80-year-old East Middlebury woman publishes her first book
EAST MIDDLEBURY — Maureen Chadsey Williams has developed quite the lengthy résumé. She’s been a baker, a retail worker, a newspaper circulation coordinator and a stay-at-home-mom, to mention a few vocations.
Now, at age 80, the East Middlebury retiree has made a new entry: Author.
Williams recently self-published her first book, titled “The Hollyhocks Will Bloom Again,” depicting the struggles of a persevering young mother trying to hold her household together during the fractious height of Revolutionary War-era America.
The book was a labor of love that Williams began during the mid-1970s while living in New Jersey. She was so busy at the time that she had to put the unfinished manuscript in a drawer. There it sat until recently, when she dusted it off. Williams spent a lot of time in Middlebury’s Ilsley Library researching the Revolutionary War, and the tension between those in favor of independence and those sympathetic to King George III, to give historical credibility to her book. But she also mined her very fertile and interesting family history to flesh out characters and story lines. In a recent interview she explained that her mother, who was from Canada and had an English background, helped inspire the narrative.
“She always told us that the background of the family were Tories, but she never said why, or anything about it, or where they had come from,” Williams recalled.
Williams would come to learn that her ancestors had come to the colonies back in the 1600s, helping to settle areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. But when revolutionary fervor took hold during the mid- to late-1700s, Williams’ family sided with the Crown and ultimately uprooted to points north of the border.
“Because the family sided with the wrong side in the Revolutionary War, they were forced to leave,” Williams said. “The grief they must have felt, I thought, would make a good story.”
That story revolves around Alice Marsh, who finds herself having to move from Massachusetts to Nova Scotia as a result of her husband’s decision to fight for the British during the Revolutionary War. Marsh endures many hardships during the war years and finds herself repeatedly thrust into the role of single parent of five children in what is decidedly a man’s world at the time. As “property of her husband,” she has to adjust to her spouse moving in and out of her life as the events of the war require. Marsh is left to provide food and shelter for their children.
As the 16-chapter story unfolds, Marsh transforms from a rather shy, subservient person into someone who can more than hold her own in the paternal pecking order of the era.
People often ask Williams about the use of the word “Hollyhocks” in her book title. Hollyhocks are a bright, hearty and prolific flower.
“(Hollyhocks) are grown in each of the locations that the story takes place in,” Williams noted, thereby giving a symbolic sense of stability for the family as it moves from place to place. “The seeds from the hollyhock have gone from her mother, to her, to her daughters, so it’s almost like an example of passing along courage and strength.”
Williams is the living embodiment of her story brought full circle. Her mother married an Irish man in Canada and together they moved to the United States, breaking the family’s cycle of self-imposed exile.
“I am really first-generation American,” she said, with a chuckle. “Mother was the first one to come back, and the only one so far.”
Williams moved to East Middlebury in 1998. She is a member of the Congregational Church of Middlebury and many of her fellow parishioners (and others in the community) have read and enjoyed her book. She has sold 100 copies thus far. Williams said her book is currently available locally through the Ilsley Library and through such online sources as Amazon.com and is available on the Kindle e-book reader.
It is a book that Williams hopes not only shares a lesson of perseverance, but that also encourages people to treat others with more humanity, no matter what their points of view.
“It was a story I felt had to be said, because even though I have positioned it in that (Revolutionary War) time period, it still goes on in history here,” she said of attacks on people who are on the losing side of conflicts. “Whether it is Europe or somewhere else, people get up in arms and they say, ‘You’re not like us, therefore, you’ve got to leave.’ Maybe what I say in the book could help people to understand that even though they might be on the other side, they still have feelings, emotions and love for the country that they have.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
Mark A. Nelson of Bristol
BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)
High school athletes ready for fall playoffs this week
See when your favorite high school team is competing in the fall sports playoffs.
Ethan Allen Highway Storage Uncategorized
Ethan Allen Highway Storage Notice of Sale
Ethan Allen Storage 100622 1×1.75