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The Trials of Nellie Belle

By Sydney Avey


When her parents marry off Kansas-born Nellie Belle to the ranch foreman, she never questions that motherhood will follow. But at the dawn of the progressive era, Nellie seizes an opportunity to move west and start a new life. Yearning to achieve a sense of self-worth, Nellie leaves behind her husband and son and takes her two daughters to the Northwest. She charges forward to become the first woman court reporter to travel the circuit in the region. On her journey, she loses her daughters, one to death, and one to vaudeville.
In small-town makeshift courtrooms and growing cities boasting new halls of justice, strong-minded Nellie touches many lives; self-determined lawmen, enterprising women, hard-working immigrants, a senator, some cads, and a cross-dresser.

Nellie finds fulfillment in the hard-won respect of a tight legal community that metes out early twentieth-century justice. But when her prodigal youngest returns home with a babe in arms, she must do what she can to pull together what remains of her scattered family.
Can Nellie rescue her broken-hearted daughter, and give badly needed direction to her headstrong granddaughter who is on a path to disaster?

Book Takeaway:

The generations that go before us leave legacies that are worth examining.

Why the author wrote this book:

I grew up hearing stories about my great-grandmother, Nellie Belle. According to family legend, in the early progressive era, she left her husband and children to become the first female court reporter to travel with the circuit court in the Northwest. I inherited the short stories about the court cases she transcribed. Some are poignant. Some are hilarious. I wanted to understand the passion that drove her to seek such a different life.


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