Welcome to the third week of AUTHOR-GO-ROUND! This week it’s my turn.
My grandmother’s grandmother, Ellen VanValkenburgh, fascinated me from a young age. She left a tremendous legacy of strength for the women of my family, and she inspired my novel, Under the Almond Trees. On the left is a photograph taken sometime around the turn of the last century. I’m on the right, 100 years later, wearing the same brooch. Ellen died before my father was born, but here is how I imagine an interview with her might go.
Linda Ulleseit (me): Thank you for speaking with me, Grandma Van.
Ellen VanValkenburgh: What would you like to talk about today?
Me: I’ve always admired the story of you running your husband’s paper mill after he passed away. Was that hard emotionally? I mean was he the love of your life?
Ellen: (laughing) Such a modern idea! In my day we didn’t moon over our men. I did what I had to do to feed my family. I had two daughters then, you know, and a son on the way.
Me: Henry VanValkenburgh was your second marriage, though.
Ellen: That’s true. He was the father of my children, but Jacob… Jacob was my heart.
Me: The love of your life.
Ellen:If you insist. But we only had a short time together.
Me: Yes, true. Can we talk about your time in Santa Cruz? Did running the paper mill make you want to be in politics?
Ellen: Oh, I never wanted to be in politics, but when I tangled with the city over business matters it seemed foolish that women had no part in making decisions about how their city was run. Women couldn’t vote then, you know.
Me: Oh, I know. You fought hard for women to vote. I’m very proud of you for that. You even met Susan B. Anthony, is that right?
Ellen: (nodding) What an earnest face and genial smile she had!. Susan came to Santa Cruz at the request of her brother Elihu, a prominent man in Santa Cruz.
Me: And she inspired you to sue the county?
Ellen: Among others. But yes, I did sue in 1862. The law, after all, said a person born in these United States was a citizen and eligible to vote. Disappointing to learn that the law applied to Negroes but not women.
Me: But you persevered.
Ellen: Didn’t succeed until 1920. I was old by then.
Me: What a tremendous legacy to leave your children, though. What an inspiring life you’ve led.
Ellen: Well, I didn’t intend to be either a legacy or inspiring. I only wanted some say in how my city, and country, was run.
Me: Still, your niece by marriage and your granddaughter hold you in high esteem. As do I.
Ellen: That’s nice. Neither Nina or Eva were trying to be inspirational either. They just decided what they wanted and stuck to their guns until they got it.
Me: That’s admirable.
Ellen: Well, all right. I guess that’s so. (smiling) Share my story then with whomever you will. I hope they enjoy reading it.
Me: Thank you, Grandma Van. I’m sure they will.
Under the Almond Trees is available on Amazon here.
Also please visit these awesome AUTHOR-GO-ROUND authors:
Tracy Lawson www.tracylawsonbooks.com
Nina Day Gerard, www.ninadaygerard.com
Miracle Austin, www.miracleaustin.com
Connie Peck, conniepeck.wordpress.com