The Accidental Suffragist
Helen Fox, her husband, Albert, and their twelve-year-old daughter Abigail work long hours under difficult conditions at New York City’s garment factories in the early twentieth century. Although Albert briefly entertains the idea of joining a union, the family is resigned to a lifetime of thankless labor and low wages. Then the devastating fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory claims Abigail’s life, and Helen is drawn into the burgeoning suffragist movement by one of its charismatic leaders. When Helen is offered a well-paying job at the Equality League, she takes it—despite Albert’s misgivings, the money will help their family escape from poverty. Helen becomes passionate about women’s suffrage, taking extraordinary risks in support of the cause. Despite some minor pacing issues and occasional clunky dialogue, the story is engaging, presenting a different perspective from most fiction about this era, which tends to focus on the well-heeled leaders of the women’s suffrage movement. Helen is an appealing heroine and her personal journey will resonate with readers. Fans of Fiona Davis’ The Lions of Fifth Avenue (2020) may appreciate Gichon’s spirited debut.
- Nanette Donohue
The Accidental Suffragist is set in 1911 and follows New York factory worker Helen Fox, whose
life trajectory is consumed by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. This event brings with it a
newfound political awareness and participation in the blossoming Suffragist movement. This, in
turn, results in estrangement from her husband, prejudice from former friends and existing
neighbors, and tough decisions surrounding putting politics ahead of family.
Throughout World War One, as the story progresses, Helen finds her activism and revised
purpose in life receives steady opposition, bringing with it many dangers beyond that of
confronting the authorities and status quo.
Galia Gichon does more than recap well-known historical events. Her novel delves into Helen's
quandaries and mind as she steadily moves into the Suffragist world that brings with it an
acknowledgement of her role in past suffering and events to come: “Did we let her go to work
too easily? Remember when she came to us and told us about the job?” Helen asked. “Helen, we
barely had enough for food,” Albert reminded her. “Besides, other girls in the building were
going to the factories, too.” “We didn’t even put up a fight. Not every family sent their twelve-
year-old daughter to the factories.”
Helen's personal calling is to gain women the freedom to vote, for reasons of her own. When
she faces a pregnancy in the midst of her efforts, life threatens to change and come crashing
down around her once again.
For many, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire opened the door to not just new ideas about
labor and women's rights, but personal conundrums over how their roles and lives were
changing not just for themselves, but for their daughters and generations to follow.
As her activism moves from personal environment to trips to Washington and associations with
high-level Suffragists, Helen discovers new ways of decision-making and thinking that hold
opportunities for revised freedoms not only for her and fellow women, but for the men around
Readers interested in a story that does more than recap the sad events surrounding this era's
labor and women's movement relationships will find The Accidental Suffragist brings to life the
impact and changes on families and marriages that were sparked by the Triangle Shirtwaist
More so than most fictionalized accounts, The Accidental Suffragist holds a compelling and
intriguing approach that readers will find enlightening and involving. It's highly recommended
even for those well aware of the changing politics of the times, early women's rights
movements, and the factory fire's lasting impact.
-Midwest Book Review
The Accidental Suffragist
Galia Gichon wears many hats: financial advisor, woman's advocate, educator, mother, and author. While spearheading her New York-based financial literacy firm Down-to-Earth Finance, Galia has penned her debut novel, The Accidental Suffragist (Wyatt-Mackenzie, June 2021), a work of historical fiction written in a contemporary voice. She'll celebrate the book's release with a signing at Barnes & Noble, 76 Post Road East, Westport, on Saturday, July 3 from 1:00 - 3:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public.
Galia is not entirely new to the page; she's previously written and published My Money Matters (2008), a personal finance book which received notable press from the New York Times, the TODAY Show, CNN, Newsweek, and Real Simple, among others. In addition, she's run seminars for Barnard College for the past 13 years, focuses on women-led companies, and counsels impact startups. Galia also co-founded Woman's Compass Forum (WCF) with attorney Margie Jacobson and yoga instructor Michelle Didner — a 3-hour course that morphed into a 3-month webinar developed to educate woman on finances, legal issues, and health matters.
A Ft. Lauderdale native, Galia attended University of Florida then headed for Manhattan to pursue a fast-paced career in finance and banking. Coupled with her prowess in the Wall Street world, Galia also has a strong appreciation of culture; she frequented museums and galleries in her youth, and has had a longtime penchant for history books. In mid-life Galia tapped her storytelling ability, calling writing her "second chapter." Enter The Accidental Suffragist.
The author moved to Westport a decade ago and has taken fiction writing workshops for half of that time. It was at Westport Writers' Workshop that Galia developed the character, Helen Fox, and set her tale in New York City's 1912. The Accidental Suffragist follows Helen from her first suffrage meeting to marching in Washington, D.C. to working as an activist with hopes for equality in a male-dominated society. Nannette Donohue of Booklist said, "Helen is an appealing heroine and her personal journey will resonate with readers. Fans of Fiona Davis' The Lions of Fifth Avenue (2020) may appreciate Gichon's spirited debut."
"I love the blank page as it's an open opportunity to give birth to any scene, any character. As a strong supporter of female empowerment, I wanted to write a compelling story of one woman's journey in the collective fight to vote. I'm beyond thrilled to share my first novel with friends, writers, and readers at Barnes & Noble on July 3," said Galia Gichon