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The Rose and the Whip
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Interview with the Author

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Jess Woods | 109 comments Mod
Jae Hodges, thank you for hosting this week! To start, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your novel?

Hello, everybody, thanks for the opportunity to host this week. I’m really looking forward to telling you about my debut novel, The Rose and the Whip. I’ve always wanted to write, but I somehow got caught up in being responsible— you know, family and work—and I just never had (made?) the time. When I got the chance to deploy to Afghanistan (as a Department of the Army civilian employee), I set a goal of finishing this book that I’d been chasing off and on for nearly ten years. Using my eight hours of free time each week, I was able to complete the whole book in six months. I enjoyed the process so much I was inspired to retire from federal service and turn to something completely different—writing and photography. My passions also include genealogy and travel, so in order to enjoy all of these interests I focus my work almost exclusively on stories drawn from my family history.

How were you inspired to write The Rose and the Whip? What sparked your interest in Lidia Wardell and her single act of historical interest?

It started with my daughter’s fifth grade school project on the Salem Witch Trials. She had the brilliant idea to connect our family to every one of the twenty people executed as witches. We worked on the genealogy together, finally connecting us to six including one of the few men, Samuel Wardwell. While validating his connection to our family, I stumbled on his sister-in-law, Lidia Wardell (it was fairly common for people to settle on a certain spelling and stick with it even if it was different from a brother or father). While Samuel’s story is interesting in and of itself, I was more intrigued by Lidia’s story. I mention her single act of historical interest because any internet search of Lidia’s name (with its variant spellings) will net you a wide array of mentions, articles and stories about how she walked naked through the Newbury (Massachusetts) meeting house in 1663, and was publicly whipped for her deviant behavior. Notice I didn’t say she was punished for being a Quaker, as many people were then. Once I started digging into her life in Hampton (New Hampshire) I found that she chose to make this statement after years of systematic persecution inflicted on her and her family by none other than their village priest, Reverend Seaborn Cotton. After her punishment, she and her husband continued to be hounded until they were finally run out of town. They ended up in Shrewsbury (New Jersey) where she and her husband helped to found and were leaders in a large and thriving Quaker community.

Can you give us insight into your writing process?

You know, I never really gave much thought to my “writing process” until after my debut novel was already on a path to publication and I started writing the next book. I won’t say that writing The Rose and the Whip was easy, but the story had a natural structure with all the necessary components more or less laid out for me in the actual chronology. For this book I created a (very) large spreadsheet with 251 columns and 37 rows (974 cells) of information, quotes and data gathered during my research to keep track of people, places, and events. This effectively provided my story outline. Taking this approach also helped me analyze the circumstances, motivations, actions/reactions, drivers and outcomes which provided a significant amount of insight into all the players and their respective roles in this drama, effectively outlining the narrative and character arcs. I chose historical fiction and a first person point of view because I wanted to give Lidia a voice and it just seemed right that she should tell her own tale.
What research did you do for The Rose and the Whip? Travel? Go to historical societies? Read memoirs?
The majority of my research was internet-based. There’s an amazing amount of information out there if you’re diligent and patient, and creative, with looking for it. While there is not a lot of information directly about Lidia, or directly naming her, I was able to find a significant amount that was indirectly associated with her, or about her by implication. Most of what I used for the book came from court and provincial records. Yes, there are actual documents, transcriptions and other primary and secondary source documents from the 17th-18th century available. I visited the towns of and historical societies in Hampton; Ipswich, where Lidia was tried, convicted and punished; and Newbury; along with the town of Dover in New Hampshire where the three vagabond women (more on this later) started their trek tied naked and barefoot to a cart’s tail to be whipped in each of eleven towns between Dover and Dedham (Massachusetts). I also visited Boston to do some research in the (awesome) New England Historical and Genealogical Society library. Finally, I used several books written based on first-hand accounts by Quakers banished from the Colonies and compiled as testimony that was ultimately presented to King Charles II to illustrate the atrocities being committed by his agents in New England. Where I could find primary source documents for the supporting characters in the story, I used those, but I pretty much assessed their characters based on their actions detailed in the court and provincial documents.
Did you find anything in your research that was particularly fascinating or that helped shape the novel?
What I found particularly fascinating (and abhorrent) was the fact that the majority of the persecution levied on Lidia was done at the hand of her priest, Reverend Seaborn Cotton. Ironically, he was the son of the Reverend John Cotton, a Puritan minister who was known for being conciliatory and gentle. The elder Cotton escaped the Church of England’s persecution of non-conforming clergy by sailing for the Colonies. With him were two of his more ardent followers, Anne Hutchinson and the Reverend John Wheelwright. Both of whom would later be condemned and persecuted by the Puritan leaders. So, in the book, I portray Seaborn Cotton as a rather sinister predator, based on accounts of his behavior toward the Wardell family.

What is your favorite time period to write about? To read about?

I’m pretty interested in all time periods in which I have any kind of ancestry involvement. And I’ll usually immerse myself in reading about those time periods when I’m researching a story. For my next book, I’ll be working with the Civil War and the Revolutionary War on this side of the Atlantic; and the Jacobean, First British Empire, Elizabethan and Tudor eras of British history.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? How have you been able to overcome that?

I’d have to say that my greatest challenge is in picking one project to focus on. I’ve found so many terrific stories in my family’s past that it’s hard to settle on just one (or a few) at a time. For each story I completely immerse myself in the genealogical research and reading. I also plan my travel around the places where my family had the most involvement, and I photograph the places where they walked and lived. There just isn’t enough time for me to get to them all.

Who are your writing inspirations?

I wonder that these might change depending on the project I’m working on. Right now, my answer would be Emma Darwin, A.S. Byatt and Paul Auster. But I also would love to write like Alice Munro, Geraldine Brooks, Kazuo Ishiguro, and J.M. Coetzee. And who wouldn’t want emulate Virginia Woolf?

What are you reading at the moment?
I usually read between six and eight books at a time. I place them in strategic places based on where I spend my time. In my backpack, for those times I have to wait in line somewhere, it’s Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. As volunteer reading to an elderly blind woman, it’s Lloyd Douglas’ Disputed Passage. Fifty minutes a day on the elliptical, it’s Emma Darwin’s This is Not a Book About Charles Darwin. For something quick between hard core non-fiction, it’s Dorothy Parker short stories and poems. At night, in the quiet, it’s James Joyce’s Dubliners. Before diving into writing, it’s a chapter of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. On Sunday mornings before the sun comes up, it’s William Feaver’s The Lives of Lucian Freud. And just relaxing, it’s Colleen Oakley’s You Were There Too and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic.

What are three things people may not know about you?
I can trace a common ancestry to George Bush; his vice president, Dick Cheney; and his defeated opponent in the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry. I was a junior bowling champion. And, neither mine nor my husband’s names are the names we were given at birth (no, we’re not in the witness protection program).

Care to share what you are working on now?

I’ve already hinted that my next book will span the 15th-17th century British history, then pick up 18th-20th century New England history. In the center is a lost manuscript and a nonsensical family genealogy. Think Don Quixote’s quest and Walter Mitty’s adventures. And a young girl’s search for truth.


message 2: by Jae (new)

Jae Hodges (jaehodges) | 22 comments Good morning! I’m so excited about hosting this week, and I’m even more excited for the chance to tell you about Lidia Wardell and my book The Rose and the Whip. I’ll be giving away a signed copy of the book and a signed copy of my original print of the Newbury Meeting-house to two active participants at the end of the week.

Let’s start with Lidia herself. Lidia was a real person. The events in the book are the events in her life between 1659 and 1664. I chose a fictional narrative because I wanted Lidia's voice to stand out, and I wanted her to tell her own tale from the vantage point of the whipping post where she received her 30 lashes.

There is no definitive proof of when, where or to whom Lidia was born, but genealogical records identify her as the child of Isaacke and Susannah Perkins. Based on my research, and a lot of deductive reasoning, I’m certain this is correct and I place her birth at the fourteenth day of March in 1638 in Newbury. This I get from a court baptismal record that seems both out of place but at the same time the most well-positioned clue.

What makes Lidia fascinating to me is her courage and her strength and her spirit. Puritan women were expected to have neither, and were meant to keep their opinions to themselves. Lidia followed in the footsteps of some pretty dynamic women—Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer to start—and there were others who Lidia knew or may have known, and who might never be remembered except for their part in Lidia’s life. They all used their voices in their own way, and I feel like courage is not letting the price for doing the right thing stop you.

Lidia was also the wife of my first cousin 10x removed, or maybe more simply, the daughter-in-law of my 9x great-grandfather’s brother (okay, maybe not more simply). A little bit of trivia—you could expect to have around 4,096 ancestors in ten generations.

Do you have anyone in your family or your ancestry that exhibited courage in the face of extreme adversity, and prevailed? (Yes, spoiler alert, this book has a happy ending).


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Rhonda (grannylovestoread) | 132 comments Not that I know of!


message 4: by Jae (new)

Jae Hodges (jaehodges) | 22 comments Good morning, Everyone! You already know that Lidia Wardell walked naked through the Newbury (MA) meeting house in protest of the treatment of Quakers by the Puritan leadership (both religious and magisterial). While this is obviously the cornerstone of the story, I wanted to talk today about exploring Lidia’s motivations leading to this act.
Lidia spent several years watching as the people around her, first friends then family, were persecuted, repeatedly. The Reverend Seaborn Cotton begged her to return to the fold and not allow wayward people, her husband and brother-in-law included, to pull her away from his protection. She has been called tender and chaste, and others have called her action clear proof of mental aberration if not insanity. But, by all accounts, she and her husband attempted to be good neighbors and live a quiet life. So I have no doubt that she knew what she was unleashing for herself and thought it the only way she could be heard.

In my blog post “Naked and Barefoot” at https://www.17thcenturylady.com, I speculate that walking naked represented a progression or escalation from a purely spiritual response to a more physiological one as Quakerism took hold from its inception with George Fox in England around 1640 to a movement in the colonies beginning in the 1650s. The irony is that the punishment meted out to these women included stripping them naked to take the whip on their bare backs. This forced nakedness seems to represent the magisterial scorn against their defiance; a vindication of the power of men and Puritan thought perhaps, although I allude in the book to other motives the depraved men in power may have had. Lidia chose to take the action she did, trumping any power these men might have thought they had.

But, as I’ve said, Lidia was NOT prosecuted for being a Quaker, which might also be viewed as a mercy to her and her family (care of an uncle who very prominently sat on the court’s benches). She was prosecuted for what today would be indecency under the original 1656 version of the Cart and Whip Act which required whipping for anyone who reviled the magistrate or ministers of the community. If she had been prosecuted as a Quaker, she would have been tied to the cart’s tail and whipped through any number of villages until she was run out of the colony.

I often think of power and control, and fear, as being negative forces. But personal, and especially informed, choice, is power and control used in a positive way, which serves to help me overcome fear. What do you think?


message 5: by Shannon (new)

Shannon (moongirl2020) | 19 comments This is a great interview (better than most)! My question has to do with selecting your subject. You mentioned having too many ideas...what are the KEY issues or pieces that HAVE to be available for you to choose that person as someone to write about?


message 6: by Linda (new)

Linda Bridges (lindajoyb) | 68 comments When I was teaching 8th grade US history, I used to show my kids an old film called Three Sovereigns for Sarah, which is about the witch trials. They were always amused at first at the way the girls acted, but ended up incensed by the end. It was a good object lesson about peer pressure, mass hysteria, and why some things were later written into our Constitution, which I covered later in the course.


message 7: by Jae (new)

Jae Hodges (jaehodges) | 22 comments Great question, Shannon. I think I look for the strength in a person, whether it’s their personal strength or their character strength. Lidia has both. Obviously they need to have done or been involved in something interesting, but I tend toward character-driven rather than event-driven stories. My next book has a secondary character who is likely suffering from some form of dementia but he is so laser-focused on getting his version of his family history set down, I’m just awed by his strength.


message 8: by Shannon (new)

Shannon (moongirl2020) | 19 comments Jae wrote: "Great question, Shannon. I think I look for the strength in a person, whether it’s their personal strength or their character strength. Lidia has both. Obviously they need to have done or been invo..."

THANK YOU!


message 9: by Jae (new)

Jae Hodges (jaehodges) | 22 comments Linda, great point. When I talk about the Puritan’s treatment of the Quakers, some people aren’t aware that Quakers weren’t just a subsect of the Puritans, and I still struggle myself with how hypocritical the Puritans we’re having just escaped their own religious persecution in England then turning around within a single generation to become the persecutors.


message 10: by Jae (new)

Jae Hodges (jaehodges) | 22 comments Today I want to tell you about the place that figures most prominently into Lidia’s story. Newbury and the meeting house there. True she may have been born in that town, but her family was at Hampton (NH) before December of 1639. And there they remained until she and her husband, Eliakim, were forced to leave sometime before April of 1665. Others have written that she was a member of the Newbury church. Aside from her baptism in that meeting house, this could not be true because the family was never accepted as residents of Newbury (but the local clergy would have required baptism all the same). So what would compel Lidia to walk naked through that meeting house instead of the one in Hampton where she and her family had been so persecuted? I struggled with this because I felt it meant something, but I could not put a finger on what that could be.

I used a spreadsheet to plot out people, places and events, layering them to find the connections and the gaps, and sequencing them to understand how each subsequent event played into Lidia’s developing plan.

I finally found it, thanks in part to a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier called “How the Women Went from Dover”. In December of 1662, three vagabond women, Quaker missionaries, were apprehended under the Cart and Whip Act, and without trial conveyed to the Constable of Dover (NH) who ordered them to be whipped ten stripes each in every of eleven towns until they would be run out of the colony. At Dover they were whipped. At Hampton they were whipped. And at Salisbury (MA) they were whipped. But, before they could be taken to Newbury, a kind soul intervened and rescued them, transporting them first to the Wardell home, then to safety north in Maine. Newbury was to be the next place the three women would be whipped, so this is the place Lidia chose to make her statement.

Ipswich, too, is of significance not only because that’s where the quarterly court was in session at the time of her presentment, and the place of her punishment. But, more evocative is that Newbury is on the route between Hampton and Ipswich. Lidia passed by the meeting house where she had made her stand on the way to her trial and punishment, and on the way back as she lie bleeding and nearly insensible in the back of a cart. Both she and Eliakim would surely have had this place burned into their memories.

Have you ever had a place or an event, either painful or pleasurable, be so significant in your life that it dominates your thoughts and your actions from then on?


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Jane Miller | 13 comments What is the title of this book? It sounds fascinating and I see no reference to a title. thanks


message 12: by Jae (new)

Jae Hodges (jaehodges) | 22 comments The Rose and the Whip. Thanks for pointing that out!


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Jane Miller | 13 comments It sounds fantastic. thanks


message 14: by Jae (new)

Jae Hodges (jaehodges) | 22 comments Good morning! The years between 1637—when Anne Hutchinson was prosecuted and banished from the colony only to perish in the wilderness—and 1693—when the last of the Salem witch trials ended in execution of fourteen women and six men—were troubling for the colonies. Women were finding, and using, their voices, for good and sometimes not so good, but much to the chagrin of the fearful around them. Mary Dyer began speaking out in the 1650s, and was hanged for it. This pamphlet was written in 1666 by Margaret Fell putting forth several arguments for women’s preaching, for which she was imprisoned. But Anne Bradstreet—a venerate Puritan—also had strong opinions and was not afraid to voice them. She used poetry rather than protest.

As I was writing the chapters in The Rose and the Whip which featured her husband, the Honorable Simon Bradstreet, I often wondered what they talked about and did she know to what extent his hand was in the treatment of the Quakers. What would she have thought if she’d known Lidia, who was probably not so very different from her at least in terms of her devotion to family and children, and God? Did she fear speaking of these thoughts to her husband, or did he fear knowing what she kept locked away from him? I confess that I have not read much Anne Bradstreet, but I’ve experienced enough of it to recognize that she used her poetry to express her thoughts and concerns for the societal conditions of the time, albeit veiled.

These years, like other pockets of time throughout history, were rife with fear—fear of losing power and control of one’s own life and livelihood, and fear of losing power and control over the masses. The women of these times broke their silence because of fear, but also because they had the courage to overcome their fears. Lidia didn’t set out to become a champion of oppressed women, but she reached, or was driven to, a point where not speaking out was a more fearful prospect than the risk of punishment.


message 15: by Jae (new)

Jae Hodges (jaehodges) | 22 comments So here we are on my last day with you all, and I think it fitting that I talk a little about the ending of The Rose and the Whip. Lidia’s story has more than it’s share of pain, but I didn’t mean for it to be a low-spirited story. On the contrary, I wanted to show her courage and her faith over adversity. I wanted to show how she entered the fray a vulnerable child, and exited it with dignity.

Lidia became pregnant with her third child about August 1663, a little more than three months after her she took 30 lashes on her bare back. If her physical wounds were healed, her emotional scars were surely burned into her. As soon as he could safely remove his family from Hampton, Eliakim took them to Rhode Island, then continued on to New Jersey where he was granted permission to purchase Indian land called the Navesinks. There they helped found the town of Shrewsbury, and became leaders of the community.

What better retribution for what Lidia endured than for her to give birth to a daughter, followed by six more daughters after they arrived in Shrewsbury?

It’s been my pleasure to spend this week with you. I hope I’ve sparked an interest in Lidia Wardell, and an interest in the wealth of stories in everyone’s family history. Thanks for participating in the discussion, and tomorrow I’ll announce the winners of a signed copy of the book and a signed original print of the Newbury meeting-house. I invite you to follow my journey with The Rose and the Whip, and see what else I have to say at https://www.somethingtosay.me


message 16: by Tracey (new)

Tracey Evans | 90 comments Shrewsbury is about 45 minutes from my house. I've been there a few times. I look forward to reading about one of their founding families.


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Jae Hodges (jaehodges) | 22 comments Tracey, I’d love to hear about what you find in Shrewsbury. I chose to end The Rose and the Whip in Hampton, but I was always curious as to whether there were more stories for them in New Jersey.the NEHGS library in Boston only had information about Lidia and Eliakim after they arrived in NJ and very little before that which I found interesting.


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Amanda (drpowell) | 376 comments Jae wrote: "Today I want to tell you about the place that figures most prominently into Lidia’s story. Newbury and the meeting house there. True she may have been born in that town, but her family was at Hampt..."

2011 Joplin (Missouri) tornado. Changed everything.


message 19: by Amanda (last edited May 22, 2020 12:13PM) (new)

Amanda (drpowell) | 376 comments Jae wrote: "Good morning! The years between 1637—when Anne Hutchinson was prosecuted and banished from the colony only to perish in the wilderness—and 1693—when the last of the Salem witch trials ended in exec..."

Sometimes (most times?) the hero[ine] without the cape is more powerful than the one with it.


message 20: by Jae (new)

Jae Hodges (jaehodges) | 22 comments The most unlikely hero(in)es!


message 21: by Tracey (new)

Tracey Evans | 90 comments Jae, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve been in Shrewsbury. Growing up I spent a lot of time in Wildwood, NJ. I don't remember it being a ”historical” town. I remember it being more a touristy place. I did find a book that might interest you. It's called Shrewsbury, New Jersey (Images of America Series) by Randall Gabrielan. Sorry I couldn't be more help. Tracey


message 22: by Jae (new)

Jae Hodges (jaehodges) | 22 comments Thanks, Tracey. No worries, the research is half the fun for me.


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