As the Victorian Era is to the American Gilded Age, the Edwardian Era is to the Progressive Era. A name that comes from the progressive politics of the time that led to compulsory school attendance (meant to keep children out of the labor force and increase literacy), the prohibition of alcohol, and women’s suffrage.
European immigrants began flooding into the United States through Ellis and Angel Islands beginning in 1892. Cities became crowded cultural centers and industry thrived with the influx of unskilled laborers. Though it was often the Factory owners who benefited, rather than the workers and consumers, leading to a rise in the popularity of Labor Unions and the Anti-Trust Movement (think Monopoly). Many Americans felt a civic duty to better society through charitable giving and social causes.
The way America functioned was changing. More and more people began to purchase goods rather than make them. And with the dawn of the assembly line, automobiles were spreading across the country, effectively shrinking the limitation of distance. Medical knowledge was also growing as epidemics hit the country, the two most notable being Polio (1894 & 1916) and the Spanish Flu (1918). Treatments that are still in use today were in their infancy.
Those epidemics can probably be blamed on city conditions and the advent of commonplace long-distance travel. Especially with the outbreak of the Great War (WWI). America held off in joining the conflict as Europe banded together into two distinct groups, the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente, after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, but with the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915, and the interception of the Zimmerman telegram, the US finally declared war in 1917, joining the cause of the Triple Entente. When the conflict ended in 1918, the world came down with the deadly Spanish Flu, taking down 3-5% of the global population.
Despite the tragedies of the Great War, America launched into a period of affluence (or at least the appearance of it, but more on that in the next post). More people were buying cars, updating their homes and living the “American Dream.” This also fascilitated the religious revival that was spreading across the country (Sister Aimee Semple being one of the more notable evangelists of the time. Billy Graham came later). Many were thrilled with the prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages by the Volstead Act in 1919 while others began selling it illegally in covert “speakeasies.” Due to its ineffectiveness, the act was later repealed in 1933.
One of my favorite books set during this era is A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman. The story is set during the year 1916 and follows Collin and Faith as they encounter personal struggles as well as common struggles of their time, including Alcoholism, the beginnings of WWI and some of the mores and social constructs of the early twentieth century. It’s one I keep coming back to over and over. Lessman has also written several follow ups about this family that continue through the roaring 20s and into the Great Depression.
Listed below are other novels for your perusing. I hope you enjoy this stop on our historical tour. Next, we’ll be headed into the Great Depression with the crash of the stock market and the beginnings of WWII.
Lucy Drake’s mastery of Morse code has made her a valuable asset to the American news agencies as a telegrapher. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Newly arrived from London, Colin is talented, handsome, and insufferably charming.
Despite their rivalry, Lucy realizes Colin’s connections could be just what her family needs to turn the tide of their long legal battle over the fortune they were swindled out of forty years ago. When she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, neither of them realizes how far the web of treachery they’re wading into will take them.
1906 Out of the Ruins – Karen Barnett
While her sister lies on her deathbed, Abby Fischer prays for a miracle. What Abby doesn’t expect, however, is for God’s answer to come in the form of the handsome Dr. Robert King, whose experimental treatment is risky at best. As they work together toward a cure, Abby’s feelings for Robert become hopelessly entangled. Separated by the tragedy of the mighty San Francisco earthquake, their relationship suddenly takes a back seat to survival. With fires raging throughout the city, Abby fears for her life as she flees alone through burning streets. Where is God now? Will Robert find Abby, even as the world burns around them? Or has their love fallen with the ruins of the city?
1912 Promise Me This – Cathy Gohlke
Michael Dunnagan was never supposed to sail on the Titanic, nor would he have survived if not for the courage of Owen Allen. Determined to carry out his promise to care for Owen’s relatives in America and his younger sister, Annie, in England, Michael works hard to strengthen the family’s New Jersey garden and landscaping business.
Annie Allen doesn’t care what Michael promised Owen. She only knows that her brother is gone—like their mother and father—and the grief is enough to swallow her whole. As Annie struggles to navigate life without Owen, Michael reaches out to her through letters. In time, as Annie begins to lay aside her anger that Michael lived when Owen did not, a tentative friendship takes root and blossoms into something neither expected. Just as Michael saves enough money to bring Annie to America, WWI erupts in Europe. When Annie’s letters mysteriously stop, Michael risks everything to fulfill his promise—and find the woman he’s grown to love—before she’s lost forever.
With her penchant for seeing the best in everyone, Hope Irvine sees a world full of good people in hard places. When her father accepts a position traveling in a chapel car as an on-the-rail missionary, she is determined to join him in his efforts and put her musical skills to good use by serving the mining families of West Virginia, saving their souls, and bettering their lives.
Luke Hughes shares Hope’s love of music and her love of God, but as a poor miner he knows he can offer her no future. Still, the notes she sings resonate in his heart. When she begins to travel with a young mine manager to neighboring counties, Luke can hardly suppress his jealousy. It isn’t until he begins to suspect these missions of mercy might be the mine manager’s cover for illegal purposes, though, that Luke feels justified in speaking up. But how can he discover the truth without hurting Hope or, worse, putting her in danger?
1916 A Passion Most Pure – Julie Lessman
Refusing to settle for anything less than a romantic relationship that pleases God, Faith O’Connor steels her heart against her desire for the roguish Collin McGuire. But when Collin tries to win her sister Charity’s hand, Faith isn’t sure she can handle the jealousy she feels. To further complicate matters, Faith finds herself the object of Collin’s affections, even as he is courting her sister. The Great War is raging overseas, and a smaller war is brewing in the O’Connor household.
Full of passion, romance, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure will captivate readers from the first page. Book 1 of the Daughters of Boston series.
They just fought the War to End All Wars in France. Now they return home to a different kind of battle . . . one more fierce than they could imagine.From every conceivable culture, men joined together in foxholes to fight World War I—the Great War that all hoped would bring the world together in peace, for all time. Jews and Irish, blacks and whites became brothers, tied by the common bonds of life, heroism, and death.When the Armistice is declared, the soldiers make their way back to America. But it is no longer the place of their dreams. Undercurrents of racial, religious, and cultural intolerance threaten the very foundations of the nation.In My Father’s House follows the lives of four young soldiers: Max Meyer, an orphan from the poor Orchard Street neighborhood of New York; Ellis Warne, an Irish doctor’s son from Ohio; Birch Tucker, an Arkansas farm boy; and Jefferson Canfield, the son of a black sharecropper.Will these four men—and those who love them—be able to find any freedom, any peace, on the warring home front?
1920 Baroness – Susan May Warren
Coming of age in the turbulent Roaring Twenties, two daughters of fortune can have everything they possibly want–except freedom.
Expected to marry well and take the reins of the family empire, Lilly and Rosie have their entire lives planned out for them. But Lilly longs to flee the confines of New York City for the untamed wilds of Montana. Her cousin Rosie dreams of the bright lights of the newly emerging silver screen. Following their dreams–to avant-garde France, to dazzling Broadway, to the skies of the fearless wing walkers–will demand all their courage.
When forced to decide, will Lilly and Rosie truly be able to abandon lives of ease and luxury for the love and adventure that beckons? At what cost will each daughter of fortune find her true love and happy ending?
1924 Love Comes Calling – Siri Mitchell
A girl with the best of intentions.
A heart set on Hollywood.
An empty pocketbook.
That’s all it takes for Ellis Eton to find herself working as a telephone operator for a look-alike friend. For Ellis, this job will provide not only acting practice but the funds to get her a start in the movies. She’s tired of always being a disappointment to her traditional Boston family, and though she can’t deny the way he makes her head spin, she knows she’s not good enough for Griffin Phillips, either. It’s simple: avoid Griff’s attentions, work, and get paid. But in typical Ellis fashion, her simple plan spirals out of control when she overhears a menacing phone call…with her very own Griff as the target.
With an endearing heroine as her lead, Siri Mitchell takes readers on a madcap tale of love and discovering one’s true desires!