Saturday, July 23, 2016

Immortal Irishman and other windows into the past

Hi everyone, there are lots of ways to delve into history, including genealogy and your own family history research. One of my favorite ways to get a new view on the past is reading a biography. One of my favorites of the past few years is The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, by David Nasaw. Read more about it http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/books/review/the-patriarch-a-joseph-p-kennedy-biography-by-david-nasaw.html. That book in particular gives some insight about the present political situation both here and in Europe, since Joe Kennedy Sr. was a famous isolationist.

Another very revealing one is that of President Wilson in Woodrow Wilson: A Biography. He's more than the president who led us into and through World War I and then failed to create the League of Nations. In some ways he reorganized the American government for the future, and in other ways, by encouraging official segregation, set us back generations.

Recently finished: Immortal Irishman, by Timothy Egan, about Thomas Francis Meagher, an Irish aristocrat first sentenced to death for speaking out against the English grinding down of the Irish, banished to Tasmania, then escaping to the US where he became a celebrated general of the Irish Brigade in the Civil War; then serving as the Acting Governor of the Montana Territory before his murder.

It is a truly gripping tale, although I must warn that the first chapters, during the Great Hunger, were painful to read. The deliberate starving of so many was difficult to read about. I never knew about this great man, or his life. The book was well worth the time. Listen to the author discuss it: http://www.npr.org/2016/03/03/469005722/memory-of-potato-famine-burdens-the-immortal-irishman.

I was inspired to find his widow Elizabeth Meagher's grave in Brooklyn: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=37028272 and that of his great-grandson in St. Helena, California: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=48233600.

Looking at my list, I see only men. I need to seek out some good biographies of women. In the past, I've read Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera which was great. OK! Just checked out the ebook Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 1: The Early Years, 1884-1933 by Cook, Blanche Wiesen from my wonderful local library system, King County Library System.

Please suggest other histories or biographies you have found engaging and enlightening in the comments. Thanks!

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