Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Widow's Might

Last night I picked up A Widow's Might thinking I'd read a chapter or two while waiting for the girls to get home. I could not stop reading until I'd finished it.

Part of the appeal was nostalgia. Mrs. Carolyn Lipscomb, the author, grew up in Auburn, Alabama and many of the people and all of the places she mentioned were familiar. The story, however, can stand alone as an interesting one for anybody.

Mattie Norman Ellis, Mrs. Lipscomb's mother, was the young widow of a Methodist minister with six children - three girls and three boys - aged from 2 to 12 when she moved her family and their few belongings from Eutaw, Alabama to Auburn. This was during the Great Depression, and she was determined to keep her family together. She took a job as secretary in the agriculture department at Auburn University, which was still Alabama Polytechnic Institute (A.P.I.) back then, at the rate of $3 per day, and worked five days a week and half a day on Saturdays. She managed to keep her children fed, clothed, and raised them to be kind and good (and they all did well, grew up, raised families of their own who also did well). Her quiet determination and hard work earned her the admiration and respect of many in Auburn, and the second half of the book is about the will one bachelor man made, unbeknownst to Mrs. Ellis and her family, and how it benefitted her.

In the early 1940's Mrs. Ellis and her children rented a house owned by Mr. Reuben Cowart's family. Mr. Cowart looked after the property, and made any repairs when they were needed. The Ellis children spoke to him respectfully when they saw him, but the family didn't really know him well. In 1943, Mr. Cowart drew up his will, naming Mrs. Ellis as his sole heir. Mrs. Ellis had no idea he had done this, and was totally surprised twenty years later when he died and his family came to "warn her off." By this time Mrs. Ellis was 63, still working, but her children were grown. The family of Mr. Cowart, who were unkind - even hateful - to him when he was alive, vowed to contest the will in court, and to smear Mrs. Ellis's name unless she agreed to allow them to buy her out.

Because Mrs. Ellis had nothing to hide, and her good reputation to lose if she agreed to the Cowart family's proposal to accept "hush money," she went through the ordeal of a legal battle. I was so relieved to read that she won! The money from Mr. Cowart's estate wasn't huge by today's standards ($132,000), but it allowed her to retire at the age of 64, and to buy a home. She lived to the age of 93, enjoying her children and grandchildren and her friends and neighbors.

I love books with happy endings.



Blogger Carrie said...

This book sounds great! I'm going to put it on my TBR list!

(Followed your link through Semicolon, btw)

10:48 AM  

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