I love book clubs. I belong to a book club and book club day has become my favorite day of the month. As a working mom, it is difficult to find the time to talk to supportive women about thought-provoking issues.
And I’ve been honored to hear from book clubs reading The Renegade Queen. To make it easier for groups, I have written a list of discussion questions below. And if your group has a comment or question that you want to add to this list, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you find the characters as inspiring as I do!
Spoiler Alert: Please note that the discussion guide contains spoilers to the book.
- The book opens with the statement: “I was conceived in a whore’s tent at a Methodist revival.” How does this theme of a mixture of the earthly and the spiritual follow Victoria throughout her life?
- Why might Eva Flynn have chosen to write the book from Victoria’s point of view? Does the first person narration make you more or less sympathetic to Victoria’s plight? Is Victoria a reliable narrator?
- How much choice does Victoria have when she marries Canning? If she has a choice, is she better with Canning or with her family?
- Victoria and Tennessee are both abused by their parents, and yet both women act out in reaction to their pasts in different ways. How does the abuse affect Victoria? How does the abuse affect Tennessee? Is one woman stronger than the other? Does one woman handle the abuse in a healthier way than the other? How much of their pasts lead the women to fight for female equality?
- At various times in her life, Victoria is able to befriend influential men who support her: James Blood, Commodore Vanderbilt, Benjamin Butler, and George Francis Train. What are the motives of the men?
- Why were men, in general, so resistant to the thought of women voting? And why would newly freed slaves granted the right to vote first? Was this order of events appropriate?
- Colonel James Blood and Benjamin Butler are the two characters who discuss the Civil War most often in this book. How did the war affect each of them? Did the men support the war effort? Were they disillusioned? What did they learn about the value or cheapness of life?
- Susan B. Anthony referred to herself as “Moses,” and the Anthony Amendment (later the 19th Amendment), which granted women the right to vote, was discussed once a year for forty years in Congress before passing. The Biblical Moses also wandered in the desert for forty years. By comparing herself to Moses, was this a self-fulfilling prophecy? What strategic mistakes, if any, did Anthony make in trying to procure the vote for women?
- Anthony believes that once women are granted the right to vote, that women will vote in one block and be able to change the political system by supporting only the politicians who support the women’s issues. Woodhull, however, believes that many politicians are not worth voting for and that all women’s issues should be tackled simultaneously and in a holistic manner. Who was right? Do women vote in one block now? How do women currently put pressure on politicians to change the laws on women’s issues?
- Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull are united for a small amount of time before their friendship turns to rivalry. Why did the rivalry begin and what sustained it? Do you find it ironic that Susan B. Anthony went to jail to vote for Republican Ulysses Grant when a woman was running for president?
- Victoria Woodhull is nominated to be president, but spends election night in jail. What mistakes does Woodhull make, both politically and personally?
- American Reconstruction was a time in which the press was in its infancy, but several newspaper articles are in the novel and many of the characters respond to events through the news. How did newspapers influence the events surrounding Victoria? How do newspapers then compare to the newspapers of today and the blogs of today?
- It is now 2016 and Hillary Clinton is running for president. Do you think she has a chance of winning? Would you vote for a woman president? Would you vote for a woman just because she is a woman? In the political sphere, have women come much further than they were in 1876, or has progress been slow?
- Finally, a show of hands: Who cried, or became a bit emotional, while reading this book? Which scenes moved you the most? Which character’s fate would you say was the most tragic? The most inspiring? The most surprising? Did the book give you a better understanding of life during the Civil War and the period of Reconstruction? Did it inspire you? And what will you remember the most about The Renegade Queen?