A Christiana woman's Quaker childhood and crusade to rid the country of alcohol is recounted in a novel, "Nora: A Woman Activist Before Her Time", written by her granddaughter, former Parkesburg resident Janet Knox Wayser.
"She never realized she was a woman activist," said Wayser of her grandmother, Nora E. Smith Brown.
Wayser said her grandmother's roots have been traced through ancestry charts specifying that the Smith family were Quaker settlers in America before 1620, with the area they lived in established as Lancaster County in 1729. Nora was born in southern Lancaster County, but in later years lived in Christiana and Atglen.
Wayser said her grandmother's activism began in the 1800s and centered around her passion for the work of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.). She established groups and served as an officer in local, county, state and national societies.
"Her enthusiasm was displayed most whenever she convinced people, both young and old, male and female, to sign the pledge," said Wayser. The pledge read: "From cigarettes and alcohol I will abstain and never take God's name in vain."
"Her one goal in life was to ban all alcohol and tobacco usage in Lancaster County and, if possible, Pennsylvania and the entire United States," added Wayser.
In addition, Nora worked for the Prohibition Amendment and Women's Suffrage.
Yet, for all the work she did on behalf of the WCTU, two paradoxes occurred in Nora's life -- her husband, George, though a supporter of her work and who took the pledge, grew tobacco in order to make enough money to send their seven children to college. The other paradox was that one of her sons became an alcoholic while attending Penn State College and a few years later, disappeared from their lives.
Nora - and her husband, George - were avid readers and kept up with the news of the day. Wayser said that much of "our nation's history, described in the story, was painstakingly written by Nora in her diaries." That included the Underground Railroad during the Civil War to the Buffalo Exposition, where Nora observed President McKinley's assassination.
Wayser said much of her information about her grandmother in the novel comes from personal diaries, letters, and original deeds.
"After many years of discussing our Grandmother Brown, the four living granddaughters decided her life was a story that should be told," said Wayser. "How many people who lived on farms in the late 1800s traveled around the United States and sent their children to college?"
Wayser, who now lives in Florida, was raised on what is now the King farm on Lower Valley Road, just outside of Parkesburg, and graduated from the original Parkesburg High School. She also lived in New Jersey for a time before moving to Florida in 1993.
The novel about her grandmother is Wayser's second novel. She wrote "And We Know... " about her late husband Glenn Williams battle with Lou Gehrig's disease. "I immediately wanted to write a book about this disease as there was so little information in bookstores and libraries," said Wayser.
But, the book was put on hold while Wayser worked. After she retired, she said, her second husband, Harold Wayser, insisted she attend a Writer's Workshop and begin writing. "This workshop was most helpful as I was required to bring an assignment every week. Therefore, I wrote a chapter weekly," said Wayser.
However, unable to find a publisher, she self-published the book and has thus far sold 150 copies. "Nora", also self-published, was printed by Masthof Press of Morgantown. A copy of both books can be found at the Parkesburg Library.