Over the weekend, friends, family and fans of Anne Feeney gathered virtually to remember the fierce and unflagging protest singer who promised to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
Utah Phillips called her “the best labor singer in North America." She was that, and so much more.
Two-time cancer survivor Anne Feeney fell to the coronavirus in February at age 69. Saturday, her life and legacy will be celebrated virtually on Zoom and Facebook Live.
I got to meet Anne several times in her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, when I traveled there to promote Fannie Never Flinched. She wrote a ballad about Fannie Sellins' life long before I wrote my book.
She Called Herself a Hellraiser
Anne Feeney was much, much, more.
At Anne's memorial Saturday, her daughter's words are those that most deeply touched me .
"My mama, Anne Feeney may not have taught me how to paint my nails or curl my hair, but she certainly taught me how to be a strong woman. She taught me to be sure I am treated equally and to treat others the same.
"She taught me to protect and encourage other women. She taught me to stand together with those who are struggling. She taught me that if one person is being treated unfairly, we are all being treated unfairly." ~Amy Sue Berlin
Anne's music carried a message of solidarity to working people, and put corporations and politicians on notice. She sang for steelworkers, carwash employees, miners, strawberry pickers, railroad crews, anti-sweatshop activists and homeowners fighting foreclosure.
She sang at demonstrations for women's rights, the environment, human rights and lent her voice and a hand to people working to end poverty and racism.
Have women always been warriors? And why does it matter anyway? That's the question we take up today with the help of a "brilliant storyteller."
That's what reviews say about Pamela D. Toler, PhD and her recent book Women Warriors: An Unexpected History.
From the time she was young, Pamela sought out stories of "smart/courageous/quirky/energetic girl protagonists and the few biographies of women that reached [her]
elementary school library."
Today the author has a PhD in history, and is praised for her rigorous research and accessible writing. Her books are for nerdy or inquisitive teens and thinking adults. (That's you, right?)
When I was a little girl, I loved to read about pioneers on the Oregon Trail. I came to identify with qualities I perceived in people who made that difficult journey.
They were bold, grasping freedom and opportunity. They were tough, pitting themselves against nature, gambling on their physical strength and mental acuity, and testing their will to survive.
When I worried about what had happened to the Native peoples whom the pioneers displaced, I was given a vague answer, "It's too bad what happened, but it's progress and you can't stop progress."
From my perspective now, I would not call westward expansion human progress. And my focus now is on Indigenous people's amazing will to survive. I'm identifying myself with the qualities of compassion, good listening skills and the ability to see history more clearly.
As a writer and lover of books, I'm also working to amplify voices that have long been ignored.
Did I tell you I'm obsessed with the British Baking Show?
I really needed to get some rest and relaxation into my schedule, and I ended up in the tent with the armature bakers. Virtually, unfortunately.
Now I'm dreaming about Mary Berry's Viennese Whirls and Victoria Sponge, and drooling over Paul's couronne. That's yummy bread with endless choice of fillings and twisted into the shape of a crown. Mention puff pastry or creme patissiere, and I need a swooning coach.
I have done a little baking in the last month. My recipes turned out delicious, despite the soggy bottom, slightly dry texture and flavors not "coming through." I am definitely sticking to writing
Writing and my other job of marketing and promotion. Recently, I revamped this website and simplified the format of my weekly newsletter, which are cosmetic changes.
After the events of 2020, I'm also looking at some changes on a deeper level. I'm considering my work, and how I want to be present in the world, from a slightly different perspective. To be honest, I haven't, yet, been able to put it into clear words. I'm guessing that many of you are asking similar questions. So much has happened in the last twelve months and the dust has yet to settle.
I'm fascinated to discover little-known stories from history. Stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
I also post here about my books and feature other authors and their books on compelling and important historical topics.
Occasionally, I share what makes me happy, pictures of my garden, recipes I've made, events I've attended, people I've met. I'm always happy to hear from readers, in the blog comments, by email or social media.