At the Back Fence Issue #103

(October 1, 2000)



The Steadfast Heroine:
In the last issue of At the Back Fence I wrote that I had never read a romance heroine who could begin to touch the accomplishments of Clara Barton. After such a bold pronouncement, I looked forward to hearing from readers wanting to prove me wrong. I wasn’t disappointed.

Lis wrote that Clara Barton’s renown stemmed from the fact that she was “a woman on her own in a time when it was unheard of. And, because she founded the Red Cross.” She added that many women in Border States “probably did just as much during the war and endured so much more suffering than Clara Barton that they’ll probably always be anonymous to us.”

I’m sure there’s some truth in what Lis said, but I really do believe that if a man had done what Clara Barton did, we would still be talking about him today. Although she is remembered as a field nurse and founder of the American Red Cross, her actual accomplishments went beyond that. But I do think that Lis makes an interesting point about strength being found in all kinds of women.

The truth is that much as I admire Clara Barton, an entire shelf of historical romances filled with Clara Barton type heroines would be a bit hard to swallow. You run into a limited number of geniuses per century (of either sex) and given the constraints of the nineteenth century, accomplishments like those of Clara Barton are even more rare than they would be otherwise. In fact I’ve only read one romance with a heroine who was a genuine genius, My Darling Caroline, by Adele Ashworth. Much as I enjoyed that book, one of the things I liked about it was that Caroline was unique and even a bit eccentr