By Janis Robinson Daly
While one branch of my family has roots in Philadelphia, I am a Boston girl through and through, from my accent to cans of baked beans in my pantry, to the Patriots flag that hangs over our driveway. Like many facing the finality of kids who have grown and flown, I searched for a new hobby to occupy my time and mind. I discovered it within return hits from a search on my great-great-grandfather, He took an active part in founding the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia.
Inspired by that line, more research ensued, as ideas for a novel formed. The stories of the early graduates of the Woman’s Medical College needed to be told and celebrated. Who would tell them? If not me, then who? If not now, then when? With a love of history and plot and themes sketched, I enrolled in a creative writing course to hone my skills. Combining years of extensive research, feedback from writers’ conferences, beta readers, and editors, and with a contract in hand from indie press Black Rose Writing, I published The Unlocked Path ten weeks after my 60th birthday. My next chapter had begun.
The Unlocked Path presents a “New Woman” of the 20th century: educated, career-minded, independent Eliza Pearson Edwards. In 1897 Philadelphia, after witnessing her aunt’s suicide, Eliza rejects her mother’s wishes for a society debut, and at a time when five percent of doctors are female, she enters a woman’s medical college. With the support of a circle of women and driven by a determination to conquer curriculum demands, battle sexism, and overcome doubts, Eliza charts her new life path. Combining science and sympathy, she triumphs to heal others and herself.
Organic Chemistry may slay her, if the strain of endless study, odoriferous labs, and gruesome surgeries don’t claim her first. As a young intern, she summons a forthright confidence asserting her abilities to those mistrustful of a woman doctor. Through her work with poverty-stricken patients, she defines her version of suffrage work to champion women’s rights for and beyond the right to vote. Love is found, love is lost. During a visit to the fairy-tale-like city of Newport, a new relationship may fulfill her desires. By 1912 Eliza moves to Boston, using her medical skills to assist at settlement houses in the South and West Ends. When global events devolve into chaos with the 1918 influenza pandemic and a world war, Eliza renews her vow to help and heal.
Janis Robinson Daly grew up in Needham and remained in MA, graduating with a B.A. in Psychology from Wheaton College, at the time, an all-women’s college. At Wheaton, she developed an appreciation of the supportive relationships established between women and a heightened awareness of female-centric issues. Both directed her writing of “The Unlocked Path.” After raising her sons in Norfolk and working in Boston, Waltham, and Wrentham, she and her husband and rescue pup now split their time between Cape Cod, NH, FL, and hotels along Route 95. She has spoken at over 20 MA libraries and joined many local book clubs for an author presentation. This June, she’ll be at the Nantucket Book Festival. You can learn more about Janis, her novel, local appearances, and how to book her for an event at http://www.janisrdaly.com.