Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Before writing my newest release, Manny’s Triumph, I set out to research lumber camps. What I came across changed my novel’s conflict completely.

Human trafficking has been in the news for some years now. PBS’s Frontline recently featured sex trafficking in an episode. This became a hot issue in the late 1880s in Wisconsin. I had no idea that once upon a time there weren’t sufficient laws to protect women or punish the victimizers.

An example of a cartoon that ran
with a newspaper article in 1886.
In 1886, newspapers began reporting about young girls enticed with promises of fame by theater agents, something I mention in my novel. These “agents” would then be forced into work as dance hall girls to pay for their costumes and the cost of their travel. The girls would wear risqué clothing and socialize with the men while selling high-priced drink. The bartender physically abused any female who refused. At this point, tales of prostitution didn’t enter into the newspaper reports.

This image accompanied Minnie Pine's
story in the St. Louis Globe.
That changed with Minnie Pine. She came from a good family and had traveled to Iron Mountain, Michigan to be a waitress. According to an article in the St. Louis Globe Democrat (January 24, 1887), the young woman reported that she’d been taken to a heavily guarded brothel. Two women held her down while men used her sexually. Though I’d like to know how she escaped, since that seems like “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say, I couldn’t find those details. Julia Howden had a similar experience in Wisconsin. She was lured by an advertisement for a respectable job and ended up in a brothel guarded by armed men and dogs. (Daily InterOcean, Oct. 28, 1887)

Because of actual victims’ stories, one would believe the law would help. Julia Howden’s imprisonment took place in Marinette, Wisconsin. The prosecutor visited the brothel and decided it was a pleasant place. Hah! He didn’t see any need for the law to be involved.

Dr. Katharine Bushnell
Enter Dr. Katharine Bushnell, a real person who I include as a character in my book. This woman tirelessly traveled around Northern Wisconsin interviewing people and visiting logging camps. She rallied supporters of her cause to help young women such as Julia Howden and Minnie Pine by petitioning lawmakers. Though the governor seemed unwilling to do anything, eventually a law nicknamed the Kate Bushnell law was passed in Wisconsin. For the first time, it was illegal in the state for unmarried women to be abducted and forced into prostitution. Married women, incidentally, were not covered by this law.

Should you wish to read further, I relied heavily on an article by Bonnie Shucha for the William and Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice (Volume 23, issue 1) and https://wisblawg.law.wisc.edu/2015/10/white-slavery-in-the-northwoods-describes-major-19th-cen-sex-trafficking-scandal-in-wi-mi/.

To learn more about the author and her novels, please subscribe at https://mailchi.mp/543792bef24a/marisamasterson.

You can also visit Marisa's website at www.marisamasterson.com.


An excerpt from Manny's Triumph (a sweet romance)

Later that evening she paused outside of the office door. Earlier the man behind the desk, Silas, directed her to a room at the very top of the hotel and left her there to settle in. A meal arrived for her so she hadn’t needed to leave the room. For all of her misgivings after speaking with the owner, she started to feel hopeful again. She had a room to herself, a job, and a full belly.

Now, she could be content with something to read before settling in to sleep. That’s when Silas’s newspaper came to mind. Deciding to see if he left it at the front desk, she crept down the backstairs.

To her relief, no one stood behind the counter. She nosed around freely. Not seeing the paper, she searched the lobby, hoping someone might have left a paper on one of the small tables placed by the sofas. Then she spotted a folded newspaper on the chair next to the office.
Hearing voices behind the door, she moved to quickly grab the paper and leave. Her ears caught the words “the new girl” and she couldn’t resist. She stopped to eavesdrop.
“…weren’t planning to make another trip to Hurley this month. LeClaire won’t be down for at least two weeks. Since that trouble with the Fuller girl, we can’t leave her with Shirleen. You’ll need to take her up to Hurley tomorrow.”
Since the other person spoke quietly, Carlene couldn’t make out the response to those words. What she heard next chilled her. “Don’t leave her without getting the money from LeClaire. He’s sure to buy a lovely little virgin like her, but he’ll try and cheat you since we didn’t arrange the details ahead of time. I wish she wrote like the others did so I could have the brothel owner here.”
A voice that she recognized as belonging to the desk clerk whined, “Why can’t the boss deliver her, Mr. Halderson?”

At that point, she heard footsteps and rushed to hide behind the plant. She put thoughts of the day aside and focused on the here and now.
Peering through the plant’s leaves, Carlene decided that the girl knocking on the office door must be a maid. At the knock on the door, her boss opened it and brusquely asked, “What is it?”
 “Sir, are you wanting me to take a uniform to the new girl’s room?” the maid asked.
“No, I’ve decided she won’t be staying with us Gretchen. If you’ve finished your jobs get to your room now.”
She wasn’t staying? So, the two men had been talking about her. Tomorrow they’d sell her if she stayed here. What would she do?
Since she poured over every newspaper she could get ahold of, she been aghast at news about the white slavery rings in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan. She’d read many editorials criticizing Governor Rusk for refusing become involved with the problem. To actually be trapped by white slavers after reading about them came as a terrible shock to Carlene. Forcing away the terror that held her immobile, she tried to form a plan.
Sister Mary Boniface had advised her about this. “You answer an advertisement at the risk of your virtue,” she’d warned. With that warning in mind, Carlene had asked Sister Magdalena to read through the job notices in each paper with her. She wanted wise counsel on which jobs would be safe.
Both women knew that white slavers lured young women with the promise of theater jobs. That had been reported in more than one paper. Carlene had never heard of entrapping young women by advertising for maids. What a pickle she was in now!
The lobby was quiet again and Carlene decided it was time to leave the camouflage of the potted plant. Poking her head out to be sure no one was there she left the safety of the large plant. Before racing up to her room, she moved first to grab the paper off the chair.
Drats! The man took it with him. She had wanted to check the job notices she felt sure she’d find in it.
Sneaking back up the rear stairs and to her room, she stealthily entered it and locked the door. She refilled her carpet bag with her few possessions she unpacked only a few hours ago. Done, she unlocked her door and peered out into the hall. Seeing it empty she crept down the stairs and into the kitchen. She would exit using the back door in that room.
She slipped into the room and stopped. A maid stood directly in front of her. The girl’s gaze darted from the bag Carlene held to her terrified face. With a pitying glance, she nodded her head and pointed to the door with her chin.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Carlene escaped into a small garden at the back of the hotel. Keeping close to the building, she inched along in the shadows until she reached the boardwalk that ran along the street.
She needed a disguise and a ride to the lumber camp.


  1. What an exciting excerpt! Great post.

  2. This is so very interesting, Thank you for sharing it! The excerpt really makes me want to read your book! I will have to add it to my TBR list. Thank you. God Bless you .

  3. I read the book and it is awesome. What I didn't know was the research behind it. Now I do and it is even more fascinating to me since I was born in WI.