March 27, 2013

Author's Notes: What Was the Inspiration for The Secret Society of Sugar and Spice?

While researching nineteenth century orphanages in Minneapolis and St. Paul for my first book, Big Stone Heart, I happened upon an article in the periodical Minnesota History entitled "With Wise and Benevolent Purpose; Poor Children and the State Public School at Owatonna, 1885-1915" by Priscilla Ferguson Clement (Spring, 1984). The State School, as it was called, was established by law, opening in 1886 with the purpose of transferring children from poorhouses and from impoverished natural families to farm homes after a period of interim institutionalization.  One of the provisions of the law was to allow indigent parents to commit their children to the School.  Once the parent or parents signed the commitment papers, the children became a ward of the state.  All relationships with the parents were severed. Although the intent was honorable, as so often happens, there were unexpected consequences.

What must it have felt like to be cast aside by their parents, abandoned, left in an institution.  How would  these children have coped with the hurt, the resentment, the anger?  Thus was born the Secret Society of Sugar and Spice: a group of girls who shared a similar fate; who banded together to save runaway girls from suffering as they had suffered; whose mission helped dull the pain by giving purpose to their lives.

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