be chest to chest, pressed against each other.
“Now what has you acting like a Neanderthal?”
“I don’t like seeing you dancing with other men.”
“Then you should’ve asked me to dance with you before Mr. White beat you to the punch.”
Nick snatched her wrist and placed her hand along his neck.
“I don’t like seeing other men touch you,” he growled. He leaned in closer and nibbled on her earlobe. Then he sucked it.
Bio: Kaia Danielle writes romantic comedies, historical romance and comics. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter commenting on popular culture and her life as a Jersey Girl living in coastal Georgia.
Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite 1880-1920 by Willard B. Gatewood
Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood in Washington, D.C. by Treva B. Lindsey
First Class: The Legacy of Dubar, America’s First Black Public High School by Alison Stewart
Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class by Laurence Otis Graham
When Washington Was in Vogue: A Lost Novel of the Harlem Renaissance by Edward Christopher Williams
Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought edited by Beverly Guy-Sheftall