This month we sat down with the lovely Mrs. Norma Decker Hoagland, co-author of The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Miller Watkins. She crafted a biography of an early 20th Century business woman and shares with us the impact Elizabeth Watkins had on her own life and the lives of many women attending Kansas University still today.
1. What inspired you to write about Elizabeth Miller Watkins?
It’s been about fifteen years since I’ve been researching Elizabeth. The first book I wrote was an architectural history book on a landmark on campus of the University of Kansas. This landmark was commissioned and designed by Elizabeth Watkins. I just was so captured by Elizabeth. She was born in 1861 and was a woman of business when women weren’t in business! She was so steady of character and determined. I found it absolutely remarkable.
2. Has writing about Elizabeth influenced your life?
Oh, absolutely. She has made me more confident, more willing to stand up for myself in business, and speak up where I might not have before. I felt like so many young women needed to hear a story of a strong business woman.
3. What was the most interesting part of research?
My co-author, Mary Burchill and I had to go through business letters in order to piece together her life. In total, the records of her businesses extended the length of two football fields! For a story of two people set in the Victorian era, there’s nothing boring about it. There was intrigue, blackmail, family drama, and more. It’s quite a story we were able to uncover.
4. Where can we find your book?
You can find The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Miller Watkins on Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, Target.