One of my favorite ways to encourage interest in history, is the use of historical fiction. Historical fiction uses invented characters and circumstances to highlight real events in history. Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires is one of those engaging titles that will tempt your students to want to further investigate the core events and activities surrounding the Civil War and the mysterious group, the Molly Maguires. Were they real or the stuff of legend? How did they impact the war, politics and labor?
I was intrigued by this book, not just because the storyline is interesting and exciting, but also because even as a lover of history, the political involvement of industry, the beginning rumblings of labor unions and the vast bigotry surrounding European immigrants, in the Civil War era, had been lost on me in the typical study of American history. This book inspired me to seek out more information on the time period, the cultures of the immigrant populations and how they shaped the country we live in, today.
Katie, the oldest living child of Irish immigrants, was born as a U.S. citizen. Her family lived in Pennsylvania where her father worked in the coal mines eaking out a meager living for his happy and industrious family. In a tragic mining accident, her father lost the use of his legs and the family lost their source of income. At 14, Katie left school to take a position as a servant and help contribute to the financial support of her parents and siblings. As an opportunity arose further from home, she was employed as a maid by a wealthy mine-owning family. She was slowly pulled into the politics and underground movements surrounding the war, industry, unions and the military draft. Before she had a chance to think it through, she was disguised and spying within one of the underground movements.
Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires was an easy read that piqued new interests and curiosity about the Civil War era in the United States. I would use it in our homeschool anywhere from fourth or fifth grade on up and feel it would be an interesting book, even for adults. The text also includes a glossary of terms students might not otherwise be familiar with, as well as study questions and project ideas which also add to its value as an educational tool. The adventure and drama will keep students interested and draw them into a story often missed by standard history textbooks. The book is published by Tribute Books and can be ordered from them for $12.95.
I wrote this review as part of the month-long Book Tour for Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires. The views and opinions expressed are wholly my own and no compensation was received for the review. An unbound, copied print of the text was sent in order for me to conduct the review.