Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Who Is Annie Smith?

Born in 1853, Annie Smith lived in Virginia her entire life. She was orphaned at an early age and sent to live with her grandparents on their farm in Chesterfield, VA. How do I know Annie? I know her because I have her memoirs that she wrote when she was 70 years old in 1923.

Tucked away in my father's house in Connecticut was a scuffed old brown binder, filled with pages of writing that was poorly typed, single spaced and fading. This was the story of Annie's life.

At first, I put the binder away in a closet. I did not have time to read it and I wasn't certain what to do with it. Recently I took the binder out to look at it. I decided the best thing to do would be to transcribe the document, making it easier to read and preserving it from further deterioration.

As I typed Annie's words into my computer, I wasn't certain I even liked this woman. Initially she seemed to be writing simply as a tool for preaching her faith. But as I continued, I discovered a woman who was more than one dimensional, a woman who had a number of obstacles to overcome and portrayed the truth in a stark and sometimes uncomfortable manner.

Annie was beaten as a child, she was against slavery, she was poor, she loved her family, she talked about medicines and farming and life in the 19th century. Annie has given me a valuable insight into not just my family history, but also our nation's history.

Thanks, Annie.

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