The fascinating lives of the characters in “Almost Famous Women” have mostly been forgotten, but their stories are burning to be told. Nearly every story in this dazzling collection is based on a woman who attained some celebrity–she raced speed boats or was a conjoined twin in show business; a reclusive painter of renown; a member of the first all-female, integrated swing band. We see Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, Allegra; Oscar Wilde’s troubled niece, Dolly; “West With the Night” author Beryl Markham; Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sister, Norma. These extraordinary stories travel the world, explore the past (and delve into the future), and portray fiercely independent women defined by their acts of bravery, creative impulses, and sometimes reckless decisions.
The world hasn’t always been kind to unusual women, but through Megan Mayhew Bergman’s alluring depictions they finally receive the attention they deserve. “Almost Famous Women” is a gorgeous collection from an “accomplished writer of short fiction”
- Wednesday, April 8, 7 pm: Belinda Rathbone, author of “The Boston Raphael”
On the eve of its centennial celebrations in December, 1969, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts announced the acquisition of an unknown and uncatalogued painting attributed to Raphael. Boston’s coup made headlines around the world. Soon afterward, an Italian art sleuth began investigating the details of the painting’s export from Italy, challenging the museum’s right to ownership. Simultaneously, experts on both sides of the Atlantic lined up to debate its very authenticity. While these contests played themselves out on the international stage, the crisis deepened within the museum as its charismatic director, Perry T. Rathbone, faced the most challenging crossroads of his thirty-year career. The Boston Raphael was a media sensation in its time, but the full story of the forces that converged on the museum and how they intersected with the challenges of the Sixties is now revealed in full detail by the director’s daughter.
- Tuesday, April 21, 7 pm: James Coogan, “Slavery, Indenture and Abolition on Cape Cod”
Many people on Cape Cod owned slaves right up to the Revolutionary period. Indenture was a common way for people without means to get to this area making an arrangement to be contracted as servants for a set period of time, then to gain their freedom. There were strict rules as to how indenture was carried out here and penalties for those who abused their servants. And the Abolition movement in this area mirrored what was going on in the northeast of the U.S. Falmouth women were some of the early letter writers to Congress opposing slavery. . Much of the negative sentiment in Falmouth reflected the close connection between people in Savannah and Charleston, S.C. who had Falmouth connections either by trade or spending summers on the Cape.
- Tuesday, April 28, 7 pm: Barbara Berenson, author of “Boston and the Civil War: Hub of the Second Revolution”
Boston’s black and white abolitionists forged a second American revolution dedicated to ending slavery and honoring the promise of liberty made in the Declaration of Independence. Before the war, Bostonians were bitterly divided between those who supported the Union and those opposed to its endorsement of slavery. The Fugitive Slave Act brought the horrors of slavery close to home and led many to join the abolitionists. March to war with Boston’s brave soldiers, including the grandson of Patriot Paul Revere and the Fighting Irish. The all-black Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment battled against both slavery and discrimination, while Boston’s women fought tirelessly against slavery and for their own right to be full citizens of the Union.