From the New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist comes an enthralling novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs. Constance Kopp doesn't quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family ? and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared. "A smart, romping adventure, featuring some of the most memorable and powerful female characters I've seen in print for a long time. I loved every page as I followed the Kopp sisters through a too-good-to-be-true (but mostly true!) tale of violence, courage, stubbornness, and resourcefulness." ? Elizabeth Gilbert
“Girl Waits With Gun” is historical fiction based on newspaper accounts of threats and violence by silk mill owner, Harry Kaufman, against the three Kopp sisters in Paterson, New Jersey, during 1914 through 1915. Stewart based this tale on newspaper accounts, family members and genealogical research. Although the facts of the events are skeletal, the author embroidered the characters with rich details creating engaging characters reflective of the era.
The saga begins when Kaufman, a reckless, alcoholic lout, hit the horse-drawn buggy of the Kopp sisters with his car, destroying the buggy, and injuring Constance and Fleurette. It ends with a trial brought by the sisters against Kaufman and an offer of employment by the Sheriff to Constance to work as his Deputy.
I particularly enjoyed the struggle of the three sisters to live by themselves on a farm, performing all the chores while enjoying their hobbies. Norma raised and trained carrier pigeons, Fleurette was a talented seamstress, amateur actress and vocalist, and Constance pursued her investigations to bring justice to the downtrodden, protect the innocent and prosecute the guilty. The customs of this gentile era made their lifestyle a challenging anomaly. Men (relatives and husbands) were supposed to support and protect ladies. Women were supposed to be sweet, gentle and innocent, not live by themselves on a farm in the country carrying revolvers to protect themselves from thugs.
Stewart’s story reminded me of the writing of another of my favorite author’s, Fannie Flagg. Both use quirky characters and often innocent women to write entertaining stories. So, step into another era and enjoy “Girl Waits With Gun.”
Stewart found the bare bones true story of one of the country's first female deputy sheriffs and fleshed it out by piecing together genealogical records, newspaper articles, and court documents. Excerpts from actual letters are used, and all the newspaper headlines throughout the book are real.
Constance, Norma, and Fleurette Kopp were raised by their deeply distrustful Austrian mother, and it led to a very strange upbringing indeed. Norma seems to have inherited most of her mother's suspicious nature and just wants to be left alone so she can raise her pigeons. Fleurette, much younger than the other two, is pretty, flighty, willful-- a young woman poised to bring all sorts of calamities raining down upon her sisters' heads if she's not put on the right path. Soon. Constance is the most "normal" of the three, but she harbors her own secrets and thwarted dreams which are told in brief flashbacks. The collision with Henry Kaufman's automobile is in many ways fortuitous. It shakes the sisters out of their limbo, and gives them all a good chance to live lives unencumbered by their mother's prejudices.
But as interesting as this all is, the story moves much too slowly and is in dire need of tightening. Weighing in at over 400 pages, Girl Waits with Gun waddles when it should dance. At about the 300-page mark, Constance should've stopped waiting and fired the gun. Then my mere liking would undoubtedly have turned to unabashed enthusiasm.
With her typical charming and breezy writing style, Stewart did an admirable piece of research for GIRL WAITS WITH GUN. She thoroughly presents the socioeconomics of women in America in 1914. Their place was married and in the home where they were often bullied and treated with disrespect. Three women living alone in the country indeed presents with some problems prevalent at the time. In her novel, Stewart repeatedly depicts the social restrictions women endured, most overtly with the misogynistic and brutal Kaufman gang, the consequences of unplanned pregnancies and the fear of white slavery, but more subtly by their brother Francis’ paternalism, workplace insecurities and the limitations in the types of jobs they could hold. Clearly being a real detective was unacceptable work for Constance in spite of her having a flare for it. Ironically, the woman in charge of hiring store detectives at Wanamaker’s perceives Constance to be inappropriate for the lowly job of floorwalker only because of her large size. She does not even interview her about expertise or motivations. These issues, along with the limitations imposed by crude transportation, domestic arrangements and dress considered unacceptable, as well as the unhealthy conditions experienced by factory workers during this period of our history would have made excellent background for a history of the iconoclastic Constance Kopp, the first American woman detective.
As historical figures, the main characters in this novel are realistic. However, as fictional characters, they make for dull reading because they lack the nuances that are common in contemporary fiction. Constance is a forthright narrator. She is larger than life (quite literally) demonstrating intelligence and persistence. Norma is a consummate pessimist, preferring pigeons to humans. Fleurette is a flighty teenager seeking adventure. Kaufman is an overindulged sociopath. Everyone dutifully acts out his or her particular role in this bland plot chronicling the aftermath of a rather routine traffic accident and the escalating threats by brutal men against three sisters simply for seeking the kind of restitution common enough today with mandatory automobile insurance.
This is the story of Constance Kopp, an unmarried lady living with her two sisters in rural New Jersey in 1914. On a trip to town for supplies, a road accident triggers a dangerous chain of events that changes the women's lives forever. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction!
A trip to town, however, changes everything when their buggy is smashed by a motor car. Naturally enough, the oldest of the three wants to have the driver pay damages. She finds, however that the driver is a local silk factory owner, Henry Kaufman, bent on thuggery and having things his own way.
She persists in obtaining reimbursement and Kaufman and his gang swing into action. They threaten to kidnap the beautiful youngest sister and sell her into white slavery. Bricks with threatening notes are thrown through windows, shots are fired, arson attempted.
None of the town's officials are willing to help the women – they are all well-acquainted with the factory owners' bullying and violence that occurred during a recent strike.
The local sheriff, however stands up, commits his department to end the terrorism and teaches the women, especially the oldest, how to protect themselves and how to obtain the evidence they need if they want to slay a Goliath.
I really enjoyed this story of wonderful, strong women at a time when women have to step outside their proscribed roles to do this. The three sisters (or are they?) are wonderfully realized, each with distinct personalities and interests and quirky enough that I would love to read more and am hoping for a sequel.
The most amazing part is that this story is based on a real incident gleaned from vivid (if a bit melodramatic) newspaper stories and leading to the first woman deputy sheriff in the United States.
Highly recommended for those looking for a light, but not fluffy read.
The sisters are an odd lot, living on their own in a remote farm they are trying to eke out a living from. Their brother Frank lives nearby but can’t be there every minute to protect them. But the local sheriff Robert Heath helps as much as he can.
Girl Waits with Gun is one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a very long time. What a joy to read a novel that doesn’t rely on warmed over plots or the stereotypical characters that seem to populate many mysteries, especially cozies! Girl Waits with Gun is one of a kind.
Much of the tale is based on true stories and the Kopp sisters are entirely real. The author has conjured up a lovely secondary plot all on her own. That involves a fictional but believable young woman who also has a run-in with the horrible Mr. Kauffman, albeit of an entirely different kind.
A little research on Constance Kopp will bring a plethora of newspaper clippings about a woman who’s worth reading about.
With twists and turns and a great deal of very well done historical fact and embellishment, the book is a wonderful read. I hope there will be more fiction from Amy Stewart.
Read as a LibraryThing ARC.
A romping good time! Amy Stewart took a historical figure and truly brought her to life. I can only hope the real Constance was as funny and fierce as the one Stewart imagines.
When an automobile runs into the Kopp sisters' buggy, Constance requests that they be reimbursed for damages. She soon discovers that the man she's demanding reimbursement from isn't a good man and he (or his associates) begin threatening the Kopp sisters. There are chapters interspersed throughout that also give us some of Constance's backstory and provides answers to why the three sisters live in the country alone.
Constance is a large, strong woman –much stronger than Kaufman - who isn't interested in following the usual middle-class pattern of the time of becoming a wife or moving with her sisters into her brother's home to help her sister-in-law with her niece and nephew. When Kaufman mounts an offense of violence, escalating to threats of kidnapping the youngest girl, Fleurette, and blackmail on the sisters, Constance goes to the police. The detectives aren’t helpful, but the local sheriff teaches her how to handle a gun and has deputies check the farm. With the sheriff’s budget stretched thin and his caseload heavy, the women begin to carry guns and try to keep Fleurette, the youngest Kopp girl and target of kidnapping threats, safe, and their home safe from guns and arson. Higher authorities are uninterested in the case until the media becomes fascinated by Constance’s agreement to meet, after dark and alone, with the blackmailer’s agent after a series of gangster-style threats known as Black Hand letters.
Ms. Stewart eloquently shows the grinding, hard labor involved in working a farm at the turn of 20th century and the fear many people have of police. She highlights the difficulties of women who didn’t want to marry or be dependent on a male relative but had few opportunities for work, and does so in an engrossing and humorous way that may keep the reader up late. I admire the fictionalized version of the historical Constance Kopp, love the book, and hope to read more about Miss Kopp’s adventures and more novels by Ms. Stewart.
This book focuses on the sister's run-in with a silk mill owner. He runs into them with his automobile when they are in their buggy to be precise. They submit a bill for damages, which he refuses to pay and Constance won't take no for an answer. Drawn from research of the records of these events, the author gives these women a place to live again, perhaps to be noticed and admired for their courage and strength rather than for the sensationalism of the day.
Stewart does a fine job of reflecting the attitudes of the day. I know this because my grandmother grew up in that time and told me about them. Women didn't live on their own. It wasn't done. When it was done, they were exceptional women. The mistrust of strangers, journalists, lawmen and basically everyone was a real thing. These were years of great transition for women, although it hadn't happened yet, and this story reflects that awakening in the sister's lives. That isn't to say that there are no problems with it. It felt a bit stretched out at the end, but never so much that I lost interest, always there were the descriptions of places, clothing, and such that made it feel as if you were there.
There are to be sequels, I'm assuming having to do with the career of Constance, and I am looking forward to them.
This story began a little slow for me, but ended up being a wonderful historical story about a strong woman that is seemingly out of place for her time. Constance’s character really did grab me from the start, she is strong both mentally and physically, determined and a fierce caregiver to her sisters. As her backstory unfurled, she only became more intriguing and her relationship with Norma and Fleurette became concrete. Each of the sister’s personalities were very distinct and they each had very complex relationships. The conflict that emerged between the Kopp’s and Kaufmann seemed very cut and dry at first, but as time went on more layers of depth emerged in a masterful way. I was also very pleased to know that the story is based on real history and that these real people have been brought to life once again.
This story was received for free in return for an honest review.
i was particularly taken with strong-willed Constance, who goes one to be one of the first Female deputy sheriff's in New Jersey. Also engaging was the kindly Sheriff who makes it his mission to bring justice to the Kopps. The story was enaging and I enjoy works like this which are based upon little known but fascinating real life experience.
Indeed, Constance Kopp was quite a woman for her time. Constance Amelie Kopp was born in 1878 and as an adult was recorded as being six feet tall. Yes, Constance Kopp was a real-life woman and is credited as being one of America’s first female deputy sheriffs. Little is known of the women but what is known paints a most interesting picture. Amy Stewart gathered as much information as she could and the necessary enrichment truly brought her and the people associated with her to being. Girl Waits With a Gun starts off Constance’s story with a buggy accident involving her and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, in 1914. The individual responsible for causing the damage and irreversibly damaging their mode of transportation, was one Henry Kaufman, a wealthy silk factory owner. Constance sends him repeated notices of the amount of damage he is responsible for, $50, and when he fails to respond to her goes to collect from him personally. This sets off a long year of harrassment from Kaufman and his associates where they suffer through having bricks thrown through their windows at night to letters threatening to kidnap their youngest sister Fleurette and sell her into white slavery. Not willing to lay down and accept this, Constance goes to the police with the hope that she can put her trust in them to put a stop to the menace in their lives.
Girl Waits With a Gun was an unexpected delight for me but was much more slower paced than I would have figured. I went into this expecting some sort of crime fiction with a historical flair being that it’s set in 1914. This was decidedly less focused on the crime itself but of Constance and of the story behind her becoming a deputy sheriff, and how it was nothing but a complete accident. This story leaned more towards historical-fiction/cozy mystery territory but is unmistakably the smartest story of the genre I’ve read. It took me a solid week to read this and while I had to pace myself, I never lost any interest in this charming tale.
Constance was a fantastic character and imaginably a remarkable individual in her own right. On Amy Stewart’s website she lists a quote from Constance where she said: “Some women prefer to stay at home and take care of the house. Let them. There are plenty who like that kind of work enough to do it. Others want something to do that will take them out among people and affairs. A woman should have the right to do any sort of work she wants to, provided she can do it.” That was the kind of woman she was, one who refused to fall into typical social expectations of the time. In her earlier years she expressed an interest in pursuing a career, as a lawyer or a nurse, but her mother inevitably discouraged that and kept her at home. The story touches briefly and only occasionally on her past when she was around eighteen years old and what truly molded her into the woman she is today. While I loved her take no crap attitude in her mature years, I really loved seeing this younger part of her that was still coming into her own and learning the ways of the world. The situations she found herself in for that time may have been irreversible and life-changing but not only was she strong-willed but she had a supportive family to back her up. She was quite an inspiring individual and I do hope we haven’t seen the last of Constance Kopp.
“…if I could give her one silent gift […] – it would be this: the realization that we have to be a part of the world we live in. We don’t scurry away when we’re in trouble, or when someone else is. We don’t run and hide.”
The women have divided up the farm duties, Norma engaged herself in raising pigeons and training them to carry messages, and she also cared for the livestock on the farm. Fleurette, the youngest and most excitable did the sewing while Constance was let to do whatever they did not take care of. The three women were on an errand in town when their buggy was run into by Henry Kaufman, the manager of a silk dying factory who spends most of his time with his corrupt gang of friends. He smashes into their buggy causing it to be unusable and is very rude to them. Constance is determined to get reimbursed for the cost of fixing it but that goal leads her into further inciting the ire of Mr. Kaufman, a very criminal character.
The pace was irritatingly slow at times but the characters were fascinating to read about. The story is narrated by Constance who was a very strong woman, physically and determination wise but I developed an affection for Sheriff Heath who with a little bit of a grin or tug at his hat told so much about his personality.
What I enjoyed the most about this book is that there is proof that there were strong willed women during that time who did not bow to the practices of being totally submissive to the men in their lives, in this case, their brother Frances.
I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book as a win from LibraryThing from the publishers in exchange for a fair book review. My thoughts and feelings in this review are totally my own.
It is 1914 and Constance Kopp, a rather lofty lady, refuses to back down after a wealthy factory owner careens into her carriage. Instead of paying her the $50 for damages, he turns the tables and threatens her family. Unwilling to back down, Constance decides to take the law into her own hands…. with the help of Sheriff Heath, of course.
Based on a true story (with a few embellishments), ‘Girl Waits With a Gun’ tells the tale of three sisters tormented by a power hungry silk factory owner. Constance is a strong character and does not back down, even when it is a time when most women would sit submissively by and let others handle it. The side-story of Lucy is added for the reader, as an added tier of intrigue and depth to the account. One complaint I had is the inconsistency of Fleurette’s age-- one minute she is fourteen, the next fifteen, the suddenly she is thirteen and lastly sixteen going on seventeen--- the book took place over less than a year so I found it very distracting. My other complaint, as a history buff, is about the use of police cars; it is 1914 (!!) and cars were not incorporated into use by the NYPD until the mid-1920s. Putting those aside, it was an interesting tale that kept my attention throughout…
The three girls, Constance, Norma, and Fleurette try to just live their lives but one day while in town running errands their cart is hit by a car. Constance insists on chasing the driver for the money to fix the cart not realizing that he is not the type of man to deal honestly with a debt. In fact he’s the type of man to try and kill her rather than pay damages.
What follows is an absolutely fascinating look at Northern New Jersey, the silk dying industry and corruption at the beginning of the 20ieth century. The story is drawn from newspaper articled and other extant materials of the time. Ms. Stewart fleshes out the characters and what she creates is an utterly fascinating book that I was drawn into from the very first paragraph. It’s different, I can’t say that any of the three main characters are really likable and Fleurette is downright annoying but still I couldn’t stop turning the pages. This is one of my favorite books of the year. I’m keeping it to read again when I find that elusive spare time.
One of the best things about this lively, entertaining book is that it’s based on a true story--the newspaper articles printed in the text are real and the catchy title “Girl Waits With Gun” was one of the headlines. Other than the bare facts not a lot is known about the actual sisters, but the author did a great job creating distinct personalities for them. While the story doesn’t have the fastest pace it is suspenseful, and I loved reading all the colorful and evocative details about life in the early days of the last century.
When Constance Kopp confronts Mr. Kaufman about paying for the damages to the sisters' buggy, he refuses to pay. Henry and his friends proceed to harass the Kopp sisters via threatening visits to their farm and Black Hand-style letters. Everyone expects Constance to back down from Henry and his threats, but her stubborn righteousness just won't let her give up. She enlists the sheriff and his deputies to help but when this doesn't work, she pursues it all the way to court involving the media too.
This author has built a well-defined character who is based on the real Constance Kopp and newspaper accounts of the time. Constance went on to become one of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs. I enjoyed this book and I think that Amy Stewart has done an interesting and entertaining job turning her research into a novel.
The Kopp sisters are worryingly independent for 1914 - they live alone on a farm in New Jersey, and have no interest in being under the protection of a male relative. One day, their buggy is hit by a car. They demand payment for damages from the car's driver, and find themselves in way over their heads: it turns out that the driver of the car has gang connections, and they soon find themselves to be the target of a group of criminals. Constace Kopp turns out to have a knack for detective work, and she manages to do more than the local police can do to track down the criminal activities of their harassers.
So on one hand, this is an amateur detective story, along with a classic small-people-in-big-crime story. However, there's a lot more to it than that: it also explores a lot of women's issues without being pedantic, and is a very touching story of the love between sisters, mothers, and daughters, and how women stand up for each other.
On top of that, Amy Stewart writes with a delightful dry humor - there were several laugh out loud moments throughout the book.
I listened to the audiobook: the book works well as an audiobook, and the narrator is very entertaining.