HANNAH'S DAUGHTERS: Six Generations of an American Family: 1876-1976 by Dorothy Gallagher

HANNAH'S DAUGHTERS: Six Generations of an American Family: 1876-1976

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In 1973 Hannah Lambertson Nesbitt, living alone in near blindness in a tiny bungalow, was ninety-seven, her great-great-great granddaughter Susan was two, and all the intervening generations of Lambertson women were still living in Hannah's adopted Washington State. In that year ""a national magazine"" asked Dorothy Gallagher to explore the growing freedoms of women's lives as illustrated by the Lambertsons. The article did not materialize, for reasons that become clear in the remarkable series of interviews eventually assembled for this book. With eerie similarity, the first four generations went through teenage marriage and rapid divorce, often-disastrous remarriage (one after another suffered brutality or desertion), years of supporting children who later recorded lifelong feelings of never having been loved, lonely and discouraged old age. The sunniest life--so far--has been that of twenty-one-year-old Lisa (Susan's mother). Elsewhere there is selfcontained isolation (May, eighty-one); a bitter, amorphous sense of defeat (Grace, sixty-four); a gallant search for self-determination after repeated marital failure (Barbara, thirty-nine). But the great figure of this book is Hannah, who died last year, and whose happiest memories are of ten hard-worn years on a Michigan farm between marriages. ""It's Job I'm descended from,"" she says, thinking of the long West Coast exile (catering, laundry and ironing, packing apples at ten cents an hour) that brought her to an old age of welfare, food stamps, ""nobody to talk to."" Hers is the most irreducible heroism. ""I've told you everything I know about my life. It's been work, work, work and move, move, move. There's nothing remarkable ever happened to me""--except that she endured, and will endure in her courage and hunger.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1976
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell