The Glass Ceiling

Kathleen DelaneyKathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to talk about the strides women have made in recent decades, particularly in gaining writing credibility.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016.

July was a memorable month, especially for women. No matter what your politics or who your choice for president, we can be proud as a country we nominated a woman to be a major party candidate.

Other countries like England and Germany, our closest allies, have had women leaders for years. This is our first time a woman has been considered and it’s long overdue.

I’m old enough to remember a time when a woman on any presidential ticket wasn’t even a remote possibility, when women in congress were an anomaly. California was, I believe, the first to elect two women to the senate. That created quite a stir in some circles but they’ve gone on to be highly competent leaders.

Over the last few decades women have seen lots of changes. Some loom large, others smaller and more personal, all of them important. Women now head some large corporations, many more head families. They work as doctors as well as nurses, run universities but many still teach kindergarten. They can obtain financing to start their own businesses and get credit cards in their own names, all things they couldn’t have done only decades ago. Did you know that until 1952 there were no individual Olympic individual events for women? Today, there are many.

Purebred DeadI remember my mother-in-law telling me she had to have a man co-sign for the GI Loan she  used to buy a house after WW2. She was a war widow with two children and eligible in every way except she wasn’t a man. I’ve bought and sold six houses since my husband and I divorced and that includes rental property.

Women have always been writers. Well, not always. I’m not sure they were among those who wrote stories on the walls of caves or decorated the tombs in ancient Egypt. Women didn’t get an education nearly as soon as boys did, in more than one culture it wasn’t deemed necessary. But once they learned to read, they wrote. For years their biggest problem wasn’t putting words on paper but trying to get those words taken seriously. Publishers assumed if you were a woman your writing wasn’t worth much, and certainly wouldn’t sell like books written by men. Their work was just meaningless dabbling or, like the works of Louisa May Alcott, only light reading for girls or women. Only men wrote literature. Alcott’s work has lasted over a hundred years and is certainly literature.

Somehow they conveniently forgot about people like George Sand, whose books were widely considered to be important works of literature. Surprise. George was a she. Perhaps they considered Agatha Christie, whose mysteries outsold almost anyone and were read by men and women alike, to be an anomaly. Other women simply weren’t capable of repeating her performance. Not true. Many were and did.

To get around this preconceived notion, many women wrote under initials or a man’s name.  As such, they were published, got reviewed and people actually bought and read their books.

Not too terribly long ago, a bunch of women mystery writers got tired of getting no reviews, of only getting the good publishing contracts if they wrote under a man’s name or were collaborating with a man, and they formed a group to help women mystery writers. Sisters in Crime was born.

Little by little, thanks to some exemplary women writers and organizations such as Sinc, women have taken their place alongside men as writers of darn good fiction and they’ve done it in a lot of genres.  Lots of them still write romance but the ones that do don’t write much about tender maidens swooning at a smile from the man of their dreams. They throw open the bedroom door and what happens then will steam up the windows.

Curtains for Miss PlymToday many of our best crime writers, in both the mystery and suspense fields, are women. Their plots, character descriptions, ability to take you on a roller coaster of a journey, will have you biting your nails during the most suspenseful scenes, and closing the book after the last chapter with regret the journey is ending, but with great satisfaction you took it. Finally, today’s women writers can see their names on the fronts of their books and point to them with pride. These woman have set the bar high for those of us who follow in their footsteps.

So, a big thank you, ladies, for taking on that ‘glass ceiling’. You’ve all done a remarkable job of cracking it. Where do we go from here? Hopefully, to more brothers in our sisters in crime organization and to even better books and to the day we will simply say, now that’s a good writer. No pronoun involved.

We get closer every day.