I hope my great-grandmother isn’t mad at me

athenaeum club 1908 cr

The Athenaeum Club, Bronx NY. Mary Wingebach is under the X.

Dear Great-grandmother Mary,

I hope you’re not upset. You might actually be flattered that I used you as the model for Abbie Bergholtz, one of the protagonists in my historical novel, To March or to Marry. In 1911, Abbie joins a women’s club—the Athenaeum Club, the same one you belonged to, my dear Mary. For a few years, Abbie experiences many events mentioned in the letters you saved.

Later in the book, during a period for which I have no letters, Abbie plunges into activities I seriously doubt you had anything to do with, and for this rashness on my part, I crave your forgiveness. The plot had certain requirements. I believe, if you had met someone like Louise Kelley, my other protagonist, a totally imaginary woman who becomes a suffragette, you might have been pushed beyond your comfort zone. You might have gone to Margaret Sanger’s first birth control clinic. You might have written a club paper on child labor, or gone to Washington, DC, to help out a friend when the suffragettes were arrested for picketing the White House.

I did my best to stay true to your personality. I believe Abbie’s reactions to Louise’s criticisms and fiery temper are similar to how you would have responded to such a person. But if I’m wrong, I apologize.

Although you might not approve of everything Abbie is up to, I suspect you might like participating in a story that will help modern readers understand just what challenges women of a century ago were up against, and how the clubs were part of the forward movement–even if many clubwomen were ambivalent about suffrage, as I suspect you were.

In any case, I thank you for the inspiration, and for leaving me documentation of your life as a clubwoman and as a wife and mother. I’ve just finished the first draft, and I’m convinced this book has real promise. It would not have been written without you.

Much love,


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8 Responses to I hope my great-grandmother isn’t mad at me

  1. Best of luck with revisions, and publication, Violet! An important topic indeed. I bet Flora would be tickled 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    Dearest Violet, I am so sorry it was not possible for us to meet in our physical forms but certainly we are bound by blood and by vision stronger than can be achieved simply by taking tea together. There is nothing that could make me happier than your engagement with my life- though I am not sure Flora was the best choice for my name. I feel sure you did your best and I am not at all displeased with you on this account.. You have embellished my life in the most colorful ways which I have found engaging and delightful. From my vantage point I see how signifiant our efforts toward recognition and equality truly were. They really were such interesting times- I am so sorry you could not have been there to explore them with me. What a pleasurable time we could have had together.
    Your eternally loving Great Grandmother , Mary
    PS. I do not understand you being ‘on a roll’-I hope you were not injured.
    P.P.S.Or did you mean to say you were standing on a Barm Cake? I think it always useful to be clear in expressing oneself.

    • visnow77 says:

      Dear Anonymous,
      Thank you for conveying this touching reply from Mary. So very kind of you. Is the first initial of your surname “W”? There’s something about your postscripts….

  3. lindapattie says:

    I love this! Especially after reading parts of your book and doing your workshop this letter to her very meaningful ❤️LP

  4. Chris Hutson says:

    I love reading about Flora and your great grandmother Mary. I’m sure she’d be tickled too. From the photo, she looked like she had quite the spirit. I can see the part that has passed down through the generations. It’s great to hear from you and get to read your words.
    Un beso grande,

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