A 19th-century poet and social reform advocate’s fruitful life is reanimated by her great-great-granddaughter.
After her father passed away in 2001, Colorado native Brudigam (An Intimate Look at Glenwood Springs Circa 1957, 2011) scrutinized the historical research provided by encouraging relatives and penned the comprehensive, serpentine biography of her great-great-grandmother Adeline “Addie” Lucia Ballou. In 1844, Addie was a 6-year-old growing up in a crowded cottage with her staunch Methodist Episcopalian parents and four siblings in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. As a young girl, the fearless Addie could see light emanating from people and “impatient and demanding spirits” spoke to and physically nudged her, urging the girl to assist them. Years of sorrow followed after the unexpected death of little sister Polly and the subsequent death of her mother, though a posthumous spectral vision from Polly had warned Addie about their mother’s passing. Her father Alexander not only dismissed many of Addie’s ethereal occurrences as shadows in the moonlight, but hastily remarried and Addie’s new stepmother (the first of several) raised the family with hushed primness as women’s movements and anti-slavery rallies emerged, such as those spearheaded by abolitionist Abigail Kelly Foster. Brudigam descriptively charts Addie’s vigorous coming-of-age after the family moved to bucolic Wisconsin and her interest in spiritualism flourished. As a teenager, Addie married Albert, a town official, started a family, courted a budding interest in poetry and, in the midst of the tumultuous Civil War, became a nurse. Ballou’s life, as creatively reinvigorated by distant relative Brudigam, forms a meandering chronicle of events and imagined dialogue where the author has taken great literary license in the reconstruction of conversations and occurrences. The result is a fitting tribute to a vibrant, outspoken woman consumed with her love for family and artistic expression.
An overlong yet compassionately written ancestral homage.