On Rose Blake - heroineRose’s circumstances as a historical character trapped in a life of prostitution that was as cruelly enforced 150 years ago in industrial England as it is today, is not extraordinary nor forced creative license.
Among numerous readings I learned about Mary Woolstoncraft who has been called “the first feminist” or the “mother of feminism” and whose influence was quite strong in mid-19th century England.
I also found the following tragic quote while researching how I might portray Rose.
“The getting of fresh girls is easy enough. I have gone and courted girls in the country under all kinds of disguises, occasionally assuming the dress of a parson ...and got them in my power to please a customer.... I bring her up, take her here and there, give her plenty to eat and drink, especially drink. I contrive it so that she loses her last train ...I offer her nice lodgings for the night ...my client gets His maid." - THE ENGLISH- A SOCIAL HISTORY: 1066-1945, Christopher HibbertMy larger priority in writing And Should We Die was always authenticity and consistency in historical details of the actual handcart experience. The England context was based on readings and study of available personal journals and recollections as well as published histories such as Hibbert’s above.
Furthermore for a sense of mood and social environment, I was counseled that I might also take a long look at the writings of Dickens whose David Copperfield, for example was not that dissimilar to the background of what I needed for the Blake family circumstance when found by Jake Hannah and Turner Cole.
The greater priority for Rose was the exploration of the literal difficulties of conversion not so much from one religion to another but of an attempt to change – based on spiritual values – of a way of life condemned by Christian religion.
Rose then does not appear as an innocent almost diva-like beauty more related to stereotypical historical romances for whom visually we are treated mostly to life where heroes and heroines have much more time on their hands to be in love with love and the afflictions of soap-opera drama.
When we meet Rose we meet her gritty hand-to-mouth existence – a pattern of life that might be so conflicted or convoluted by greed and cruelty that escape or empowerment by religious conversion might be an impossible task.