A man with thinning gray hair and a droopy mustache handed Lillian a prescription. “Mr. Dixon’s never had a clerk at the counter before.” A common misconception, despite her white coat. “I’m actually a pharmacist.” “But you’re a . . .” His nose wrinkled. “Girl.” “Yes, and a pharmacist too.” She hefted up her sweetest smile and examined the prescription for digitalis. “Everything looks in order.” Gray eyebrows drew together. “It’s for my heart. I’d rather have a real pharmacist fill it.”
In my new World War II novel, Anchor in the Storm, Lillian Avery works as a pharmacist in Boston. Her new boss is reluctant to hire a “girl druggist,” but the draft is siphoning off the male pharmacists. He relents, but worries about how his customers will react. With good reason.
When I attended pharmacy school at UC San Francisco, I was fascinated by a photograph on campus showing a class around the turn-of-the-century. There was one woman. I wondered what it would have been like for that woman, what drew her to the profession, and how she was treated.
Naturally, I was drawn to write a novel about a pharmacist in World War II. In my novel On Distant Shores, the hero served as a US Army pharmacist in an evacuation hospital in Italy, but I also wanted to explore the role of women in my profession.
To compensate, pharmacy schools shifted the program from the traditional four years (new pharmacists at the time had a bachelor’s degree) to a three-year, year-round program. They began to actively recruit women. Ads of the time promoted a pharmacy education as being of “special value to the homemaker” with its emphasis on safeguarding health.
Although enrollment in pharmacy schools plummeted during World War II, from 8410 in the 1940-41 school year to 3349 in 1944-45, enrollment of women rose from 356 in 1940-41 (4%) to 1599 in 1944-45 (48%).
Although the female pharmacist found more opportunities, she still faced prejudice. Many stores still refused to hire women, even with the severe shortage. Also, some patients were reluctant to trust the new “girl druggists,” although most adapted to seeing a feminine face behind the prescription counter—same as they adapted to Rosie the Riveter and Wendy the Welder.
Through Lillian Avery’s fictional story, I enjoyed showing the special challenges of a woman trying to succeed in a male-dominated profession—and showing her triumphs as well.
One Plucky Female Pharmacist + One High-Society Naval Officer = Romance–and Danger
For plucky Lillian Avery, America’s entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. The challenges of her new job energize her. But society boy Ensign Archer Vandenberg’s attentions only annoy–even if he is her brother’s best friend.
During the darkest days of the war, Arch’s destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves–and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions for sedatives Lillian has filled? The two work together to answer that question, but can Arch ever earn Lillian’s trust and affection?
About the Author
Sarah Sundin is the author of eight historical novels, including Anchor in the Storm. Her novel Through Waters Deep was named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and her novella “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in Where Treetops Glisten was a finalist for the 2015 Carol Award. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. http://www.sarahsundin.com.
Thank you so much Sarah for sharing, and as a bonus, she has offered to giveaway a copy of Anchor in the Storm to one lucky winner. Due to shipping costs, the winner must have a US address. Enter through the Rafflecopter below:
The giveaway will run through May 17, 2016 and the winner will be announced on May 18.