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Something Worth Doing

Jane Kirkpatrick

  “I have long admired Jane Kirkpatrick’s rich historical fiction, and Something Worth Doing is well worth reading! Oregonian Abigail Duniway is a vibrant, fiercely passionate, and determined activist who fought for women’s suffrage. Women of today have cause to respect and admire her—as well as the loving, patient, and supportive husband who encouraged her to continue ‘the silent hunt.’”

  Francine Rivers, author of Redeeming Love

  “On the trail to Oregon, young Jenny Scott lost her beloved mother and little brother and learned that no matter what, she must persist until she reaches her goal. Remembering her mother’s words—‘a woman’s life is so hard’—the young woman who became Abigail Scott Duniway came to understand through observation and experience that law and custom favored men. The author brings alive Abigail’s struggles as frontier wife and mother turned newspaper publisher, prolific writer, and activist in her lifelong battle to win the vote and other rights for women in Oregon and beyond. Jane Kirkpatrick’s story of this persistent, passionate, and bold Oregon icon is indeed Something Worth Doing!”

  Susan G. Butruille, author of Women’s Voices from the Oregon Trail, now in the 25th anniversary edition

  Praise for One More River to Cross

  “Based on true events, Jane Kirkpatrick’s One More River to Cross (Revell, 2019) is the remarkable tale of a wagon train’s attempt to cross the Sierra Nevada during winter.”

  World Magazine

  “Jane Kirkpatrick has turned a scrap of history into a story of courageous women strong enough to meet the challenges of nature—and of men. Starting with a footnote about a group of 1844 pioneers caught in snows of the California Sierra, Kirkpatrick weaves a tale of extraordinary women (oh, and a few men too) who fight blizzards and starvation to save those they love.”

  Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author

  “What an incredible journey this novel is! Without ever trivializing or sentimentalizing the harshness of the circumstances, Kirkpatrick centers her novel on the bonds of community, family, and friendship that sustained these strong, complicated women through a harrowing winter trapped in the Sierra Nevada. There’s not a false note in this book. It’s moving and beautifully told, and I absolutely loved it.”

  Molly Gloss, award-winning author of The Jump-Off Creek and The Hearts of Horses

  “I can wholeheartedly recommend the book. Jane gets the facts as right as they can be got out of the stories of the various participants in the experience of the winter of 1844–45 in the Sierra Nevada of California. Anyone can tell you what it was like—dirty and hungry and cold and lonely. Jane puts the heart-pounding, breath-taking, adrenaline-soaked feelings into the thoughts and the mouths of the people who lived the experience as real-time commentary on the events. The thoughts and words may not be exactly what those folks were thinking and feeling, but I believe in my heart they could be.”

  Stafford Hazelett, editor of Wagons to the Willamette

  “Award-winning western writer Jane Kirkpatrick tells the remarkable story of survival of the Murphy-Stephens-Townsend Overland Party of 1845, the first to bring wagons through the Sierra Nevada into California. Unlike the great loss of life suffered by the tragic Donner Party the following year, all fifty members of the party survived, despite harrowing ordeals in mountain snows, often with nothing to eat but tree bark. As with so many of Jane’s books, she tells the story of the women who are so often ignored in western histories—giving birth along the trail; enduring their own illnesses to comfort near-starving children; taking charge in emergencies, such as helping rescue a drowning man or a stranded horse; and resisting men who try to shout them down when they insist on being heard. And don’t overlook Jane’s acknowledgments at the end where she says she hopes this story ‘might celebrate the honor of self-sacrifice, the wisdom of working together, and the power of persevering through community and faith.’ This wonderful new book accomplishes this, and more.”

  R. Gregory Nokes, author, former editor for the Oregonian

  Also by Jane Kirkpatrick

  One More River to Cross

  Everything She Didn’t Say

  All She Left Behind

  This Road We Traveled

  The Memory Weaver

  A Light in the Wilderness

  One Glorious Ambition

  The Daughter’s Walk

  Where Lilacs Still Bloom

  A Mending at the Edge

  A Tendering in the Storm

  A Clearing in the Wild

  Barcelona Calling

  An Absence So Great

  A Flickering Light

  A Land of Sheltered Promise

  Hold Tight the Thread

  Every Fixed Star

  A Name of Her Own

  What Once We Loved

  No Eye Can See

  All Together in One Place

  Mystic Sweet Communion

  A Gathering of Finches

  Love to Water My Soul

  A Sweetness to the Soul


  Sincerely Yours

  Log Cabin Christmas

  The American Dream


  Promises of Hope for Difficult Times

  Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community, and Craft

  A Simple Gift of Comfort

  A Burden Shared

  Homestead: A Memoir

  © 2020 by Jane Kirkpatrick

  Published by Revell

  a division of Baker Publishing Group

  PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

  Ebook edition created 2020

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

  ISBN 978-1-4934-2664-5

  Scripture used in this book, whether quoted or paraphrased by the characters, is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.

  This book is a work of historical fiction based closely on real people and events. Details that cannot be historically verified are purely products of the author’s imagination.

  Published in association with Joyce Hart of the Hartline Literary Agency, LLC.




  Half Title Page

  Also by Jane Kirkpatrick

  Title Page

  Copyright Page



  Character List


  Part 1

  1. Making Her Own Map

  2. Courting or Confrontation

  3. The Hesitating Heart

  4. The Timing of Love

  5. The Vagaries of Choice

  6. Early Storms

  7. A Clearing in the Fog

  8. Brooms of the World

  9. Ora et Labora

  10. Life, Death, and What Is Sure

  11. Surety

  12. The Farmer

  13. Going On

  14. Refresher

  15. Moving and Moving Forward

  Part 2

  16. The Direction of Light

  17. Misfortune’s Middle Name

  18. The Stars and Spoils

  19. An Editorial Option

  20. Tend and Befriend

  21. Building the Ladder

  22. The California Connection

  Part 3

  23. Getting Ducks in Order

  24. Sh

  25. First Hurdle

  26. The Moving World

  27. Drawing Closer

  28. Thirty Years and Counting

  29. Victory or Defeat?

  30. Postmortem

  31. The Things That Sustain

  32. No Worry in the World

  33. Abigail Scott Duniway Day


  Author’s Notes and Acknowledgments

  Discussion Questions

  About the Author

  Back Ads

  Back Cover

  Dedicated to the ever hopeful,

  especially Jerry

  A storm was coming

  But that’s not what she felt.

  It was adventure on the wind

  And it shivered down her spine.


  Character List

  Abigail Jane (Jenny) Scott Duniway—daughter, wife, mother, farmer, teacher, milliner, novelist, owner/editor of The New Northwest, nationally known suffragist

  Benjamin Duniway—husband of Abigail, horse trainer, farmer


  Mary Francis—Fanny





  John Henry—Little Toot, Jerry

  Sarah Maria—Maria

  Mary Gibson—Ben’s sister

  *Shirley Ellis—friend of Abigail, wife, mother, divorcee, suffragist

  John Tucker Scott—Patriarch of the Scott family

  Susan B. Anthony—friend of Abigail, president of National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA)


  Clara Belle






  *Harold Bunter—suitor and nemesis of Abigail

  *Eloi Vasquez—second husband of Shirley Ellis, California attorney

  Sarah Wallace—member of Stephens-Murphy-Townsend wagon train and president of California suffragist association

  *fully imagined characters


  JUNE 1852


  Her dreams of late had been of books with maps of unknown places. Jenny Scott wished she were dreaming now instead of sitting here beside the family wagon, a gushing stream to serenade them. They’d left Illinois two months previous—2 April 1852. She had written the date in the family journal she’d been assigned to keep as they crossed the continent. Since that first roll-out of wagons toward the west, Jenny traveled without maps. She needed them to help her reduce the fear and anxiety of the unknown; but she did not have them. Though only seventeen, she’d already learned that living required coming to terms with uncertainty—not that she did that well. She had lost another kind of map as well—the map of her mother.

  A different kind of pain awaited this June afternoon.

  “The agony will be worth it.” Jenny spoke with conviction as she eyed the fat needle her new friend blackened in the flame. Then, “Won’t it?”

  “It does have a sting,” Shirley Ellis said. “Fair warning.”

  Jenny lifted the dark curls to hold them behind her ears. She thought of her hair as unruly with its thickness and natural twists that made morning brushing a chore. She envied her brothers who kept their hair short, curls under control.

  Kate, Jenny’s twelve-year-old sister, patted Jenny’s shoulder while Shirley continued. “Shakespeare had this done and even biblical Jacob gave a pair to Rachel way back when. The pain has to come before the glory.”

  “Ha,” Jenny said.

  “I’m here to comfort you,” Kate said, “but I don’t understand why you want to hurt yourself for fashion.”

  Ignoring her sister, Jenny took a deep breath. She sat on a three-legged stool they used to milk the cow. The stool did double duty as a seat for medical ministrations. Jenny squeezed her eyes shut. “Go ahead. Do it.”

  Kate pinched her sister’s earlobe as hard as she could, then said to Shirley, “Now.”

  The pain of the needle seared. Her sister’s pinching simply wasn’t enough to dull the agony. But at least Jenny felt misery for something physical instead of the heartache she’d carried since the deaths. Did I know that physical pain could distract from emotional hurting?

  She felt the blood trickle down her neck as Shirley pulled the needle out. “It’s a good thing I have a strong stomach,” Jenny said. Kate dabbed at Jenny’s bleeding earlobe. They’d have to soak the handkerchief to rid it of the red. “Are you certain that Jacob gave Rachel a pair of earrings? What chapter and verse?”

  “I don’t really remember,” Shirley said. She had thick, naturally arched eyebrows that framed her blue eyes. “It’s too late for second thoughts, though if you don’t put the pin through, it’ll grow new flesh right over the hole.” Shirley dabbed at Jenny’s ear with a clean handkerchief, then wiped the needle, and now rolled it in the flame again until blackened.

  “Ready,” Jenny said.

  She straightened her back. Kate pinched the other ear and Jenny closed her eyes. The second piercing commenced. Her older sister Fanny, standing to the side, winced. It took a team.

  “Finished. And you didn’t even faint,” Shirley said.

  Kate dabbed at the blood on Jenny’s cheek, then held out the tourmaline-studded gold rings. “I’ll put them in for you.”

  Jenny felt the metal push into her ears, surprised again at the sting and pain.

  “You’ll have to twirl them a few times a day until they heal,” Shirley warned. “You don’t want the skin to attach itself to the rings.” She eyed the earrings now adorning Jenny’s ears. “They’re really pretty with that one gold gem in the middle of the disc. A good size too. Won’t draw too much attraction.”

  “Isn’t attraction the point though?” Kate said.

  “The point,” Jenny corrected, “is not adornment but memorializing. Momma loved these. She got them from Grandma who received them from her mother, and she left them to me.”

  “I thought one of the stones like those we covered Momma’s grave with was your memorial keepsake. You insisted to Papa that you had to put that rock in the wagon.” Fanny dabbed Jenny’s other ear with a bit of whiskey kept only for medicinal purposes.

  “You can’t have too many mementos, I say.” Shirley wiped the needle with the liquor, then put it back into her fabric sewing kit attached to her bodice.

  “It’s more than a memento. Earrings and rocks and a cut of hair, they’re all ephemera, items of the historical record that are neither documents nor maps,” Jenny said. She touched her ear and winced.

  “I’m sorry.” Kate leaned in.

  “What’s a little smarting in memory of our momma who endured so much bringing us into the world, and then had to leave it so prematurely? She didn’t want to leave Illinois, you know. I heard her tell Papa that they’d always lived on a frontier, and now civilization was catching up to them so couldn’t they stay and enjoy it. Papa said no.” Tears welled in her eyes while her stomach clenched with anger. It wasn’t fair, it just wasn’t.

  “Will you take some item for . . . your friend too?” Fanny asked. Her voice was gentle. A boy Jenny had met on the trail had drowned not long after their mother’s death.

  “One earring for Momma and the other for him. And then no more.” She took the mirror Shirley handed her, turned her head from side to side to admire the earrings. “No more sadness. I’ve had enough.” She stood and with conviction declared, “I will control it.”

  Their brother Harvey sauntered by as Jenny made her declaration of sending grief away. Harvey, with his good looks and opinions, walked backward away from them then, saying, “You can’t control anything, you females. Not a thing. Lucky for you us men protect you.”

  “Ha!” Jenny shouted after him as he turned his back to them, striding off as though he owned the land, the stream—his future. “No one knows what they can accomplish unt
il they undertake it.” Fanny, Shirley, and Kate nodded agreement.

  And so Abigail Jane “Jenny” Scott set forth to do the best she could to prove her brother—and all men—wrong. Girls had power too. One day, she’d show them.


  Making Her Own Map

  APRIL 1853



  A spring rain pattered on the shake roof of the schoolhouse near the little settlement of Cincinnati, six miles south of Salem. To Jenny, it sounded like the clapping of children’s gloved hands connecting in a steady, soothing rhythm. Jenny shook her thick curls of the mist she’d ridden through to get to the structure before her students arrived. Her first day of teaching had begun with fixing meals for boarders at her father’s inn, then riding several miles warmed by the congratulations of her sisters. Despite less than a year of formal schooling back in Illinois, she’d passed the teacher’s test and been hired. She’d board out with a district family who paid their child’s fees by offering a bed and meals to the teacher during the week. She’d ride home on Friday to help again at the inn.

  Her mother would be proud. It had been her mother’s snippets of wisdom offered through the years while cornbread baked or she stitched a pantaloon that created Jenny’s educational foundation. Either due to illness or her need to be home as the third oldest child, Jenny had been less than a year inside an Illinois schoolhouse. It was her parents’ love of reading, the many books and newspapers available to peruse, and her mother’s conveying facts and figures through stories that had prepared Jenny for this day. Some of the newspapers, like the Lily that promoted women’s issues or Horace Greely’s New York Tribune that railed against slavery, were considered unusual for their frontier family to acquire, but the Scott children had all been allowed to read them as soon as they were able.

  For Jenny, education was critical for boys and girls to grow to make good choices and be wise citizens too. This schoolhouse was her arena to awaken minds to the possibilities of their lives even when others appeared to control their destiny. She controlled what would happen here, the minds she’d affect, yes, but personally, this job granted her a chance to draw her own independent map. It gave her a level of freedom she never saw her mother have. Anne Scott had birthed twelve children, lived to bury two, and once told Jenny she was sorry she had brought girls into the world, as their lot was harder than the boys and would always be. It had been a warning. As a respected teacher, Jennie would chart her own course. It was one of the few professions allowed a woman outside of the home. Operating a boardinghouse or a millinery made up the only other two. That Lily editor had risked more than her design of the bloomer costume by running a newspaper. Jenny was grateful her father let that broadsheet into their house, or perhaps he didn’t realize a woman was at its head. But her mother did and she’d made sure Jenny knew it. Another snippet of sagacity perhaps.