Queen of the West Wednesday Doubleheader, Chapters Nine and Ten

Chapter Nine. “Happy Trails”: Becoming a Television Star

After Dale Evans gave birth to her daughter Robin, attendants wheeled her out of the delivery room.

It was August 26, 1950, and the Queen of the West and the King of the Cowboys had a new baby girl. But the joy the parents felt was soon overshadowed by concern. Robin Elizabeth Rogers–Dale and Roy planned to nickname her Stormy–was diagnosed with Down syndrome and with an inoperable heart problem. Doctors were not optimistic about Robin’s future, but the loving parents took their baby home, determined to prove the medical experts wrong.

As Dale Evans worried about her daughter’s health, she and Roy embarked on another project together: a televised version of The Roy Rogers Show, a thirty-minute contemporary Western that ran on NBC from 1951-1957. The song Dale had written for their radio show, “Happy Trails,” now became the theme song for their small-screen show.

Chapter Ten. Angel Unaware: Faith and Celebrity

Dale grieved over Robin’s death but had no time to wallow.

Robin Rogers died two days before her second birthday. Dale Evans held herself together through work. She and Roy were scheduled to appear at the World’s Championship Rodeo at Madison Square Garden in about four weeks, a major event they could not afford to cancel.

https://dygtyjqp7pi0m.cloudfront.net/i/23208/21367945_3.jpg?v=8D1F8D91EF2C950

Despite their hectic schedule in New York City, Dale found time to write about Robin. She penned her first book, Angel Unaware, published by the Fleming H. Revell Company in 1953. It quickly became a bestseller, and Dale donated the proceeds to charity.

And another bonus on this double edition of Queen of the West Wednesday, historian and writer Pamela Toler has featured me in her Women’s History Month blog series called Talking About Women’s History. I answered three questions about Queen of the West and asked Pamela a question about women’s history.

Women’s History Month 2022

My favorite  “rabbit rabbit” of the year is the first day of March, not just because of the good luck wishes, but because it’s the start of Women’s History Month.

On the 1st of the Month: Don't Forget To Say "Rabbit Rabbit"! - Farmers'  Almanac

This year, the National Women’s History Alliance has selected “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope” as the annual theme. It’s both timely and historical. We are still dealing with Covid, and many women earn wages in the health care field. Many more, as mothers and/or family care givers, are the front line health providers in their homes.

2022 Theme Products

Historically, women have always done the latter. And it’s taken generations of struggle for them to break into the professions to become doctors and nurses. Janice Nimura recently wrote about sisters Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell who broke the male-students-only medical school barrier in the 1800s. Olivia Campbell, in Women in White Coats, focused her book on Elizabeth Blackwell, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, and Sophia Jex-Blake. And my 2020 biography told the story of Dr. Mary Walker and her determination to serve with the U.S. Army as a physician during the Civil War.

Elizabeth Blackwell

(Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell)

My most recent book, Queen of the West: The Life and Times of Dale Evans, also relates to this year’s Women’s History Month Theme. Dale experienced a lot of heartache in her life. Most of it had to do with her children. To cope with it, and to try to help others in similar situations, Dale turned to prose writing. In 1953, she published Angel Unaware, her best selling book that has gone through multiple printings and editions. If you follow along with my Queen of the West Wednesdays here on this blog, you’ll probably learn more about that episode of Dale’s life. (Of course, the book tells the whole story!)

Hardcover Angel Unaware: A Touching Story of Love and Loss Book

I wish you all a happy, safe, and book-filled Women’s History Month.

Women’s History Month 2021

This year’s theme, Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced, continues last year’s centennial observation of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced 2021 logo

Considering all of the in-person events that were cancelled because of Covid shutdowns, this seems appropriate. My book on Dr. Mary Walker–who dedicated her life to women’s rights issues, including suffrage–published three months into the 2020 quarantine. I have yet to talk to a live audience about her remarkable experiences.

Continuing the conversation about women’s suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment into 2021 is also a reflection of the unfinished, ongoing struggle for voting rights. It’s much too sweeping of a statement to claim that women won the right to vote in 1920. Some, mostly white women, did. But women of color still had to fight.

So, on this first day of Women’s History Month, I recommend two books that expand our understanding of the meaning of women’s suffrage. Read, think, and enjoy!

Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All Cover

https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=Vanguard+Martha+Jones

Recasting the Vote: How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement Cover

https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=recasting+the+vote

For more information about Women’s History Month, visit:

https://nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org/2021-theme/

Dr. Mary Walker Wednesdays

Getting ready to launch a new book can be a bit nerve-racking, even in the best of times. I don’t think it’s too dramatic to point out that these are not the best of times. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and I am very grateful to all the health care professionals, grocery store workers, public safety officials, and anyone else involved in pulling us through this medical crisis.

Today is National Medal of Honor Day.

Image result for national medal of honor

Only one American woman, Dr. Mary Walker, the subject of my forthcoming book, has ever received this commendation. It was awarded in 1865 in recognition of the service she rendered in the Civil War. Each Wednesday in these weeks leading up to the book’s publication, I’ll post the first sentence from a chapter along with an image that reflects something that happens in the chapter. Hopefully, these snippets will intrigue you enough to want to read the book.

Chapter One: Getting to Washington

In the early fall of 1861, Dr. Mary Walker, a twenty-nine-year-old dedicated reformer and passionate supporter of the Union, went to Washington, DC.

(Washington, D.C. train station image from Washington Historical Society)

 

Scenes from Last Century’s Pandemic

In March 1918, Ethel Thomas of Potosi, Wisconsin, turned twenty-two. A college graduate, she worked as a high school teacher in nearby Lancaster.

Like millions of people worldwide, her life had been upended by the Great War that started in Europe in 1914, which the United States joined in 1917. Ethel’s future husband, Elmer Herold, joined the army, and was training with tank operators in preparation for deployment to the western front. During March 1918, soldiers in the United States began contracting influenza. Close quarters in training camps as well as subsequent troop movements helped spread the sickness.

 

 

Image result for american soldiers ww1

Although the spring outbreak was mild, causing few deaths, it had two unusual characteristics: the presence of bloody and fluid-filled lungs and the high number of otherwise healthy people in their twenties afflicted.

Elmer Herold contracted influenza at Camp Colt in September. It took a few days for the first cases to be diagnosed as flu, and by then it had already begun its astonishing spread through the military installation. Over two and a half weeks, the camp hospital treated 321 influenza cases and 106 of pneumonia. One hundred and fifty men died.

Elmer Herold sent a message to Ethel Thomas that he was getting over the flu, attributing his survival to “spirits of fermentis”–whiskey. No medicines existed at the time that could effectively counter the virus’s swift devastation. Elmer recovered at the end of September, even as another vicious wave hit. Boarding the troopship Leviathan, headed to Europe, he fainted and spent the duration of the ship quarantined in the ship’s infirmary. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, more on board got sick. Elmer survived.

In Lancaster, Wisconsin, Ethel Thomas began the school year as usual in early September, despite news that civilians had started dying of the flu in Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington, D.C. About midway through September, one of the first influenza-related deaths occurred in Lancaster. By October, it was clear that the sickness had infiltrated Wisconsin. When Dr. C. A. Harper, the state health officer, issued an advisory calling for the closing of all schools, churches, and theaters, the town of Lancaster obeyed. Ethel went home to Potosi for a short vacation to wait out the influenza cycle.

If you would like to know what happened to Ethel and Elmer, read more about them here:

Image result for citizen of empire kaminski