Showing posts with label remarkablewomen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label remarkablewomen. Show all posts

Thursday, March 6, 2014

illustrator, author, remarkable woman
1915 - 2006

Tasha Tudor, the beloved children's book illustrator, was born Starling Burgess in 1915. For her, that was almost 100 years too late. Living in New York City until she was nine, she moved to her aunts in rural Pennsylvania after her parents divorced. The freedom of country life agreed with her and her desire to live an 1830s lifestyle began to grow.

While in Redding, she met and married Thomas McCready. He helped her to fulfill her dream when they purchased a 17 room house on 450 acres without running water or electricity. There, her four children were born and Tasha's creativity blossomed as she began to write and illustrate her own stories.

She often drew pictures of her children, dressed in period clothing. Her daughter Bethany recalls feeling like they were living some of the wonderful fairy tales and stories their mother read to them. She also enveloped them into her world of fantasy, passing on her love of acting and playing with dolls. They devised many activities for the dolls, holding fairs and parties and making miniature Christmas presents. 

They even sent letters and parcels through their own special mail service called the "Sparrow Post" All of this served as inspirations for Tasha's drawings.

During this time, her husband encouraged her to publish her first book... 


Fifty years later it was still in print.

Because of the success of her books, Tasha was able to realize her dream of living in Vermont. In the 1970s her son Seth built her a home modeled after a nineteenth century farmhouse, using only hand tools in the construction.  With her beloved Corgis for company she tended her beautiful garden, continued to draw and lived happily in a time and space of her own making. She was legendary for her pies.                                            
                                                                                         According to Richard Brown, an editor at Biblio, "It was a magical place, east of Vermont and west of New Hampshire, caught in the year 1830. A handful of floppy eared goats grazed in the barnyard, doves strutted and preened along the roof ridge and a brightly colored flock of chickens wandered about."
Watch the video below and enjoy her amazing garden. The narration is in Japanese (the only copy I could find) but you will get to hear Tasha speak.

Tasha Tudor wrote and illustrated over 100 children's books, leaving a legacy in art of a much, much gentler time. I sat with her one afternoon when she came to speak to a group of women. She was not only delightful but very funny and a savvy business women. She told us that when she finds small birds and animals that are dead she puts them in her freezer. Thawing them a little, they make excellent models. She laughed when she recalled her refrigerator repair man's shock as he opened her deep freeze.

Later we sat in the garden and I watched her sketch.  She drew two adorable rabbits lying on their tummy's with their noses touching. She sold it to my friend for $250.00 I will always treasure that afternoon, it was "magic." 

Tasha passed away in 2006 at the age of 92. Here are some of my favorite pieces of her work...

Thursday, February 27, 2014


 Holocaust survivor, concert pianist and remarkable woman

Alice and her twin Marina were born in Prague in 1903. Her father was a prosperous businessman. Her mother, a well educated woman, moved in the city’s shimmering artistic circles often playing host to Europe's prominent writers, philosophers and musicians. Alice and her siblings were exposed to the "great talents" at a very young age.

Irma, her older sister, taught little Alice to play the piano when she was only five.  At 16 she began serious study at the Prague German Conservatory of Music and by her late teens she was wowing audiences with her concerts.

She married Leopold Sommer in 1931 and together they had a son they called Raphael. Alice filled his life with music and he would later become a renowned cellist.

Aware that the Nazis were headed in their direction most of their family and friends fled to Palestine. Alice and her husband stayed behind to care for her invalid mother.  She said... 

"The lowest point in my life was escorting my mother to the deportation center in Prague." 

It was at this sad time that she began to work on Chopin's Etudes.. a set of 27 solo pieces that are some of the most technically demanding and emotionally impassioned works in piano repertory. This music would quite literally save her life and the life of her son.

Then in 1943 the Nazi's came for her family. The three of them were sent to Terezin, a concentration camp that was promoted by the Nazis as a model institution.  Many of the prisoners there were Czechoslovakia's foremost figures in the performing arts.

“It was propaganda,” she later remarked.

Nonetheless the sustaining power of music was real. She performed in more than 100 concerts for the prisoners and the guards. In her words...

"We had to play because the Red Cross came three times a year. The Germans wanted to show its representatives that the situation of the Jews in Theresienstadt was good. Whenever I knew that I had a concert, I was happy. Music is magic. We performed in the council hall before an audience of 150 old, hopeless, sick and hungry people. They lived for the music. It was like food to them. If they hadn’t come to hear us, they would have died long before, as we would have."

Alice's husband was sent to Auschwitz and died from typhus a short time later.  When a guard approached her and told her not to worry, that because she played so beautifully she and her son would never be taken away, she realized that her music, quite literally, was going to save their lives.

After the war, Alice and Raphael emigrated to Israel to reunite with family. She taught for 40 years at the Jerusalem Academy of Music until her final move to London.  Her son Raphael, an
accomplished cellist died suddenly at the age of 64 from an aneurysm. Once again music sustained her. Friends recall that they knew she was going to be fine when she began to practice again.

For Alice, music was her passion, her life, her love. But it is only a piece of what has been a remarkable life.  She refuses to HATE anyone... only LOVE. She even goes so far as to express gratitude for the experiences she had in the camps... it shaped her life.

One of the most memorable things about Alice is her smile and her laughter. She lifts everyone around her. The people in her London neighborhood and specifically her apt building count themselves lucky that they get to listen to her beautiful music everyday.

 "They know when it is 10:00 AM because that's when I begin to practice."

Throughout her years in Theresienstadt, the loss of her mother and husband, the hunger, the cold and the death... Alice Herz Sommer was sustained by a Polish man who had died long before. His name was Frederic Chopin.  

Known as the oldest Holocaust surviver, Alice passed away peacefully last Sunday at 110 years of age. She leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of talent, passion, love, forgiveness and... laughter. A truly remarkable woman.

This is the trailer from the documentary "The Lady in Number 6"          
follow this link to rent the entire movie

Thursday, February 20, 2014

MARY BRECKINRIDGE... a remarkable woman!

Mary Breckinridge was born in Kentucky in 1881 to a southern aristocratic family. The granddaughter of the Vice-President of the United States under President Buchanan and the daughter of a United States Ambassador to Russia, she spent her childhood traveling, being educated by private tutors and playing with the children of Czar Nicholas  (that means she played with Anastasia) 

At the age of 23, she married her soul mate but their happiness was short lived when he suddenly died from a ruptured appendix.

She married a second time. It proved to be a loveless marriage but gave her two children. A son they named Clifford Breckinridge Thompson... "Breckie" for short and a daughter she bore prematurely... little Polly only lived six hours. .

Breckie was bright and good natured with no end to his curiosity. Mary called him her "fair haired wonder. Being raised in a prominent family she watched first hand how those she admired made an impact on the world. She sincerely believed her son, true to his heritage, was destined to do great things.  She was absolutely certain that Breckie would CHANGE THE WORLD and she spent her days preening him for that future.

Then tragedy struck again.  Four year old Breckie suffered a burst appendix and died. Mary was shattered.

(Follow this link to read the book Mary wrote about her son)

Two years later, she did the unthinkable. She filed for divorce and asked the court to restore her maiden name. Having lost all that she loved and determined to never love again, Mary turned to nursing for comfort and strength.

Though raised in luxury, she was keenly aware of the want and neglect of the mountain people who lived in her beloved Kentucky. Babies were born with the help of "granny women" who were largely illiterate and had no nursing skills. This area had the highest birthrate as well as the highest infant mortality rate in the country. The pain she felt from the loss of her two children propelled her forward. She would do something to help.

At the age of 43, she left her home and sailed for Europe to study midwifery at the British Hospital for Mothers and Babies. Upon her return she rode into the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky with the purpose of saving lives.

Going into that rugged area on horseback was not easy.  There were no roads, directions were given by landmarks..."through the holler, past the big rock and beyond the ridge." Besides the rugged terrain, the woods were filled with mountain lions, rattlesnakes and bear. Mary would not be deterred. Time after time she made the trip, gaining the friendship and finally the trust of the mountain people.
Eventually she recruited other women who were willing to serve. They became known as the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS) Traveling on horseback they pushed beyond the danger and brought medical care to the people of remote Appalachia.

During the forty years of Mary's tenure the FNS registered over 64,000 patients, gave over a quarter million inoculations and delivered 17,053 babies. In all that time there were only 11 maternal deaths.

On her deathbed she said... 

 "The glorious thing about it is... that it has worked!"

Looking back... life is seldom what we expect, there are always surprises. A young Mary was certain her purpose was to raise a son that would make a difference.   But...

   "Breckie" didn't change the world ... MARY did!

Three Mountain Stories 

by Rosemary Wells