I’m fascinated with strong women, but my definition might differ from the mainstream. I see strength as moral and emotional, not only physical. For example, a heroine doesn’t have to have a black belt in martial arts for me to admire her. I see courage and strength in people who persevere every day in their lives. To be strong is to put one foot in front of the other, triumph despite the odds, and keep on moving regardless of the obstacles put in your way.
Mairi Sinclair was one of those women. As the oldest child of three born to the owner of a newspaper, she wasn’t expected to be anything or aspire to greatness. After all, she was a woman. The second child, Macrath, was expected to support the family on their father’s death and he not only did that, he built an empire. But Mairi had always loved the newspaper and could remember working beside her father for countless hours. She learned to read at the newspaper, could read type backwards easily as she set it. She loved everything about the newspaper and the broadsides she produced, from gathering the news to the smell of the ink.
Living in 1872 Scotland meant that a woman had to use subterfuge in order to successfully run a business and that’s exactly what Mairi did. Macrath was listed as the owner of the Edinburgh Gazette, but she was the head of the paper, its editor, its publisher, and responsible for its day to day success. Although she was annoyed at having to pretend to be her brother in her correspondence, she realized the necessity of doing so in a male dominated society. Women had no power.
One night, however, everything changed.
She’d finally had enough.
Everything started at the Edinburgh Press Club when Mairi was refused admittance to hear her favorite author speak. She was a woman and the Press Club did not admit females. That would be bad enough, but the Lord Provost of Edinburgh witnessed her humiliation. She decided the only way to recoup a little dignity was to tell all of Edinburgh about the incident in a broadside.
When shameful Vice began our streets to tread,
And foul Disease reared his deathlike head,
When the fate of sacred womanhood was profan’d,
And fair Edinburgh’s character was stain’d ;
Then (by the Grace of God) Harrison came,
(Ye residents of Edinburgh tremble at the Name!)
He showed himself to our admiring sight,
Indeed a burning and shining light.
Yet weep my friends for more’s the pity.
He did not labor to clean the city.
He doth not strive to cure the profane
Or clean the vice and scrub the stain,
No, Harrison dared show his face,
Only to keep a woman in her place.
Logan Harrison was secure in his position as Lord Provost. He didn’t have to hide who he was in order to be successful. All of Edinburgh seemed to love the man while the city frowned on her for having penned a broadside about him.
Thus began the push and pull, give and take, win and lose relationship between Mairi and Logan. She wanted to be the Publisher of the Edinburgh Gazette. He just wanted to be with her. When she found herself falling in love, it was the last thing in the world she expected. Yet being strong also meant knowing when to surrender, a lesson that took Mairi Sinclair some time to learn.