“Purple Like the West” by Virginia Carmichael

Purple Like the West” was written by Virginia Carmichael as one of the novels in the Colors of Faith Series.   The novel takes place in San Francisco in the early 1900’s after the Great Fire.  The mighty railroads are using Chinese laborers to build the railroads and the Chinese gangs or tongs contract with the railroads to provide the labor.  Supposedly the men are paid a wage and provided with room and board; however the tongs take two thirds of the wage and make the laborer pay for food and lodging.  The lodging consists of being shackled together in a warehouse.

Margaret Gilbert, the daughter of the head of the Southern Pacific railroad is trying to bring the injustices to the attention of the city.  During the dead of night she goes to Chinatown to find out about the atrocities and to see how she can help.  Ezra Pendelton is the editor of the The Daily newspaper.  He has been sent to the San Francisco paper by his father whose newspaper empire is based in Chicago.  Ezra is tired of having to kowtow to his father to keep his position.

Margaret decides to write a column for the newspaper anonymously about the Six Companies and their slave trade labor.  Ezra, against his better judgment, decides to print these articles even though he does not know the source.  This causes untold problems within the city of San Francisco and among the railroad companies.  The story is interesting because of a few things:  the plight of women who are expected to be nothing more than an ornament on the arm of her husband, the idea that all women are to be married and have a family, and the idea that higher education is not something women should aspire to.

I enjoyed this book.  The only thing that I need to point out is that the title of the book does not remotely indicate what the story is about.  I kept trying to reconcile the fact, but did not see any connection.  Otherwise, the novel was very enlightening.



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