Where the heck are the May flowers that April showers were supposed to bring? Oh right, apparently we need more May showers. Despite the deluge of gloomy weather, the start of May has been a whirlwind. A few musings which may, or may not, be related to my writing.
- Morristown NJ has an awesome library which is a short walk from the center green. We visited Morristown the first weekend in May for our nephew’s beautiful wedding. What a treat that we found the library to kill some time before the late afternoon nuptials and reception. Bonus Points: Scored five books for $6 at their book sale and found a quiet spot to tuck away into for a writing sprint. Looking forward to reading the book finds. Have you read any of them? (see pile above) Which one should be at the top of my TBR (To Be Read) pile?
- Eileen McNamara, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist from The Boston Globe is a dynamic and entertaining speaker. Thank you to my friend, Cathy, who invited me to join her at an evening presentation by Eileen to promote her book, Eunice, The Kennedy Who Changed the World. Eileen shared with us her battles to write and publish the book, from obtaining permission from the Shriver children to access their mother’s personal papers to arguing with her publisher on the subtitle addition. How could Eunice, a Kennedy woman be the Kennedy who changed the world? With a life-long commitment to helping those with intellectual disabilities, Eunice’s influence and policy work extended far beyond the formation of the Special Olympics. Eileen and I shared teary eyes as she inscribed my copy of Eunice as “In memoriam of Frankie”, my cousin whom I never knew but who lived in a group home in Needham. Eunice Kennedy can be an inspiration to me and for my main character, Eliza, and her work on behalf of people with Down Syndrome.
- Another amazing woman of history is Margaret Sanger. How appropriate that the Brewster (Cape Cod) “Ladies” Library has not one but two biographies of the champion of birth control on its shelves. Margaret and Eunice each dedicated their lives to a cause they fully supported with unwavering dedication. For Margaret, her advocacy never waned even in the face of arrests and jail time. Once I fell into the rabbit hole of researching Sanger, I found a copy of her Family Limitations pamphlet online. Published in 1917, it’s no wonder it caused an uproar – within the 16 pages there are even hand drawn illustrations of a woman’s “private areas”. Oh my!
- There is a gem of a free museum in Boston, the West End Museum on Staniford Street, a two minute walk from the North Station/ TD Garden parking garage. While it lacks extensive displays, it has detailed summaries of immigrant life in the West End which was eventually razed and its populace displaced in the name of urban renewal. The docent, Bruce, spent the first years of his life in the West End and has memorized his oral history to share with you as you walk through the exhibits. It’s amazing to think of the dichotomy of the two sides of the “Slopes” in this part of Boston. On the North Slope lay the wooden tenements filled with a wide mix of populations who were called out to participate in “Rat Day” with a $50 cash prize going to the person who brought in the most rats to a designated Sanitary Yard. On the South Slope, the brick-faced mansions of Louisburg Square of Beacon Hill are filled with the elite of Boston’s Brahmins. If you go, make sure to bring a few dollars in cash. Donations are appreciated.
- Across the Charles River from the West End, the archivists of Radcliffe College’s Schlesinger Library in Cambridge are super helpful. With an early request to retrieve microfilm, they set me up in their “viewing room” to review the Executive Committee notes and annual reports of The Denison House, one of Boston’s settlement houses located in the South Cove. Prior ancestral research had linked a Florence E. Peirce to Denison House. I found the name listed as a “resident” in 1895. Now the challenge is to find confirmation this Florence Peirce was my grandmother’s aunt. The unusual name, with the spelling of Peirce, and the dates for her supposed age, align, but I still don’t have definitive proof. I’ll have to table that research until I finish this book, although I’m intrigued the story could be the fodder for another novel. Florence Peirce of Denison House “discovered” the talents of Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese teenager who frequented Denison for art lessons.