Review of "Gates Along My Path" by Karen Board Moran

Review by Kara Wilson

Karen Board Moran has been a vital influence behind the Worcester Women’s History Project since its beginning stages, nearly twenty years ago. Perhaps her most well-known contribution to WWHP is the play Yours for Humanity—Abby, which she co-authored with Carolyn Howe. Ms. Moran’s passion for WWHP has not faded since her move to Tucson, Arizona, and we now are treated to another sample of her writing about nineteenth century Worcester in the form of her new historical fiction novel, Gates Along My Path.

The setting of Gates Along My Path is Worcester between the years of 1849 and 1853. This was a period of reform in the city, as the first National Woman’s Rights Convention happened in Worcester in October, 1850. While many of us are familiar with the convention and the events leading up to it, Karen Board Moran’s book tells this story from the unique point of view of children living in the Orphans’ Home run by the Worcester Children’s Friend Society. Ms. Moran explains in her Author’s Note at the beginning of the book why she chose to tell the story this way: “By using many primary and secondary sources, I hope this book will help the reader revive a sense of how the children growing up in the dynamic Worcester community of 1850 are not so different from the children of our time.”

I believe Ms. Moran achieved her goal of showing the similarities and also the differences of children in Worcester in the 1850s as opposed to today. I also believe she was able to get across different speech and language patterns of the time period and how the struggles and daily lives of the children compare to modern times. I appreciated the depth of research Karen Board Moran did in order to write this book and that she included detailed footnotes and a bibliography to cite her sources of information. The footnotes were also helpful in distinguishing fact from fiction throughout the story. The two maps at the end of the book help the reader better visualize the setting of the story and the glossary is useful in explaining the different words and pronunciations used in the nineteenth century. I was pleased to see that all of the children narrating the story and other characters they mentioned and encountered were all actual people living in nineteenth century Worcester. Despite the fact that many of the characters left behind few, if any, examples of personal writings, Ms. Moran did an excellent job of giving them a voice and bringing this pivotal time in Worcester history to life through their words. On the back cover, Gates Along My Path is described as “historical fiction from a young adult point of view.” Although this is a work of fiction, it does include a great deal of factual information and would be an ideal book for United States History teachers to use in their curriculum to educate students about women’s history, nineteenth century history, New England history, and issues facing immigrants, orphans, and families in the past. Karen Board Moran’s background as a teacher, her passion for Worcester history, and her love of research and writing have culminated in a highly valuable resource. To learn more about Karen Board Moran’s work or to order a copy of Gates Along My Path, please visit Karen's website.

Published Date: 
September 23, 2013