The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers
“Knowledge is power, she had argued. And conversely, the withholding of knowledge is an act of oppression.”
― Adele Myers, The Tobacco Wives
Maddie is an amateur seamstress who just arrived in Bright Leaf, North Carolina—the tobacco capital of the South—where her aunt has a thriving sewing business. Maddie is dazzled by the bustle of her aunt’s clientele: the wives of the powerful tobacco executives.
However, she soon learns that Bright Leaf isn’t quite the carefree paradise that it seems. Tobacco is marketed to women in 1946, especially moms, and many women began to experience substantial health problems. Although Maddie is quick to believe this is a coincidence, she uncovers evidence that suggests otherwise.
Maddie wants to report what she knows, but in a town where everyone depends on Big Tobacco to survive, she doesn’t know who she can trust—and fears that exposing the truth may destroy the lives of the proud women with whom she has forged strong bonds. Shedding light on the hidden history of women’s activism during the post-war period, at its heart, The Tobacco Wives is an emotionally satisfying and dramatic novel about the importance of seeking truth.
It is nearly impossible to imagine the world the way it was before people knew the dangers of smoking. It only seems logical to us now that filling your lungs with smoke, nicotine, and chemicals is not good for you, and it’s terrible for pregnant women and babies. It’s so hard to imagine the doctors actually recommended that women smoke to “calm their nerves”!
This book takes us back to the time when that was totally and completely acceptable. It is also almost shocking the way women were treated; the way men condescended to them and treated them as if they were fragile little beings who could not do much. We have come such a long way. I love the way the book highlighted all of the social differences between that time and the present.
The plot itself was well done. I love a book with an epilogue that tied things up in the end and this book delivered on that.
*FYI, this is the current read for the book club, Bemused Bibliophiles, who meet September 7, 2022 at 1:00 pm!