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Facts. By a Woman

Facts, By a Woman is the promising title of an anonymously published account of being a subscription book seller in California in the 1870s. By her title the author means "Facts -- as opposed to rumor or innuendo." The occasion for her book is defined at the start by the remark of a woman, made to other women, about a woman book agent she has just turned away from her door: "I cannot, for the life of me, see how any woman that has the least sort of respect for herself can engage in such an occupation. Why the very idea is enough to repel a pure-minded person." Before becoming a book agent, the author had tried unsuccessfully to support herself selling something called "plaiting machines" house-to-house; apparently that was less morally suspect because her customers would have been exclusively women, whereas selling books regularly brought her into contact with men customers. Although her account shows that even buyers of a book like Tom Sawyer sometimes had ulterior, adult motives for dealing with her, she ends Facts with a declaration of her profession's respectability:
"I solicited from basements to garrets, and sold books in both, to rich and poor men, roughs and gentlemen; and think I have climbed steps enough to land me in heavenland, and am just as far away from the goodly place, but not any farther, than when I first began my sad departure; for I received many good lessons, and some of the very best, from the roughest masters, and when least expected. And although temptations and insults greeted me, I would also have received them if stationed behind any village or city store counter, in any permanent establishment. And I saw no reason why I should not or ...
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