Letter to the editor: Cut from Strong Cloth

Written by Linda Harris Sittig

In response to the review of my novel Cut from Strong Cloth (HNR 72), I would like to remind the reviewer that every society has many classes of people with distinct standards and codes of conduct. While a wealthy or even middle-class woman of the period might not leave home without corsets and petticoats, the working-class Irish immigrants of pre-Civil War Philadelphia did not always adhere to those dictates.

My novel is not a history text, but historical fiction, and when I included the character of the backwoods woman, I did so after reading about the desperation of poverty-laden widows in rural America of 1860.

As I stated in the Author’s Notes, Cut from Strong Cloth is based upon the life of my great-grandfather’s first wife, Ellen Canavan, whose manufacturing efforts influenced military history when she helped to design a new type of textile for soldiers’ uniforms and sold it to the U.S. government.

In the acknowledgments I thanked the numerous institutions and historians who helped me authenticate the research behind the book. To further ensure the accuracy of story details, I traveled to each geographic location in the story and read local diaries, newspaper articles, and multiple non-fiction texts about pre-Civil War Philadelphia and Savannah, in order to validate Ellen’s struggle to succeed.

–Linda Harris Sittig