Personal posts by public historian, Rose O'Keefe



Apr 11, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

This from an email:

“Dear Contributors, 

We are happy to announce that Volney Road Review, Issue 4.2, is now live. Being that this is the final issue the founding editors and I will be working on, we'd like to sincerely thank you for joining us on this journey. The literary scene is made of people like you, who take the risk to put their work out there. We would be nothing without your contribution.

You can find issue 4.2 on our site at We would greatly appreciate it if you'd also share it out to your friends and family--they would love to see your accomplishment. 


Apr 08, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
Yesterday I had childhood beliefs about wealth upended while walking around the mansion and grounds at George Washington's estate in Mount Vernon, Virginia. How dismaying to see that this wealth and grandeur were founded on the forced labor of 600 enslaved workers. How I envied his gardens and constant plans to grow new plants of many varieties and yet how disturbing to get a glimpse into the tremendous amount of tedious work it took to make it all happen. 
George became an owner/master through his wife, Martha, who ran the massive estate during his many absences. So how come it isn't called somewhere the George and Martha Washington estate? 


Apr 05, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
Thank you to Publishers Weekly (3.28) for an uplfitng article in the News section about people coming together at the Bologna Children's Book Fair March 21-24. Ukrainian book distributors with support from the Federation of European Pubishers and Book Fair organizers raised money to distribute Ukrainian language books to the millions of refugees. Hewlett Packard is working with Old Lion Publishing in Ukraine and Enchanted Lion in the U.S. to print 10,000 copies of How the War Changed Rondo, in a dual language Ukrainian-English edition to put in backpacks for refugee chidlren. It was written and illustrated by husband and wife team Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv.

Mixed Feelings

Apr 01, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

It was with mixed feelings that I finally finished The Story of Mankind (1921) by Hendrick Willem van Loon. He summed up all of history when he wrote, “… for us, who are alive today, the one and only serious problem is a world-wide reorganization along economic rather than political lines. … [In] the meantime we are learning one very important lesson – that the future belongs to the living and that the dead ought to mind their own business.”

Fitting Tributes

Mar 28, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

What a fitting tribute to Women’s History Month: The Sunday paper’s Special Edition of We Built This: How Women Innovators Shaped The World, was terrific! Thank you to USA Today Network, the Smithsonian and Funnel, for putting together this colorful collection of briefs about women leaders, scientists, artists and advocates. That’s what I like to read in the paper.


Mar 25, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Oh my gosh! Thank you to the Christian Science Monitor (Mar. 14) for its touching two-page spread of a father-and-daughter reunion in Poland, after fleeing Ukraine in February. Also, although I’d read a biography of Beatrix Potter years ago, the piece in Books for Global Readers taught me about her fascination with mushrooms and fungi and belated credit for her work.

Catching Up

Mar 21, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Having a nasty head cold put a crimp in my reading pace. Not only did I keep dozing off, but more often than not, I didn’t have much focus. One evening, I took out one of my favorite books, The Complete Tassajara Cookbook (2011) by Edward Espe Brown in search of a soup recipe.

Award Winners

Mar 18, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
Grace Lin’s magnificent Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (2009) sets a standard that is hard to match.

Good Reading for Slow Times

Mar 15, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Despite a head cold, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Accidental Archaeologists: True Stories of Unexpected Discoveries (2020) by Sarah Albee. It was so much fun. She is a clever writer and the book was a constant page turner with its fascinating facts. Have to admit, the Newbery Award winner, Tales from Silver Lands (1924) by Charles J. Finger, while also fascinating has been a slower read. The unusual stories told to the author by natives in South America stretched the mind and the imagination.

Once again, The Christian Science Monitor (Jan. 31, 2022) delivered timely takes on a variety of topics, from at-risk owls, unwelcome Eritrean refugees who moved to Toronto, a music program for expecting parents to create lullabies for their children, upbeat tidbits in Points of Progress and more. The two-page photo spread of a worker installing lights for the Year of the Tiger celebration in Taiwan was so colorful!

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Good Reads

Mar 15, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
Good reading makes everything better.

The Beginning of the End

Mar 11, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

This is the third post about the Iroquois Peace League. My intention is to acknowledge and thank many for their efforts to understand pre-contact history across upstate New York State.

Educational author Lydia Bjornlund wrote in The Iroquois that they called themselves, We Human Beings, and the Europeans, Axemakers. These Human Beings began to ally with English traders in New England and the Dutch along the Hudson River in trade wars that were the beginning of the end of the Great Law of Peace.

More on the Peace League

Mar 07, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

This is the second post about the Iroquois Peace League. My intention is to acknowledge and thank many for their efforts to understand pre-contact history across upstate New York State.


Let’s continue with the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois being well established by 1,000 A.D. and their democracy being one of the oldest continuing democracies in the world, from Alvin Josephy in 500 Nations.  And, a historic marker in Clay, Onondaga County states: “The Onondagas had settlements in central New York that existed for several centuries before Columbus' arrival in 1492.”

The Great Law of Peace

Mar 04, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

This is the first post about the Iroquois Peace League. My intention is to acknowledge and thank many for their efforts to understand pre-contact history in New York State.

Let’s start with Mohawk historian Darren Bonaparte. In Creation and Confederation: The Living History of the Iroquois, he wrote of oral histories about the Five Nations uniting in the generations before the arrival of Europeans. Clues to the founding date exist in league traditions which evolved with retelling over time.

The American Dream

Feb 28, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

In a PBS news interview last week with Tiffanie Drayton, author of Black American Refugee (2022), she spoke of feeling betrayed by the myth of the American Dream that brought her family to the U.S. from Trinidad. After a rough time here, Drayton moved back home.

A few days after seeing that interview, I’ve was reminded in a Non Fiction Fest post on research, to take long-winded writing, underline and use only the best parts. I searched through my files for an essay to revise. How ironic. First up was “The American Dream” from 2013.

A Moment of Silence

Feb 25, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Maybe it was the drums of war pounding in the ethernet that knocked me over. Maybe it was the intense cold front that came through, but when I thought about starting a blog post – which I enjoy – I binge watched short TrueFoodTV videos instead. FYI, pecan comes from a native word pakan. Pecahn, generally used in the southern U.S, is the French pronunciation. Peecan, as spoken in the northeast U.S, is the English version of this nut which has become very popular in China. I watched videos on permaculture projects in India – fascinating and uplifting, and a long one on an intentional living community, Eco Village at Ithaca, New York, that is soon to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Character Quirk?

Feb 21, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Why I get excited about lists could be a character quirk  or defect. A list of 100 Newbery Award winners was too hard to resist and I decided to read through it. I started with the Hugh Lofting’s The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle (1922).

Talk about not judging a book by its cover, the paperback cover had a scene from the Disney movie with Rex Harrison in front of a giant snail, facing a native with feathers spiking out of his head, in an orange robe. The prologue was marvelous and by the time the good doctor appeared chapters into it, he was nothing like the book cover. Annoying. The story set in 1820s coastal England was fantastical and in parts, sweet. Yes, it was condescending at times but the adventures were so far out it was a ton of fun. That the doctor was a naturalist who was pro animal rights was a big surprise.

On Invizibilization

Feb 18, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Working women, women of color, and enslaved workers’ worth has been downplayed for centuries. Scholar Celeste Marie Bernier coined the term “invisibilization” to describe how many people’s contributions have been erased from history.

Both Frederick Bailey and Anna Murray were born in rural Maryland in the early 1800s. They grew up with strict roles for men and women. Fred Bailey grew up enslaved in backwoods near Tuckahoe Creek on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He went to Baltimore around age 8 as a babysitter for a young boy.

By the age of 17, Anna was a live-in servant in Baltimore. The two white families that she worked for thought well of her, and she became a respected cook, a status symbol.

By the time Frederick and Anna met in the 1830s, he had the indignity of turning over his wages as a skilled caulker to his master/owner, for a pittance of an allowance. Anna, despite being a free woman whose white employers valued her skills, was not well paid. I venture that her sister Charlotte, a dressmaker, helped her make the sailor suit Frederick wore as a disguise on his daring escape to New York City.

Getting in Sync

Feb 11, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Getting in sync with February’s Nonfiction Fest was slow, but I thoroughly enjoyed the daily entries once I did. All the encouragement one could use was in Doreen Rappaport’s piece on Finding Your Voice. Her suggestion to tackle an unfinished manuscript was on my to-do list last year – and still is. Melissa Stewart’s original video on Revision Decisions made me think about learning to do presentations like hers.

Lights, Camera, Action (verbs) by Beth Anderson gave a refreshing take on spotlight, focus and punch. Although I enjoyed all of them, my favorite was Lionel Bender’s Which Category of Children’s NF is Best for Me? He gave an excellent overview of the differences among the trade, school and library, and magazine markets. His view of what the SCBWI focused on and did not; what certain publishers wanted from authors and didn’t, was eye-opening.

Carol Kim’s piece, Writing for the Educational Market: A Research Junkie’s Dream held up a sobering mirror to what it takes, and what it doesn’t. Hmm. Yes, I am a research junkie.

Catching up on emails, I read in Association of Independent Author’s newsletter (ALLi) about 2021 trends, that readers in India, Thailand, and China spent the most hours reading per week; romances were most popular with U.S. readers; Millennials read the most books; Finland, Poland, and Estonia were Europe’s biggest bookworms, and audiobooks were popular in China.

ALLi had colorful charts on statistics about readers in the U.S. and around the world. No surprise, romance and erotica had U.S sales over $1 B. ALLi has more podcasts than I could ever keep up with.

A recent editorial in The Writer mentioned not toughing it through a book if the first 50 pages didn’t work. I made it to p. 97 in The 1619 Project created by Nikole Hanna-Jones (2021) and got stalled on the chapter, Fear by Leslie Alexander and Michelle Alexander. After waiting two weeks, I skimmed through it, and then moved on to the painfully ironic fact from November 1775; the tragic essay, Freedom Is Not For Myself Alone, by Robert Jones Jr.; another ironic tidbit from August 1791, and the painful Other Persons by Reginald Dwayne Betts. Wow.

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#amreading; #RochesterNY; #RACWI; #SCBWI; #DoreenRappaport; #MelissaStewart; #BethAnderson; #LionelBender; # Carol Kim; #ALLi; #Writermag; #1619project; #NikoleHannaJones; #RobertJonesJr; #ReginaldDwayneBetts; #LeslieAlexander; #MichelleAlexander;

An Early Role Model

Feb 10, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

I’d read about the life of Frederick Douglass who was born in a backwoods cabin in 1818, on a farm in Maryland. That plantation’s owner, Edward Lloyd V, kept over 550 enslaved workers. Lloyds’ career as a politician came second to running an estate of about 10,000 acres, but – the  clothing allowance for each slave child under 10, was a sack cloth shirt a year and a monthly portion of meal and salt pork. It was in Lloyd’s home, where Frederick was a playmate for Lloyd’s son, that he saw what wealth looked like.

Frederick became a skilled caulker in Baltimore, where he earned a dollar a day, ($30 now). It had galled him to hand over his earnings every week to his master. After escaping from Baltimore in 1838, when Frederick and his wife Anna moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts he was not able to work in his trade. Racism in the North limited him to hard, dirty work. Once he started lecturing for the Anti-slavery Society, he was paid less than white speakers. His freedom was fragile since he was still a wanted man. Supporters paid for his freedom, but he supported his family and newspaper from lecture fees and book sales. Despite financial highs, like his second autobiography selling 5,000 copies in two days in 1855 at a cost of $1.25 ($40 now), life on the road as a speaker was hard.

It wasn’t until the 1880s that he found a steady income of about $5,600 a year ($160,000 now) from fees collected as Recorder of Deeds in Washington D.C. But he still traveled. By the time he spoke at the Tuskegee normal school in Alabama in 1892, his fee was $100 to $150 a speech ($3,000 to $4,600 now) plus the cost of a travel aide. Over the years, with his sons, he invested in real estate and property development that placed the Douglass family in a circle of wealthy Blacks.

Douglass is known for his formidable passion and commitment to social equality. He is less known for the business savvy that made him rich. Later in life, he remembered Edward Lloyd as “a gentleman of the olden time, elegant in his apparel, dignified in his deportment, a man of few words and of weighty presence. … No governor of the State of Maryland ever commanded a larger measure of respect.” What a role model!

The Book in Hand

Feb 07, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

We made it through an intensely cold week in WNY when even 10 minutes of light snow shoveling was overwhelming. Afterward, reading some of my regular magazines was an invitation to a nap. One article that kept my attention was on the last page of  PW’s issue of 1.31. In the Soapbox opinion by Christian Peukert, Digging into the Data, he explained well how digitization made the book publishing more efficient.

While I had read years ago that romance and erotica were top-selling categories, he pointed out the impact that Kindle had on them. Data tracking showed clearly what was going on in the industry. Then, research about advances paid to eBooks and self-published romance and erotica authors and their book’s success, led to offers from traditional publishers. This kind of article could have told me that as a niche history author, I was in the wrong money-making category. What I got out of it was that self-publishing was the way to go for writers like me.  

Speaking of the last page, I usually head first for Gigi Will Know at the back of The Writer. Yi Shun Lai’s column, Broadening the Bookshelves in the January issue was a shocking reminder of how little I knew about Mexican culture and writing. Yes, I recently slogged through Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (2005) but that was not the same. The Nightstand’s feature article on six picks by attorney and writer Daniel Olivas woke me up. I was most interested in Zapote Tree by Alejandro Morales (2021) about Sephardic Jewish Mexicans. Yi Shun Lai’s February column, Broadening the Bookshelves on Native American works gave me a lot to think about too.  

It may seem like there’s never enough time to get to all the books on my reading wish list, but the only thing that truly matters, is the one in hand.

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