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Posts Tagged ‘Leslie Goddard’

DSCN1144When I first heard that Leslie Goddard would be portraying Jackie Kennedy at a fundraising event in February, I eagerly set about gathering a circle of women to share a table. The event was a benefit for the Elmhurst Heritage Foundation, which supports the Elmhurst Historical Museum and the Churchville Schoolhouse, both of which celebrate local history.

I first saw Leslie Goddard last winter when she portrayed one of my favorite authors, Louisa May Alcott. I knew she would capture the essence of the former first lady of the United States. She did not disappoint.

It was fun to meet up with those sharing my table, and see so many women I haven’t seen in a long while. Many wore pill box hats, suits, and outfits reflecting the 1960’s and the brief years of the Kennedy administration.

I didn’t wear a hat, or gloves, or a suit, but I did wear several strands of pearls around my neck, pearl earrings and a vintage brooch at my lapel.

The tea was outstanding; savories and sweets filled our plates and satisfied our palates as we sipped tea, chatted, and waited for Jackie to arrive.

When she did, in a red suit, pill box hat, and signature wide-brimmed sunglasses, I felt myself taken back, 50 years, to the days of my youth, watching the black and white television tour of the White House with Mrs. Kennedy, who was bringing its history alive. I remembered how glamorous I though Jackie Kennedy was and how she influenced fashion of the time in her classic manner. I recalled how we all bought mantillas to wear on our heads to church and how I wanted to learn more of our nation’s history and furnishings. Of course, as Ms. Goddard spoke of that fateful day in Texas, I remembered the assassination of JFK, of how sad and frightening those days in November, 1963 were, and of Jackie’s quiet, graceful dignity that helped us all through, in spite of her grief and her trauma.

What a elegant afternoon it was. How fortunate I was to share it with friends and family. How amazing it is to have such talented historians as Ms. Goddard, who bring history alive in such meaningful ways.

I wish you could have been us, dear reader. I really do.

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My admiration of Louisa May Alcott is known among my friends and documented on these cyber-pages. I can still see the tear stained pages of my first copy of Little Women as Beth takes her last breath; how I tried not to sob on my library book, failing miserably.  I was a young girl, a not-so-young girl, a granny, and I’ve treasured Alcott’s books and books about Alcott ever since that first schoolgirl reading.

We walked around Walden Pond a few years ago. I imagined Jo and Laurie skating on ice there and Meg falling in. I imagined Alcott’s friend, Henry Thoreau, talking to a young Louisa as she looked on in admiration. We walked through the rooms of Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts and I marveled at the simple desk she penned her most famous novel and many more works and we visited Concord’s cemetery, Sleepy Hollow. Author’s Ridge is high on top, overlooking the town, and it is there that Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau are buried and there where Louisa May rests in the simple grave above the famous town.

When my friend Sharon told me of a presentation of Alcott at the Elmhurst Historical Museum, I just knew I had to go.

Leslie Goddard, in period costume, a deep purple day dress with long, flowing sleeves and lace collar, gave a riveting impersonation of Louisa May Alcott, speaking about her experiences as a Union war nurse during the Civil War. Taken from Alcott’s “Hospital Sketches”, Ms. Goddard excelled in bringing the author to life with the wit and compassion found in Alcott’s writing.

Goddard, as Alcott, told of her eagerness to be part of the war and how she enlisted as a nurse with Dorothea Dix. She told of the hardships of war and the horrible injuries suffered and of the dying man she tended to, staying with him until his last breath, holding his hand and then carefully prying it away, his grip still tight after he passed away. She also told of the illness she suffered, typhus pneumonia, after only being at the hospital for three weeks and which ended her military nursing.

It was an amazing dramatization. I wish you could have been there to see it. Thank you Sharon for telling me about it and sharing the experience. It so gratifying to spend time with friends, learn new things, and be further enlightened about a favorite author.

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