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Caroline FerridayGeneralLilac GirlsThe Rabbits of Ravensbrück

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

By July 21, 2014July 26th, 20234 Comments
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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.

norman-cousins

The wonderful Norman Cousins

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