Four Months Until “Martha” Arrives

Just four months until Martha and the Slave Catchers is published. Remember, though, if you are curious about the historical facts behind the novel, just go to the top of this webpage and click on “Martha and the Slave Catchers.”

I thought it might be nice to give you all a taste of what is coming. Starting now (July 6) and on the 6th of the next four months, I will print a small section of Chapter 1, so by the time November 7th rolls around, you will have read the entire chapter. So, here goes:

Martha and the Slave Catchers
Chapter 1

Martha Bartlett jolted awake, her eyes wide open, her heart pounding so hard it hurt. She looked around the dimly lit room from the quilt cocoon that encircled her body on the plush, but simple, sofa. Someone had placed a soft pillow under her head, but she had no idea who. The room itself was unfamiliar. Its fireplace, brick walls, and rocking chair reminded her of home, but it was not her home. She knew that much at least, but not much more.

It was an effort to push the quilt away, but she longed to sit up. As she did, pain ripped through her arms, legs, and back. Gingerly, she touched her left eye which shrieked in agony. Then she felt the bandage wrapped around her aching head. What had happened to her?

For several long minutes, she willed her brain to work. Think. Think harder. Try to remember. She closed her eyes tightly and opened them again, believing that perhaps the movement would spark a memory. In between two long blinks, she spotted a light blue square envelope with “Martha” printed in bold letters on the small table next to her. She knew that was her name, but still, she just stared at it. For some reason she did not understand, the letter’s presence frightened her. Finally, though, she reached for it.
As her trembling hands touched the envelope’s flap, she realized just how weak she was. Her finger could hardly work its way under the wax seal to break it. Then, she almost ripped the thin fragile paper as she took the letter out and unfolded it.

She began reading. (To be continued…..)

I consider myself fortunate that Martha (for short) is being published by Seven Stories Press, and thought I might give you some background on the press. ( Dan Simon, formerly of Four Walls, Eight Windows press, founded Seven Stories in 1995. The name came from the seven authors who first signed on to the venture, including the wonderful Octavia E. Butler, Annie Ernaux, Gary Null, Charley Rosen, Vassilis Vassilikos, the estate of Nelson Algren, and Project Censored. You can read much about the press’s background and mission on its website, but I think its credo says it all: “Our credo is that publishers have a special responsibility to defend free speech and human rights, and to celebrate the gifts of the human imagination wherever we can.” Seven Stories has become well-known for its fiction and non-fiction titles that embrace human rights, social and economic justice, and the media. For a small press, it has great outreach which is enhanced by its marketing/distribution collaboration with Penguin/Random House.

In 2012, the press initiated its imprint, Triangle Square Books for Young Readers. Under the guidance of Ruth Weiner, Triangle Square has published a number of popular books, including A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara. Rebecca Stefoff adapted two incredibly important adult history surveys for young readers, namely Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States and Ronald Takaki’s A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America. On the press’s blog, you can read the fascinating story of how the state of Arkansas attempted to ban Zinn’s book in the public schools and the campaign to fight that referendum. Seven Stories Facebook Page is also a great source for that saga and others.

Until next month. . . .

Welcoming Martha and the Slave Catchers



My new book, Martha and the Slave Catchers will be published on November 7, 2017, by Seven Stories Press. It is available for pre-ordering at several on-line stores.

I know that it has been quite a while since I’ve written anything for this blog, but I’ve been hard at work preparing my first children’s novel for publication. Martha and the Slave Catchers was written for Middle Grade children and is a story of the effects of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 on the lives of two children living in the northeastern area of Connecticut. Here is a brief synopsis of the tale:

Danger lurks in every corner of almost fourteen-year-old Martha Bartlett’s life—and all because her mama and papa, agents of the Underground Railroad in Liberty Falls, Connecticut, decide to claim as their own the orphan of a runaway slave who died in their attic hideaway. They name him Jake.

After the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 is enacted, two hired slave catchers, Will and Tom, kidnap Jake and take him south to the plantation of Robert Dawes. Always ambivalent about her demanding, mischievous, and learning impaired brother, Martha nonetheless feels guilty about his disappearance. After all, it was her job to watch over him on that very day he was snatched. She pledges to find him and bring him home.

Martha becomes part of an Underground Railroad plan to rescue Jake. That journey takes her away from the safe world she has always known to a world full of danger, bigotry, violence and self-discovery. Missing their connection with famed slave rescuer, Harriet Tubman, Martha and Jake are forced to start their perilous journey north with only each other to depend on. Meanwhile Will and Tom are always close on their heels. Will they receive help from the Underground Railroad in their escape? Will they make it to safety? Will they ever see their home and parents again?

These and other questions are answered by the end of the novel.

To accompany the novel, I have designed a web page which you can link to above. It explains the historical context for many episodes in the story. I invite those folks who have already read a draft of the book or will receive an advanced copy to take a look at the web page. In the months to come, I will write about other aspects of the work, including Seven Stories Press, the illustrator Elizabeth Zunon, and other folks involved in the book’s production.


New article on Jane Addams

I love Jane Addams. When I first heard about her way back in 1980, I thought she was nothing more than a moneyed, “do-gooder” out to help the poor in order to make herself feel important. It took about five seconds to change my mind. Yes, she had some money (which she used to support herself and Hull House), but she was far from being your traditional “do-gooder.” Instead, she was a true revolutionary, a woman who looked deep into the people and society and world around her to determine how to make it better.

I would call Jane Addams a life-long learner, and the new article on my website ( titled, “Jane Addams, Hull House, and the Devil Baby,” is one example of how Addams used her own experiences to educate herself. (Click on the tab in the menu at the top of the page that says “Jane Addams, Hull House, and the Devil Baby” to reach the article.) I wrote this piece with learners in mind. Whether you are an undergraduate, a high school student, an educator, or a lover of learning, I hope you will read, enjoy, and gain something from it. The piece is divided into four sections. The first is a brief introduction. The second is the story of the Devil Baby. Briefly, in the autumn of 1913, thousands of people visited Hull House demanding to see the Devil Baby they were convinced Addams was hiding there. The settlement house workers had no luck convincing people that the baby was a myth built out of superstition. Jane Addams wrote several articles about the incident, in each explaining how the Devil Baby connected with the lives of the community, especially older women. The third section delves into the world of Chicagoans during the 1913 episode. To do this, I read through every issue of the Chicago Tribune (ten weeks in total) to try to see what specific happenings in the city could have produced such great tension that a Devil Baby hysteria seemed a logical outcome. The fourth section includes some suggestions for discussion and projects for a broader understanding of the incident.

Jane Addams’s ultimate goal was to understand people, get them to understand each other (not necessarily in a personal sense, but certainly in a cultural one), and then create ways which would help them to handle conflict through knowledge. If we learn to understand and accept people’s beliefs and life-styles. . . if we can identify the commonalities among us. . . if we can help each other achieve the basic needs of life (food, housing, jobs, etc.), then maybe we can achieve peace in our immediate environments and on our globe as well.

Please feel free to recommend others read the article, and for educators, to use it in your classes. There is no charge, but I would very much like to hear from anyone who adopts it for classroom use. Of course, it would be great if folks carried on a discussion in the space provided on this page or at the end of the article.


Happy 100th anniversary to WILPF

This is a very special day for all of you who celebrate the work of WILPF. Women are meeting at The Hague just as they did on this day in 1915. To hear about the history of the 1915 International Congress of Women at The Hague, click on this link to the CBC radio program, “Peace in Their Time.” Also, check out the book, Women at The Hague, for which I wrote the introduction. It consists of articles written by Jane Addams, Emily Greene, and Alice Hamilton about their experiences at The Hague meeting and in Europe.

CBC Radio Program on Women and Peace

Hi everyone,

On Tuesday, April 28, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will air “Peace in Their Times” on Marilyn Powell’s award-winning program, IDEAS. The guests in this documentary presentation include myself and three other historians—Mineka Bosch, Adam Hochschild, and David S. Patterson. The topic: The 1915 International Congress of Women at The Hague which launched the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Check the CBC listings for air times in your local area. At the same time, thousands of women will be meeting at The Hague in celebration of WILPF’s 100th anniversary and to discuss the present and future of women’s peace activism.

15. U.S. Women aboard the Noordam, 1915. Records of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Courtesy, Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

15. U.S. Women aboard the Noordam, 1915. Records of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Courtesy, Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Closer to the date, Marilyn Powell will send me a web link which I’ll place here for your use.