Short Stories and Historical Fiction
Revolutionary Women is a compilation of short stories about women who, in the 1960s and 70s worked in traditionally male-oriented jobs—unintentional trailblazers for women’s rights. Elaine interviews these fascinating women and explores what it was like to be among the first women hired for a “man’s position” in the workplace. It was a time of tumultuous cultural and social change for both men and women and these stories reveal how women were both sabotaged and accepted. Featured are San Francisco’s first female firefighters, a UPS freight truck driver, an Army soldier, a USPS mail carrier, a pest control exterminator, a county septic and water systems biologist, and a PG&E utility line worker.
Genre: Historical Fiction
In 1925, Polish immigrant Jenny Rigelski finds herself a widow at age 31 when her husband, a railroad company supervisor, dies in a freak train accident. Already a practicing apothecary and owner of a general store, she struggles to support her four children by selling groceries and creating herbal elixirs for her neighbors. As an apothecary, she receives legal alcohol to make her herbal remedies. Her husband’s friends suggest she formulate and sell bathtub gin as a supplement to her income. Their wives encourage Jenny as they know it will keep their men away from the speakeasies. She decides to disguise the gin as an herbal potion and then branches out to home-brewing.
The railroad workers, neighbors and friends stop by the store regularly to buy her mason jars of gin. They work hard to keep it a secret from outsiders. Police officers also lust after her concoctions and vow to keep her production a secret while offering her protection. Her bathtub gin business booms. As bootleg gangs get wind of her activities they start causing trouble. The railroad workers, her neighbors, her children and the police dream up an elaborate plan that goes to extreme lengths to hide her batches of gin. Together, they run off the intruders. Afterward, Jenny continues to run her gin business without interruption until Prohibition ends and her children graduate from college. She eventually sells her herbal and medicinal formulas and apothecary business to Walgreens and retires to California.
This story is based on the author’s grandmother who made bathtub gin during Prohibition.