With its wholesome sleuthing by an amateur detective, Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder can be classified as a cozy mystery. But I’ve added more than the solving of a murder.
The book takes place over the course of a year, 1979-1980, and I’ve tried to capture the times. The setting is a small town in eastern North Carolina named Narrow Creek (made up; remember, this is fiction).
What isn’t made up is what was happening with the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in North Carolina at the time. If you’re as old as I am, you may remember the battle over its passage (which, incidentally, never happened).
To refresh your memory: the ERA read “Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
It had been approved by Congress in 1972 but needed ratification by 38 states within an initial seven-year deadline to become law. In 1979, the bill was three states short of passing, and North Carolina was a holdout.
How to include this social issue in the book?
I have Dee Ann see a sign in the teacher’s lounge announcing a meeting at the town’s library featuring pro-ERA speakers from Raleigh. She decides to go. Here’s part of what happens:
“Despite what Phyllis Schlafly and her Stop-ERA cronies would have people believe, the Equal Rights Amendment is simply about guaranteeing women the same rights, benefits, and privileges as men, ” Betty began. “To quote Alice Paul, who spearheaded the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote, ‘There is nothing complicated about equality.'”
Suddenly a voice came from the back. “Who wants to be equal to men? Most women enjoy being put on a pedestal. I know I do.” I turned to see who’d interrupted the speaker and locked eyes with none other than Tippy Gaylord.
“I’d appreciate the chance to speak before fielding comments from the audience,” Betty replied, unruffled.
“Personally, I’m not going to sit through whatever communist propaganda you intend to spout off. I came only to warn these impressionable young women here tonight not to believe anything they hear from you liberal feminists.” Tippy Gaylord made the word feminists sound like a profanity while glaring at us “impressionable young women.” Her disapproving stare lingered on me. I hoped she didn’t recognize me from her Fourth of July party. Maybe all the wives of the men who worked for her husband looked alike to her….”
Did Tippy Gaylord recognize Dee Ann? Were there repercussions for husband Joe at work since his wife had boldly attended an ERA meeting?
What does this circa 1979 button pictured below have to do with the ERA? These questions will be answered in Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, due to be released soon.