Galia Gichon is the author of the new novel The Accidental Suffragist. She also has written the book My Money Matters, and founded the New York-based personal financial advising firm Down-to-Earth Finance.
Q: What inspired you to write The Accidental Suffragist, and how did you create your character Helen?
A: I’m a huge fan of reading historical fiction. I’ve also been fascinated with Susan B. Anthony and the Suffragist movement since I was a teen. Writing this book seemed to be the best way to make this movement come to life in a manner that would also entertain.
I created Helen because I wanted to show the difference class makes by highlighting struggles working women had to overcome to meet their immediate needs. It was even harder for her to follow her passion when she had to work. There was no better way to show this than by creating Helen!
Q: TV anchor and writer Alisyn Camerota said of the book, "Through the telling of this factory worker’s experience, Gichon reminds us of the grave sacrifices so many women made more than a century ago and the debt of gratitude we owe them today as we see Kamala Harris's ascent to Vice President." What do you think of that assessment?
A: I love this assessment. Here we are in 2021, and it’s still so hard for women to get elected and the voting laws are being challenged in many states. Yet any accomplishments that have been made for women in office started with the suffragists’ work and the passage of the 19th amendment.
Q: What did you see as the right balance between fiction and history as you wrote the book?
A: The history was so important to tell and I strived to stay as close to the facts as possible. However, Helen and her family are fictional characters. I wanted to have creative liberty with their voices to tell the historical story in a way that made it entertaining.
I think it’s important to keep as much history as possible in the plot, but to use compelling fictional characters that do the work of bringing that history to life.
Q: What kind of research did you do to write the book, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?
A: I spent plenty of time on historical websites such as these:
Alice Paul Institute https://www.alicepaul.org/
Museum of the City of New York https://www.mcny.org/exhibition/beyond-suffrage
Susan B. Anthony Center http://www.rochester.edu/sba/suffrage-history/
I also read a lot of books, and found photos from that time period to create the story in my own words. I learned about many historical events that I had no idea had happened during that time period. From the 1913 parade to the Silent Sentinels protest. Some things just aren't taught in our school system.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on two new pieces! One is another historical fiction from the ‘60s and ‘70s, also in the feminist genre. I’m also working on a contemporary piece in the feminist genre.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I want The Accidental Suffragist to entertain first and foremost. I also want this book to be an opportunity to remember the historical path women took to create the rights we have today.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb