As Interim Adult Librarian for two branches, Library Assistant, and School Liaison, I get to be four people every day! This is usually wonderfully challenging and I could not complete my duties without assistance, but some things are completely my own.
Today, I hosted my first real Adult Book Club for the library. Now, if it has not been evident before . . . I am inclined to the theatrical. Enormous productions and immersive experiences. I promised these ladies it would be enjoyable. I have been planning for months. Chose the book, read the source, scribed seven pages of note (Seven pages!? Just count them, I know you will not!), typed questions, and then . . . I expanded on the idea.
The February book was a non-fiction piece called Strength and Honor: The life of Dolley Madison by Richard Cote. It was a good excuse to read about a prominent Federalist/Regency lady and to honor President’s Day in a different way. My only advertisement was through word of mouth and one large poster in the library. I had ten ladies sign up, but two were furious they could not attend due to miscommunication with their spouses. Goodness! I was not expecting such drama. I emailed the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R) and personally invited them to discussion.
Everything I incorporated into my production was inspired by small details mentioned in the book. Dolley and her husband were famous for their hospitality and openness. I wanted to convey this in a setting. What a setting it turned out to be! I am so delighted with the results. The projector screen ran the image of the portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart that Dolley Madison saved moments before British set the White House aflame. Dolley decorated the White House with haute French designs using American craftsmen and materials. I brought two chairs, a foot stool, an inlaid side table, a round rug and a host of throw pillows. I painstakingly cut and rolled the questions into a gilded bowl.
It was said Dolley had portraits of her friends and family through out the house, including a picture of Confucious and an African King. I printed out portraits of James Madison, her husband, Payne Todd, her first and only surviving son from her first marriage and a very selfish person, Martha Washington who encouraged Dolley to marry Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Madison’s boss and good friend of the couple, and Napoleon, another close friend. I also brought an assortment of tea and my grandmother’s tea set along with punch cups, modeling as tea cups. Biscuits were laid out on my mother’s silver platter.
I also went through the pains to make a currency converter chart from the prices mentioned in the book, the year of sale, the reason for sale and the modern price with inflation. It certainly put things into perspective! The back tables were draped in red and yellow curtains; which were Dolley’s favorite color and coincidentally the same colors as my curtains in my personal library. I displayed books on the American Revolution, Yellow Fever, which claimed a large part of Dolley’s family, Quakers; as Dolley was raised in the religion, and the Star Spangled Banner written during the war. Other books included fiction that took place during the War of 1812 and various classic literature that was published during Dolley’s life time.
Then there was my “costume.” It was inspired by Dolley’s signature attire. Since I personally do not own any empire waist long frocks, I wore the lowest cut dress in my wardrobe. The style at the time dictated the neckline sit right above the nipple, should the lady move suddenly the whole room got a free show. My dress gave me a wee bit of clevage which is as far as I was willing to replicate. I borrowed four short gold chains necklaces; which Dolley was famous for. Then there was my coif. I actually ragged curled my hair at 9 pm the night before. Rag curls? You may ask peering at the picture below. Honest, I ragged curled my hair. Not that anyone could tell because my hair is uncoopperative piece of –frustration. My mane rarely holds a curl, so I should not be surprised. I was not willing to wake up at two in the morning to curl my hair using an iron. So I was stuck with a beach wave. Oh, well.
Members of the D.A.R. attended in costume and the ladies were absolutely thrilled with my presentation, as were my co-workers and supervisor. Word has already gotten out what fun Book Club is and people are calling in about next months instalment. I could not be more thrilled!