Rhys Bowen and Clare Broyles discuss what’s in store for Molly Murphy ‹ Storyva – True Crime Story

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Rhys Bowen is now collaborating on the Molly Murphy Mysteries with her daughter Clare Broyles, which allows the two writers to work on a topic of great importance to both of them: women’s rights.

RHYS: It’s funny how characters take on a life of their own, the moment a writer creates them. We can only follow helplessly as they forge a path for themselves and go in directions we never expected them to. When I started writing the Molly Murphy Mysteries I never pictured that Molly would become a champion for women’s rights. It was not my intention to write a treatise, highlighting the abuses against women. I just wanted to tell good stories about the immigrant experience and let us watch Molly making her way slowly through the melting pot of early Twentieth Century New York City.

CLARE: Molly has struggled so much since arriving in New York and now she has everything she has longed for. That can be a very strange place in life. While you are struggling you might believe that a husband, a child, a house could and should make you happy. Now that Molly has those things, she is really grateful, but also still longing for something more. What more was there for a woman in 1907?

RHYS: Married women in New York had no rights—the husband was head of the household. He owned the property, including what the wife brought to the marriage. He could legally beat her with a stick no bigger than his thumb. It took just his signature plus that of a doctor to have her locked up in a mental asylum. If she tried to leave the marriage, she could not take the children with her.  It’s no wonder that Molly becomes an outspoken voice for other women.

CLARE: Molly’s husband, Daniel, is a good man, although readers have consistently complained that he demeans her and orders her around. He acts as a man from his era would act, even a good man. Men, as well as women, were bound by the social norms and the laws of the time. Daniel is legally responsible for Molly. He also has been raised to think that women are more delicate and need protecting. But I think Molly is slowly changing his mind! Molly is part of an evolution of women’s rights that began before her and continues to this day.

RHYS: Early in the series Sid and Gus come on the scene—a  Bohemian couple who defy society and live as they please. They become Molly’s big sisters and protectors. And through them Molly becomes involved in the women’s suffrage movement. She sees the injustices women have to suffer in sweat shops and gets involved in the Ladies Garment Worker’s Union. She rescues a Chinese concubine. She never hesitates to speak up, sometimes to her peril. In the new Molly Murphy novel, WILD IRISH ROSE, things have come full circle for Molly: a young Irishwoman, who looks much like her, has been accused of murder on Ellis Island. Now it is Molly who becomes the champion she herself never had, fighting to clear the woman’s name.

CLARE: Now that Molly feels at home in New York and is not just thinking about survival, she is feeling her way, exploring what kind of life will give her the freedom to be herself. Her husband’s job as a police captain offers her a chance at upward mobility, but she is not sure that she wants that. Social class and riches didn’t necessarily offer a woman more freedom. Molly was born to a working-class family and she carries a working class view into her new life. She takes a lot of pride in keeping her house clean, caring for her son and feeding her husband. She knows that she is as good a detective as any man out there if she only had the chance to prove herself!

RHYS: It is not hard to write about Molly’s struggles as an intelligent woman who is also a wife and mother because we have had those struggles ourselves. I came to America at a time that most women left work when they got married. I am a part of the same evolution of women’s rights as Molly. I remember when I got the first credit card in my name that my husband didn’t have to sign for. That was less than fifty years ago. And I still have trouble being taken seriously at a bank or a car dealership if my husband is present. The men always want to talk to him and have him explain the deal to me. Even when I am the one opening the bank account or buying the car!

CLARE: And I am a part of the same evolution as Molly. I have two degrees, I have run theater and art programs, composed music and been a successful teacher but when our children were small I was always asked about my children while my husband was asked about his job. I was part of the ‘Mommy wars’ in which women who stayed home with children were pitted against women who worked. As women, Rhys and I can write about Molly’s struggles because we are part of the same struggle. And my daughter is part of that struggle too. And hopefully because of the work that real women did in Molly’s time and Rhys did in hers and I did in mine the struggle will be a little less for her.

The Kirkus review for the new book, Wild Irish Rose, begins:  A marriage is imperiled by that age-old threat: a wife’s desire to continue sleuthing, and ends : the clever and adventurous heroine dissects a complicated mystery while standing up for women’s rights.

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