June, 2007

There's No Place Like the Lund Home

Voices low, the fate of certain girls in our small southern Vermont town was discussed in coded, abbreviated sentences. "She's been sent up to the Lund Home." Even if someone didn't know exactly what that meant, everyone did know it wasn't good.

For more than a century, countless unmarried and pregnant girls and women from all over Vermont (and far beyond) found shelter and support under the roof of the Elizabeth Lund Home-originally called the "Home for Friendless Women" and now transformed to the "Lund Family Center (LFC)."

If there is one inconvenient truth women have lived with throughout time, it's that we may well become pregnant at a time when raising a child is not a viable option. And until very recently, an unwed mother led families to respond in secrecy, fearful of who would find out and what they'd say. That same fear often led a young woman to hide her condition from everyone, including her own family. Founded in that climate, the Lund Home itself has evolved, maintaining and expanding its role as a safe harbor and invaluable community resource for an ever-increasing number of women-and men-facing new challenges and issues.

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Lindsey Bruzzesi and her son Colby


Publisher's Message - Thoughts on 'The Hill'

A few years ago, I told a reporter that I hoped I lived long enough to see a woman elected President.

Well, the time has come and Hillary Rodham Clinton could make that dream come true in 2008. But wait - vigorous resistance to her campaign is rampant, and seems to be coming largely from women.

Here in Vermont many Democrats who have for years provided the early primary funding are lining up behind Barack Obama, including many of my woman friends. I decided to find out why, so I asked a number of them five questions:

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Suzanne Gillis

Mary Griswold - Captain of the Shelburne Shipyard

The Shelburne Shipyard lies at the end of Harbor Road, which winds past a series of stunning lake vistas between the old Webb-Vanderbilt estate, euphemistically called Shelburne Farms, and some of the most expensive real estate in Vermont today. The narrow road turns to gravel as it enters a forest of masted boats on cradles, some of which are large enough to pass as second-or third-homes.

There is nothing in the approach, in other words, to prepare you for the utter lack of pretension in the owner of this exclusive marina, Mary Griswold. Dressed in a loose company-embossed polo shirt, shapeless jeans, and worn, white-soled boating shoes of the 1980s variety, and indifferently cropped salt-and-pepper hair, she is like the Bernie Sanders of the large boat world, seeming to be totally unimpressed with the wealth and status that surround her. Aren't some of these worth a lot of money? I wonder aloud, craning my neck to take in a behemoth on wheels that looks to have at least three stories and is blotting out the bright May sun. Griswold, who moves through its shadow without so much as a glance in its direction, is brusque: "I don't know. I haven't owned a boat in a while, so I don't know what people pay for them these days."

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Joyful, Improvisational, and Pertaining to God
The Quilt Art of Rosie Lee Tompkins

From the time she appeared on the art scene in the 1980s there were people who doubted that master quilt artist Rosie Lee Tompkins actually existed. Her work was unsigned. She never appeared at her own openings or shows - at least as far as anyone knew. She gave no interviews. Only four people in the art world ever actually met her face-to-face. There was not a single published photo of her.

With the announcement of her death on December 1, 2006 at the age of 70 it quickly became clear that not only did Tompkins exist, but she had led something akin to a double life. She was at once Effie Mae Howard, a devoted family woman, a hard worker, a deeply spiritual soul; and Rosie Lee Tompkins, a skilled fiber artist whose virtuoso sense of design inspired breathless prose from the critics and whose work hung in some of the most prestigious galleries and museums in the country.

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Rosie Lee Quilt

Jennifer McMahon Promises to Tell a Great Ghost Story

In her black-and-white author photo, Jennifer McMahon looks like a grown-up version of one of the misfit girls she likes to write about: withdrawn, secretive, dark. In fact she is a warm, open person who readily agreed to meet with me in her home, a sunny, yellow Victorian at the top of a steep hill in Barre. In the second story living room, her nearly-three-year-old daughter Zella zoomed excitedly in and out, closely followed by Zella's other mom, Drea. During our interview, McMahon talked about finding the right agent for her debut novel, Promise Not to Tell, the advantage of writing multiple books at once, and her discovery of lesbian literature.

Vermont Woman: How would you describe your narrative voice in Promise Not to Tell? Is it similar to your own?

Jennifer McMahon: Kate has a similar sense of humor-wry, I would call it-but I intended her to be more skeptical than I am. If I was confronting something like that [evidence that the ghost of a girl whose murder was unsolved may be involved in a copycat murder in the same Vermont town decades later], I would say, "Of course it's a ghost!" Then I'd pull out my ouija board. Kate's skepticism worked better for the story, I think.

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Promise Not to Tell Cover