Thank you, Ann Parker and moo.com. Love the new cards.

The whole experience of ordering business cards from MOO.com is wonderful. The box they come in alone is worth ordering from them.

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Faux sealing wax is a nice touch…

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The heft of the cards is great–so much more substantial than an ordinary business card. The other side, with my personal info, is lovely as well, thanks to Ann Parker.

Visiting lovely Lublin by vintage postcard

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One of the great benefits of writing historical fiction is getting to visit the places you write about. My son and I were so excited to see Lublin, the town where so many of the Polish women I write about in Lilac Girls were raised. I’ve been collecting vintage postcards of Lublin ever since and a new one showed up in my mailbox today. Each time another arrives it take us right back to lovely Lublin.

 

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Lublin Castle in the fifties

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A real oldie…

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Ogolny widok…Lublin “overview” It was the inspiration for one of the opening scenes in Lilac Girls.

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Lovely Cracow Gate withstood Luftwaffe bombs

Caroline Ferriday, Broadway actress, champion for France and the “Lapins”

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Photo courtesy of Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden, Bethlehem, Connecticut, owned and operated by Connecticut Landmarks

Discovering the lovely costumes and props Caroline bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum made me realize I’ve never shared any thoughts about Caroline, my whole inspiration for Lilac Girls. It’s hard not to be inspired by Caroline, who dedicated so much of her life to helping others. She started acting at The Chapin School and after graduating found a career as a Broadway actress, appearing in mostly Shakespearian roles.

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Photo courtesy of Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden, Bethlehem, Connecticut, owned and operated by Connecticut Landmarks

 

Instead of sitting back and enjoying her privileged life, Caroline gave back. From a family known for their philanthropy, Caroline followed their lead in a big way, for she not only volunteered during WWII to help French children orphaned in the war, but soon after the war, founded the American branch of the ADIR, National Association of Deportees and Internees of the Resistance. Founded in 1945 by female members of the French resistance who had survived their internment in the German camps, the ADIR raised money to help women of all nationalities get back on their feet after returning from the camps.

Caroline also worked to get reparations from the German government for a group of women experimented on by the Nazis at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, known by all at the camp as “The Rabbits,” since they were the Nazi’s laboratory rabbits and since they hopped about the camp on their disfigured legs. Caroline, assisted by Norman Cousins, editor of The Saturday Review, campaigned to bring the “Rabbits” or “Lapins” as she sometimes called them, to America for much-needed medical attention and eventually was successful in winning reparations for the women.

     This true story is the basis for my novel Lilac Girls and has been such a pleasure to research, giving me the gift of getting to know Caroline Ferriday, a most inspiring American hero.

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The wonderful Norman Cousins

An exciting discovery at the Met

I’m still feeling a bit lightheaded after my daughter found the images below, of Caroline Ferriday’s gifts to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bequeathed to the museum at various times over the years, the pieces span centuries and continents. I’ve been researching Caroline’s life for ten years and never knew she’d donated these to the museum.

Caroline, an accomplished Shakespearian actress, spent many years on Broadway and these may have been costumes and props she and her mother Eliza acquired. How smart she was to see their value and make sure they were kept safe and well-tended. Can’t get over how beautiful they are–even the boots, which seem to have seen many productions! Love the cotton “trousers” at the end, too.

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19th century silk Russian bodice (above) Love the french ribbon!

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1981.40_F2Tiffany silk, bone and paper fan (1873)

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 fan detail

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Fur pelerine 1900-1903

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Early 19th century silk, bast fiber and fur skirt

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Early 20th century silk and cotton robe

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Ring, 1700-1939

 

CI37.63.3ab_SLeather boots date 1800-1937

CI41.68.1abSilk purse, 1700’s

C.I.41.68.2_FCirca 1700, metal, cellulose nitrate and pearl comb

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20th century cotton trousers

The joys of researching Rockefeller Center for Lilac Girls

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How lucky I am that one of my characters in Lilac Girls worked for the French Consulate, since I got to learn everything I could about the lovely French Building that housed it. (Before it moved further uptown, New York’s French Consulate was located in the French Building of Rockefeller Center.) Caroline Ferriday worked there as a volunteer, so a few scenes are set there in the consulate offices.

On the way to the French Building the Titan Atlas, above, sets the scene in front of Rockefeller Center. A collaboration by artists Lee Lawrie and Rene Paul Chambellan, it is one of the most recognized symbol of the complex.

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The rear of the French Building as seen from the plaza

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The lovely cornerstone IMG_0647Above the Channel Garden entrance, Lee Lawrie’s gilded French peasant woman sews fleur-de-lis seeds across a plowed field. According to Christine Roussel’s The Guide to the Art of Rockefeller Center the poor fleur-de-lis has had a stormy past. French revolutionaries in 1789 set out to obliterate this symbol so closely associated with French monarchy, burning any trace of it from textiles and chiseling it off buildings, but it was so loved it endured and remains France’s most iconic symbol.

IMG_0801Here is one of my favorite pieces in Rockefeller Center, the sterling silver Cartier plane. It’s an exact replica of the Hispano-powered Breguet biplane that famed French aviators Dieudonne Costes and Maurice Bellonte flew across the Atlantic in 1930 (the reverse of Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 journey from New York to Paris.)

Handcrafted in France by Cartier silversmiths and members of the French aircraft company Avion Breguet, (which built the original plane,) the cockpit opens, the propeller and wheels turn and the flaps move. It was a gift from the French ambassador to the U.S., on behalf of the Republic of France, given in 1933 to Rockefeller Center as an endorsement of the newly-built Maison Francaise. What an exquisite gift and how lucky the people who work in this building are to see it in their lobby everyday.

rockefeller-centerAn exquisite gilded panel by Alfred Janniot stands over the man in entrance to the French Building, which features the three Graces: Poetry on the left, elegance on the right and beauty in the center.

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How wonderful it must have been to have the Librarie de France (once located in the concourse under the GE Building, later moved to the French Building) right downstairs! How sad that it is closed now, due to rising rents.