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The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments would change the face of a nation, but the advances came at a terrible cost. In many ways, the transition would take another hundred years to reach fruition. And in the meantime, generations of black men learned that the pathway to becoming African-American was a dangerous one.
At the same time, the Grenvilles were swept up into political rivalries and civil riots that churned their peaceful streets into battlegrounds. Family ties shattered as their maturing children searched for their own answers to the questions of how best to live their lives. One son took refuge in a separatist religious community, while another became an armed advocate of White Supremacy. Susan’s black cousins fought for equality and became targets of those who haeted blacks. A daughter was swept into a romance with a black man. Daily life became a constant battle marked by visits from the Ku Klux Klan, threats of violence, and accusations of murder.
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It might even have worked—if the two women had not been so very different. Katerina was an outspoken Northern farm girl, whose talents ran to cooking, sewing, and taking care of everyone around her. Rebecca was a classic Southern belle, most at home surrounded by books and music. Katerina’s greatest wish for her daughters was that they all would find handsome and generous husbands who would take care of them and protect them for all of their lives. Rebecca wanted to see the girls grow up to be strong and independent women, capable of supporting themselves and playing an active role in the world around them.
Katerina looked back longingly to a nineteenth century in which values were strong and safety was promised to all who followed the rules. Rebecca leaned into the new challenges of the twentieth century, believing in the promises of the future. The stage was set for a lifetime of clashing values worthy of the feud of the legendary Kilkenny cats, who fought until there was nothing left of either one of them.
Willingly or not, the two women lived in a rapidly changing world. Transportation moved from the horse and buggy to the Model T Ford, and dirt roads became paved highways. Family farms gave way to land speculators. Politicians quit arguing about government corruption and worried about prohibition and women’s suffrage. Uncontrolled financial panics yielded to governmental regulation. Social power fell from the wealthy upper crust into the hands of the middle class, and labor unions took control from monopolies. Trains, airplanes, telegraphs, and radio waves picked up the news from around the globe and brought it into once isolated homes. Assassinations, earthquakes, revolutions, epidemics, the sinking of an unsinkable ocean liner, and a war that killed millions of men demanded their attention. Two women—tied irrevocably together by their love for Jamey Grenville and their devotion to his eight young daughters—battled the challenges, sometimes together, sometimes from opposite sides.