Women In Print 2016

A review by Kara Wilson Yuen
Lyn Lincourt, Jeannine Atkins, Susan McDaniel Ceccacci
Photo: Lyn Lincourt & Mark Serra of Shrewsbury Cablevision.

I was pleased to discover a mostly full audience when I arrived at the Worcester Public Library’s Saxe Room for the 13th Annual WOMEN IN PRINT on March 30, 2016. I imagine the beautiful weather and ample daylight of the spring evening helped to draw people out to enjoy this annual event, showcasing three local women authors: Susan McDaniel Ceccacci, Jeannine Atkins, and Lyn Lincourt. 

Worcester Women’s History Project President, Ann Marie Shea, welcomed the audience and introduced the three authors, beginning with Susan McDaniel Ceccacci. Ms. Ceccacci is the Education Director of Preservation Worcester and the author of Living at the City’s Green Edge, which chronicles the history of Worcester’s Bancroft Heights neighborhood, also known as Massachusetts Avenue Historic District. The subdivision was built on Johnson’s Farmland and was called Bancroft Heights because the birthplace of George Bancroft was located across the street and part of Johnson’s Farmland belonged to his father, Aaron Bancroft. The plan for the neighborhood was laid out in 1898 by Stephen Salisbury III as a green space, including a park, the Bancroft Tower monument, and a housing development adjacent to the green space. There was a need for this neighborhood to be built because of the sharp rise in Worcester’s population between 1890-1900 due to the city’s booming industry. 

The building of the neighborhood started in 1899 and the first house was sold in 1900 to Worcester’s Mayor Dodge. Shortly thereafter, many of the city’s leading citizens occupied the homes of Bancroft Heights. Ms. Ceccacci remarked that she had the most fun writing the book when she learned about the residents of the houses and also about the changes in technology over the years, including lighting fixtures, bathrooms, and kitchens. She described the book as "looking at architecture in the twentieth century style, examining the neighborhood house by house." Ms. Ceccacci included a slideshow of photos from Bancroft Heights, both from the present and the past. She also included photos of Stephen Salisbury III and many of the people who inhabited the houses. She closed her talk by commenting that the book "teaches about history and about the people and the lives they led."

Ann Marie Shea next introduced Jeannine Atkins, author of Little Woman in Blue, a fiction novel about May Alcott, the sister of famous Concord author, Louisa May Alcott. Ms. Atkins claims that she "totally relies on wonderful researchers" to create her works of fiction. She loves to show the amazing things women can do and has previously written about Madame C.J. Walker, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madame Curie, and their daughters. Growing up in Sterling, Massachusetts, Ms. Atkins loved reading Little Women and was fascinated with Louisa May Alcott. But she also became fascinated with Louisa’s younger and often overlooked sister, May. It occurred to Ms. Atkins that Little Women was written from Louisa May Alcott’s point of view, but there were points of view from the other sisters as well, which were not mentioned in Louisa’s writing. For example, May Alcott took on a large role as a caregiver to the Alcott family and she helped the Civil War effort by sewing uniforms for the Union soldiers. May also was the illustrator of the first edition of Little Women. She had a small studio at Orchard House, the Alcott family’s home in Concord, and many of her drawings can be viewed there. May later went to France and experienced success as an artist. Before that, she taught art in Concord. She was acclaimed sculptor Daniel Chester French’s first sculpting teacher and she was also a contemporary and friend to fellow artist, Mary Cassatt. Ms. Atkins supplemented her talk with a slideshow of May Alcott’s art as well as pictures of Orchard House and other places May visited throughout her life.

The final speaker of the evening was Lyn Lincourt, author of Mansions of Magnates: America in the Mad 20th Century. Ms. Lincourt, at age 94, has led a long, interesting life. She began her talk by sharing stories about her life in New York City, where she worked in the theatre and then graduated from college after age 30. After spending some time looking for a job, she moved to Washington, DC where she ended up working as a Child Labor Specialist, a career which required a great deal of writing. But it was not until moving to the Worcester area in 2008 that Ms. Lincourt fully realized her passion for writing, first by starting a column called “Lyn’s Spin” and then by taking on a project through the Shrewsbury Historic Commission in 2009 to write about the mansions of Shrewsbury, built at the turn of the twentieth century. This project, which Ms. Lincourt co-researched with Chris Kirk, resulted in the book Mansions of Magnates. Ms. Lincourt commented that she was fascinated by the research process while writing her book, particularly learning about the people who lived in the mansions and where they came from. She said, "All of these people took a chance, just like all our ancestors." She closed by praising WWHP, particularly Abby Kelley Foster, and the work WWHP does "on making the country a better place." 

WWHP President Ann Marie Shea closed the evening by thanking the Events Committee, particularly Pam Bobay and CJ Posk, for organizing WOMEN IN PRINT. Ms. Shea also presented the authors with small gifts and honorary memberships to WWHP. We then were invited to enjoy refreshments provided by the Events Committee while viewing the wonderful nature photography collection "America the Beautiful" displayed around the Saxe Room. 

Published Date: 
September 18, 2016