No sooner is one project finished than my attention turns to the next story. I have three projects competing for my attention.
Project 1: HONEST LIARS
It might become three novellas: stories of graft and corruption in Twentieth Century Seattle.
This picture shows Seattle in 1916, a modern city ready for business. But in 1910, Seattle folks couldn’t decide whether to close down saloons, gambling, and prostitution or let the town run wide open. Newly elected mayor Hiram Gill compromised with a Restricted District under the supervision of his police chief, Charles Wappenstein. When the chief went to trial for graft, he said he was innocent. Gill testified he knew nothing about the chief’s misadventures. Who was honest and who was the liar?
Independent businesswoman Nellie Curtis moved to Seattle in 1931, because the city tolerated discreet vice. In 1942 Nellie opened the LaSalle Hotel, a place friends were “made easily.” Asked why hotel guests left so quickly, Nellie replied, “I never asked any personal questions of the guests.” If you don’t know, you can’t lie.
In 1951 Nelson Durham, son of Seattle’s highest ranking female police officer, sponsored Bunny Scott’s house of prostitution. When his investment became public, Durham said he couldn’t remember anything. Was he telling the truth?
Project 2: IRENE DURHAM
As I researched the Durham case, I encountered Irene Durham. A graduate of the University of Washington, she joined the Seattle Police, and in 1932 became the first woman to lead her own division.
Abbess Hild of Whitby presided over the Synod of Whitby in 664. It was an important conference. Women had more rights under the Celtic Church than they did under the Roman Catholic Church. The Celtic Church was indigenous. The Roman Church accepted practices from outside the country.
Hild, an advisor to the King of Northumbria, presided over a double monastery of monks and nuns. Her birth and landholdings gave her prestige and power, but if the Roman Church prevailed, her position might decline. This picture is from the ruins of a later Benedictine monastery built on the same site at Whitby. The site of the Anglo-Saxon monastery is under the soil behind the stone remains.
Over the next few months, I’ll settle on one of these three projects