While in London, I visited the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery. The gallery is the restored first floor ward and entrance to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital and contains fascinating information and displays about England’s first female physicians.
Who was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson?
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was one of England’s first female physicians. She helped found hospitals for impoverished women and co-founded the first medical school for women in London. She paved the way for ambitious women, like Abbie Sharp in my Ripper series, who wanted to be doctors. During Abbie Sharp’s era, Dr. Anderson’s hospital was called the New Hospital for Women and was renamed later the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. Dr. Anderson’s charity hospital for women was similar to Whitechapel Hospital in Ripper, except that all of the physicians and nurses were women.
In Ripper, Lady Westfield wishes for Abbie to volunteer at Whitechapel Hospital because it is “vogue” for young women to participate in “charitable services.” Victorian women, when they did work outside the home, were expected be philanthropic, merely caregivers extending their “innate” nurturing qualities to the public. Dr. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson firmly distanced herself and her medical students from this stereotype. In 1867, Dr. Anderson stated, “I am strongly in favor of taking the work done by women out of the region of philanthropy. Of course, the real motive of anyone doing the work I do is the desire to gain knowledge. You are glad, and incidentally the poor are cured.” By the 1880’s her medical school was every bit as rigorous and professional as medical schools for men; her female medical students would have studied in New Hospital’s operating theater and surgical wards, completing their clinicals at the Royal Free Hospital.
New Hospital for Women
Most of the hospitals during the Victorian period were unsanitary and unpleasant. Dr. Anderson was very concerned that her hospital was well-ventilated and bright. Dr. Anderson’s sister, the celebrated interior designer Agnes Garrett, designed many of the rooms and fireplaces in the hospital, using blue as a calming accent. Lovely blue print tiles frame the fireplace in the entrance hall and accented the walls in the wards. Hospital beds were well-spaced, large windows cast light throughout the rooms, and fresh flowers rested near beds.
The bag in the photograph is similar to the type of medical bags that Elizabeth Garrett Anderson would have used to visit patients outside of the hospital. It would have contained medicine bottles, syringes, any instruments necessary for a house call. The photograph of the entrance hall to the hospital looks exactly as it would have during Abbie Sharp’s time at New Hospital with the exception of an enormous statue that Anderson likely gave to one of the hospital’s donors. The doll in the photograph was used during the 1930’s to teach female medical students.
The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital and India
Dr. Anderson’s hospital not only improved the lives of Londoners, but as the hospital grew, her physicians traveled internationally. Strict cultural rules in India prevented women from being cared for by male physicians. Particularly, after New Hospital became the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, many qualified female medical students worked as physicians in India after completing their degrees.
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and the Suffragist Movement
Although one of Dr. Anderson’s sisters, Millicent Fawcett, was an active suffragist, Anderson herself didn’t participate in the suffragist movement until her retirement. She worried that too many ties to the campaign would harm the reputation of her hospital, and it was a savvy political move, particularly since New Hospital relied so much on donations. Nonetheless, her work demonstrated her unceasing belief in the essential equality of genders.
Although I have visited Highgate Cemetery before, I had very specific places that I wanted to see this time because of the Ripper series. The West part of the cemetery (the most fascinating and beautiful part) can only be entered through taking a guided tour in which tickets must be purchased in advance. Apart from seeing Egyptian Avenue again, I needed to take photographs of the Rossetti family plot where Elizabeth Siddal and Christina Rossetti are buried—the plot where Dante Gabriel Rossetti had his wife, Siddal, exhumed and then reburied one year after her death. He wanted to retrieve his unpublished poetry that he had placed lovingly in her coffin. (The guy needed money!) But I was nervous, terribly nervous, about getting back to the family plot. This is why…
Highgate Cemetery is privately run by mostly unpaid volunteers who very much care about its upkeep and reputation. (Incidentally, the cost of this upkeep runs at about £2000 per day! So donations are important.) But before the Friends of Highgate Cemetery was formed in 1975, the grounds had fallen into disrepair and were plagued by vandals, Satanists, ghost hunters, and small mobs of crazy people trying to drive a stake through the heart of the “Highgate vampire.” (I’m not kidding.) The volunteers now care deeply about the reputation of the Cemetery and shun sensationalism. Although well-documented and true, Siddal’s exhumation falls into the sensational category and is not included on the guided tours.
Anecdotally, I had a friend who visited Highgate Cemetery and when he asked his elderly guide about Siddal’s grave, she replied: “We don’t tell that story here.” (He proceeded to tell the story to all the other members in his tour group to her tight-lipped chagrin.) When I visited the Cemetery in 2005, my tour guide told me to “be very careful about who you discuss that story with here.” So, understandably, I was nervous about how I would “sweet talk” my tour guide into showing me the place. On the entire walk up Swain’s Lane I went over with my fearless research assistant (my younger sister) potential strategies for getting our guide to take me back there. I was seriously stressed…
Our tour guide, “Peter,” was older, looked a bit hurried, and he didn’t smile much. After briefly debating tactics, I decided that begging (and not mentioning Siddal’s name) would be the best approach.
Here’s how it went:
“Hi Peter, I’m working on a book series, and I need to see the Rossetti family plot. Could you please take me to it?”
Peter furrows brows, sighs audibly, says in an authoritarian British accent: “There is NO WAY I’m taking our group back there. It is too far off the path. We don’t have time..”
Me (wishing that I had removed my eyeglasses before speaking to him as they do no favors for my face): “Please…I came all the way from America to see it!”
Peter: “I will make NO PROMISES!”
“How’d that go?” I whispered to my sister.
“Well, other than seeming a bit desperate, pretty well. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”
I tried to walk toward the front of the group during the whole tour. I nodded a lot, smiled a lot. I tried not to be too obnoxious or take too many photographs. And the tour was fascinating. Peter was an excellent guide. I learned that a very rare species of spiders had recently been discovered in some of the tombs. I learned about the symbol of the lotus on the entrance to Egyptian Avenue—rebirth. I learned even more about the Victorians’ funny views of death, how so many of the graves are above ground so that they could feel connected to their dead loved ones. I walked through Egyptian Avenue, trying to see it through Abbie Sharp’s eyes, through her world. Peter even took us inside one of the tombs; it was cold, gloomy, and windswept in spite of the sunny spring day. I knew at the point when Peter told us what a terribly rotten man the menagerist, George Wombwell, was for neglecting and mistreating his animals that Peter, in spite of his scary British accent, was really a kind man and that he would, in the end, take me back to the Rossetti plot.
A bit out of the way, the plot is not that large. Only a few of the Rossetti’s are buried there, and the graves, compared to many in the cemetery, are very simple and modest. As you can see from the photographs I’m posting, you can barely see the names on the stones. Still the plot is marked with the overgrown beauty of so much of the rest of Highgate Cemetery. But it is the resting plot of two remarkable women, and I wished that I had brought them flowers.
I hope to return to the Cemetery before too long. It is such a testament to Victorian sentimentality and oddness and such a rich background for some of my favorite books including Dracula, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry.
I just returned from a trip to London where I did some hands on research for the Ripper trilogy. Renegade comes out next month, but next year the final book, Resurrection will hit bookshelves in April. Specifically, on my agenda, I wanted to meander around Highgate Cemetery again and the Kensington area where Abbie Sharp lived. I visited Old St. Pancras Church, a fascinating little church, one of the oldest churches in England—a background setting for Resurrection. Over the upcoming weeks, I will be doing more specific blog posts on these places but here’s a brief photo album highlighting my trip!
1: What is the working title of your book?
2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’ve had this book planned since I wrote the first RIPPER book. This is the third book in the RIPPER series, so I’m continuing that story. Specifically, in this book Abbie is pursuing the Ripper through London. She knows at this point that either she will survive or he will.
3: What genre does your book come under?
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Definitely Emma Watson would play Abbie. I would love to have Maggie Smith play Lady Westfield. In terms of the male characters, I can’t think about who would ideally play them, particularly the Ripper. He’s so unique and twisted–I can’t think of anyone who would do the role justice.
5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Abbie, William, and Simon must defeat the Ripper once and for all, but he’s not going down without a fight.
6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
RESURRECTION is represented by Jessica Sinsheimer at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency and will be published by Flux/Llewellyn in 2014.
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’m still writing it, but overall, it’s taking me about six months.
8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
This is a difficult question to answer. So many, specifically nineteenth-century books shaped my ideas. Abbie Sharp, in my mind, is like a knife-throwing version of Jane Eyre.
9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
If got the idea for RIPPER during a trip to London a few years ago. But I knew, even then, that I didn’t want the story to just to be about the murders—I wanted to add some paranormal and to have a main character with a complicated past.
10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Max is clever, and this time when he confronts Abbie, he’s not alone. There’s some pretty ferocious fights in the book. The stake are high and the monarchy gets involved in this one–yes, that’s right, Queen Victoria herself. I’m actually flying back to London this spring to walk around some of the settings for these scenes—just to make certain that they’re realistic and vivid to my readers.
Here are some photos from my recent visit to the Carl Sandburg home in Flat Rock, North Carolina. Such a peaceful place!!!
Kami Kinard is the author of The Boy Project: Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister (Scholastic, January 2012). Her poetry, stories, articles, and essays have appeared in periodicals for children and adults. Kami also works as a teaching artist for SC schools, and teaches writing courses for continuing education programs. She lives with her family in balmy, buggy, and beautiful Beaufort, SC.
Recently I finished reading Kami’s middle grade book, The Boy Project. I really enjoyed it—there were so many laugh-out-loud segments. This past week, I interviewed Kami about her process of writing the book, what inspires her, and of course, who she would duel if given the opportunity!
1. So I loved The Boy Project, and I wanted to know a bit about what inspired you to write it. Can you talk about when you first got the idea for the book?
I got the idea for writing The Boy Project after reading my old middle school and high school diaries. As an adult, I hadn’t remembered wanting a boyfriend in middle school, but when I read the diaries it all came back to me. I thought that girls who are in middle school now could relate to that feeling.
2. You do a really great job of making the main character Kara feel authentic—she wants a boyfriend pretty badly. And yet, she comes across as independent and likable. How did you strike that balance as you wrote the book?
Thanks Amy. I think it is important to acknowledge that wanting to be loved is a basic human need, and that wanting that doesn’t make us less independent. I knew I would be criticized by some for writing a book about a girl who wanted a boyfriend – and I have been occasionally – but more often I get fan mail from girls who could really relate to Kara. As I wrote the book, I tried to make sure Kara reflected a normal girl who had talents and personality but who wasn’t afraid to admit that she also wants to be liked by a boy.
3. The Boy Project is a uniquely middle grade novel. Can you talk about the difference between writing a middle grade novel and a young adult novel? What is easier/harder about writing a book specifically for this age group?
Right now, the trend is for middle grade novels to have main characters who are twelve and younger. This in and of itself is a little limiting. You also have to keep the language fairly clean, and although there can be kissing scenes, there can’t be more. There can be allusions to murder, but you wouldn’t show a murder. Usually characters in a middle grade novel won’t smoke or do drugs. There are always exceptions, but these are the general rules.
Since I haven’t written a YA novel, I’m not sure I could say which is harder. One is probably not harder than the other, but you do have more freedom with a YA novel in regards to language and content.
4. What is a typical writing day like for you? And when you write, do you have any special habits? Any favorite snacks that you must have or music that you must listen to as you write?
I haven’t had a typical writing day in a while, sadly. But a good writing day would start out with me walking the dog, then checking email and social media, then writing for a few hours in my small office until I pick up my daughter from school. I have to have quiet when I write, so I don’t listen to music. When I am working on a tough revision, I like to snack on Hot Tamales. It’s a bad habit, but it works for me.
5. What authors inspire you? What are you reading now?
I am currently reading Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen. I love his novels for adults. They are the best kind of crazy. I like funny books, so authors like Hiaasen, Tom Angleberger, and Jeff Kinney inspire me, but I also love beautifully written books like Wonder by R. J. Palacio and Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. J.K. Rowling is also inspiring, of course!
6. I love your blog, Nerdy Chicks Rule, and the “nerdy chicks” you talk about in history and literature. If you could be any heroine in a novel who would you be?
Hmmm. I would be Alice from Alice in Wonderland. That’s what popped into my head, and I’m sticking with it!
7. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do? Do have any favorite hobbies?
I like to create things. Sometimes I paint, sometimes I make jewelry, and sometimes my daughter and I make things for her crafts blog. (www.craftycrafts.wordpress.com)
8. Which character in literature or history would you duel if given the chance? Why?
I’m basically a pacifist, so I’d have a hard time dueling anyone unless we were using Nerf swords. If it came down to that, I think I’d still have to duel with someone like Greg Heffley’s friend Rowley or Barney Fife. Maybe then I would stand a chance…
Thanks so much, Kami, for the great interview answers!
Here’s a summary of The Boy Project:
For anyone who’s ever felt that boys were a different species….
Wildly creative seventh grader, Kara McAllister, just had her best idea yet. She’s going to take notes on all of the boys in her grade (and a few elsewhere) in order to answer a seemingly simple question: How can she get a boyfriend?
But Kara’s project turns out to be a lot more complicated than she imagined. Soon there are secrets, lies, and an embarrassing incident in the boy’s bathroom. Plus, Kara has to deal with mean girls, her slightly spacey BFF, and some surprising uses for duct tape. Still, if Kara’s research leads her to the right boy, everything may just be worth it…
Full of charts and graphs, heart and humor, this hilarious debut will resonate with tweens everywhere.