TIFFANY GIRL – Deeanne Gist
New York – 1893
Florence Jayne is chaffing to get on with her life. At twenty-one, Flossie still lives with her parents, helping her mother sew the beautiful fashions for New York's elite, and attending art classes. But with her father's gambling addiction, she must withdraw from her classes. Frustrated with the fact that all of the money she and her mother bring in from sewing goes directly to her father, and ultimately to betting at the races, Flossie is looking for an escape. And that opportunity comes along when the lead glazers and glass cutters at Tiffany Glass go on strike. When Mr. Tiffany and Mrs. Driscoll, the head of his Women's Department, visit the art studio where Flossie and her classmates are working, Flossie discovers that they are looking for women to take over the men's jobs. Despite her parents' vehement disapproval, Flossie accepts a position at Tiffany's and moves into a boarding house close to the factory.
With the Chicago World's Fair looming and a contract to prepare an exhibit for it – a chapel using every type of glass – Mr. Tiffany's decision to hire women has not gone over well with the strikers. Or other men for that matter. It just isn't right for women to work outside the home. The so-called “New Woman” raises the hackles on most men, especially newspaper journalist and fellow boarding house resident Reeve Wilder. He's most particularly miffed at how Flossie has taken over “his” home, rearranging the dining room seating, encouraging discussion among the residents, playing games, and just being the center of attention. Reeve is awkward in social settings, and his only real friend is Mrs. Dinwiddie, his elderly neighbor in the house. So he decides to bank on this disruption in his life by writing columns in the paper about the New Woman.
Bubbly, vivacious Flossie starts her new career with enthusiasm, hoping to be one of the girls selected to attend the Chicago World's Fair to represent Tiffany's. Not all of her fellow workers appreciate her level of optimism, and there is some rivalry among them. Then Flossie has to go home to deal with the sullen Mr. Wilder, who is hot and cold when it comes to being social. The residents enjoy reading the local newspaper's new column The Merry Maid of Mumford Street , a story about boarding house inhabitants. Flossie has also read Wilder's scathing reports on the New Woman and wants to try to understand his mind.
There are probably not two people more different than Flossie, spoiled and loved by her parents, and Reeve, who lost his mother at a young age and was raised by his cold grandparents. Flossie looks for the good in everyone; Reeve doesn't trust anyone but Mrs. Dinwiddie, but living so closely with Flossie, it's difficult for him not to see her in a different light. Maybe the New Woman is right?
TIFFANY GIRL is a microcosm of life in Victorian New York. Women are starting to branch out of the home and marriage, learning skills and becoming independent. Times are tough, and most men think the New Woman is an abomination, but this is the beginning of the end for their old way of life. I thoroughly enjoyed this well researched novel.