New book details lives of NY authors' foremothers

SARATOGA, N.Y. (AP) — Authors from around New York state are relating the lives of their foremothers in a new book.
Editor Patricia Nugent, of Hadley, tells The Post-Star in Glens Falls that women’s stories have been “silenced or drowned out” too often.
The idea for the anthology, “Before They Were Our Mothers: Voices of Women Born Before Rosie Started Riveting,” took root after a man showed up with mementos at the funeral for Nugent’s mother.
First, she learned small, heartwarming details: Her mother had starred in her high school play and had a German shepherd as a child.
Later, she found a diary that revealed the man at the funeral had broken her mother’s heart by marrying her best friend.
Then a story from another generation emerged. On the back of a photo from her grandparents’ 1907 wedding, someone had scrawled in pencil: “She doesn’t love him — was engaged to someone else.”
“It was a real shock,” said Nugent.
“As a youth, I’d been too consumed with my own drama to care about my foremothers’ journeys,” she said. “And in retrospect, I found that women of the time were very prideful and private. They were reticent to share negative things and afraid to show vulnerability because their lives were so hard.”
Other women had stories of their own — and a book was born.
“My ongoing vision is that this book will be a catalyst for storytelling and truth-telling within families,” Nugent wrote in the book’s forward. “In particular, women’s stories, which are too-often silenced or drowned out. Ask now, before it’s too late.”
She invited submissions through the League of Women Voters and other groups for the book, funded by the Saratoga Arts Council. An editorial review board helped choose the stories. Historical references were fact-checked.
“I can still read some of these and cry,” said Nugent.
The stories are told in first-person, as if through the eyes of the subject. “…That meant meditating and asking Mom’s voice to come through as I wrote it,” said one of the authors, Sue Van Hook of Cambridge.
Amid cultural, religious and geographical differences, said Nugent, common threads emerge about “ordinary lives infused with determination and defiance, resilience and resistance.”
“The timing of this book couldn’t be better,” she said. “In many ways, it is a tribute to the women who transcended such issues and continue to do so.”