Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Intimate Visit With an Grand Old Lady

Recently Kate attended an author's event in Oak Brook, Illinois at the Mayslake Peabody Mansion. What a pleasure to attend any sort of event there!

The background on the Mayslake Peabody Mansion was written up in "A Brief History" last month. (If you missed it you can read it here.) While it looks as though generations of the Peabody family lived and died in the home, they really only used it for a very short time. The Franciscan brothers who bought the estate made the changes that were important to them, but keeping up the place as a grand family home was obviously not their mission.

Kate hadn't been in the mansion for a couple years, so she was delighted to see how much progress has been made on the restoration. The meeting was held in the former friar's chapel, but since there was also an art exhibit going on in one of the other halls, visitors were encouraged to explore a bit.

The woodwork, the plaster carving, the fireplaces -- all are stunning. Right now, the floors and library shelves are bare, but it's easy to imagine an oriental carpet with a cozy wing chair pulled up in front of rows of leather-bound volumes.

Mayslake offers tours, classes and performances so there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the company of this grand old lady. See their web site for a complete list of events.

Children's Lit Breakfast with the Authors

Anderson's Bookshop is a nationally known independent bookseller with stores in Naperville and Downers Grove. For the past seven years they have held a Children's Literature Breakfast. This year's event will be held on February 20 in Glen Ellyn. Illinois.

Kate was invited again this year to attend as one of the guest authors. 600 people are expected to attend, many of them teachers who get CPDU credits along with the chance to hear some wonderful speakers.

This year's speakers include

  • Richard Peck, ("A Season of Gifts")
  • Patricia McKissack, ("Clone Codes")
  • Pam Allyn, ("What to Read When" and Executive Director of LitLife)
  • Jordan Sonnenblick, ("After Ever After") and
  • Francoise Mouly, (Artistic Director of New Yorker Magazine; Publisher and Editorial Director of TOON books and Author of The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics).

In addition to the speakers, breakfast and a huge book sale, one of the features of this event is that an author sits at every table. Several times during the morning, the authors play shift down one table so everyone gets to meet and talk to three or four different authors.

If you or someone you know are interested in attending this event -- especially you teachers! -- register as soon as possible as the Kid Lit Breakfast always sells out. For more information, see the
Anderson's Bookshop web site.

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

First Folio Theatre Presents "Jeeves in Bloom" at Mayslake Peabody Mansion

January 27 - February 28
When Bertie gets himself into another scrape, Jeeves must resign his service and re-invent himself as something other than a Gentleman's Gentleman. This sequel to First Folio's hit production of "Jeeves Intervenes" features the return of Christian Gray as the lovably loopy Bertie Wooster and Jim McCance as his unflappable butler Jeeves.

Heroes, Villains and the American Zeitgeist.Comic Books from the Rare Books and Special Collections of the University Libraries Northern Illinois

January 19 through March 13
University Art Museum, Hall Case Galleries, Altgeld Hall. The exhibition traces the development through to the Modern Age which encompasses Independent Comics and the rise of the Graphic Novel, blending more whimsical characters and complex storylines that blur the lines between hero and antihero. As part of our Pop Culture Exhibition Suite this show will captivate you with the lively and engaging art and literary nuances of this popular medium.

Born in Mathausen: Eva Clarke's Story

Thursday, February 18
6:30 pm
Eva Clarke, whose story has been featured by the BBC, will share how she owes her life to her mother's tenacity, and the timely arrival of American GI liberators, when Eva was only three days old.
Ticket price includes Museum admission.
$20; $10

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Turning History Research into a Story

When Kate was researching her book "Ruth by Lake and Prairie" she tried to piece together Ruth's life story to make the book about the founding of Naperville come alive.

The title character, Ruth Eliza Murray was born in Ashtabula, Ohio and immigrated to Illinois with her family in 1831 as part of a group of settlers organized by her uncle Joseph Naper after whom the town was named. A few years later another family from Ohio arrived: Alfred Shattuck, his wife and his sons. While they rented a farm in Naper's Settlement, they wanted to buy their own land and scouted property further west, finally purchasing in Spring Township, Boone County.

While they were preparing the land and building a cabin, the Shattucks remained in Naper's Settlement and Alfred's twenty-year old son, Harlyn, must have socialized with Ruth, then 16. Whether there were any sparks between them at the time is unknown and the Shattucks moved out to their Boone County farm.

Years passed. Ruth remained at Naper's Settlement on her family's farm, Harlyn remained in Spring Township on his. Perhaps there were dances, weddings or other get-togethers. Northern Illinois was still thinly settled at the time and people did travel to Chicago or up from Will County to socialize with one another. We don't know how it happened, but Harlyn and Ruth were married on the last day of March in 1842.

Harlyn was twenty-eight and Ruth was twenty-four so they certainly weren't a couple of kids rushing into a romance. Ruth's own sisters married at younger ages than that. Kate speculates that Ruth may have been less attractive than her sisters or more useful to the household, two traits that might explain a late marriage and which Kate used to develop Ruth's character in the book.

The newly weds lived at first in a rented house in Naper's Settlement while Harlyn hired himself out as a laborer. Looking at the census records, the young Shattucks apparently took in a boarder as well. He was also a laborer and was perhaps a widower since two small children are listed in the records but no wife. From the beginning of their marriage Ruth proved her capabilities by managing a household with three adults and two children.

With no photographs, no diaries, no letters we can only speculate on Ruth's real personality using the tiny clues that research offers.

Writing Your Own Family's History

Some day, some descendant may want to know about the people in your family. They shouldn't have to guess like Kate had to about Ruth Murray! You should write your own family's history so it will be preserved for future generations.

There are lots of ways to go about it from simple records to free-form tale-telling. To get inspired, the Helen Plum Memorial Library in Lombard, Illinois is offering a free seminar called "Creating a Memoir: The Basics of Writing Your Life Story."

Memoirist Rosanne Gulisano will lead the seminar on Saturday, February 6, starting at 2:00 pm. While the event is free, the library would like you to register. See their web site at www.plum.lib.il.us for more information.

This seminar is one of several that is offered by the DuPage County Library System as part of their Writing and Publishing series. Kate attended all but one of last year's offerings and found them very interesting. She's already registered for all of this year's, so if you attend any, be sure to say "hello!"

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

New Permanent Exhibit of West Chicago History

Daily Monday through
8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Panels with text, photographs and artifacts invite discovery of West Chicago's early history and subsequent development. On display in the City Hall during regular business hours.

Tea with Your American Girl

Saturday, February 13
11:00 am or1:00 pm
The LaGrange Area Historical Society
invites you to
a Tea with Your American Girl.
This event will feature
"Rebecca," the girls from the 1914-era stories.
Tea will be held in the Vial House,
Home of the LaGrange Area Historical Society
444 S. LaGrange Road
Seatings are at 11:00 am or 1:00 pm and registration is required as space is limited. Please have one adult per family in attendance. Dolls and other lovies are welcome!

President Ronald Reagan's Birthday Party

Saturday, February 6
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Come and join the annual Ronald Reagan Birthday Celebration! View his birthplace in Tampico, Illinois and then walk over to the Tampico Historical Museum three doors down the street which will also be open.
Refreshments will be served there by the Tampico Historical Society.
This would be Reagan's 99th birthday as he was born February 6, 1911!