Monday, December 17, 2012

Give a van Stockum Book - Order from Amazon

Give a book by Hilda van Stockum this year

Just click on the title to order from Amazon

For Kids - books by Hilda van Stockum -

For Teens - books by Hilda van Stockum 
Memoirs - 
To Africa with a Dream, by Olga Marlin, daughter of HvS
A Meaning for Danny, by Brigid Marlin, daughter of HvS

Thursday, December 6, 2012

ST. NICHOLAS | German?

Hilda van Stockum's  Kersti
December 6, 2012–I love to listen to Garrison Keillor's radio program, "The Prairie Home Companion", on NPR. He serves up a piece of it as a daily email, under the name "The Writer's Almanac".

It includes his reading of a poem and highlights of the lives of writers or other historical figures whose birthdays are celebrated that day. It is usually well researched and for me it is the Fifth (and funniest) Gospel.

But today it takes note of St. Nicholas Day by describing it as a holiday "celebrated in Germany and other European countries, as well as many American cities with German roots."

No, sir. I cannot let that pass. My late mother, Hilda van Stockum, would not want me to less this slide by. She was a huge fan of the saint and wrote a whole book about St. Nicholas, Kersti and St. Nicholas. I grew up revering this saintly Greek bishop who came from what is now part of Turkey.

The implication that St. Nicholas was primarily a German-venerated saint is untrue. St. Nicholas did not come to the United States from Germany, even though there are today more German-Americans than Dutch-Americans in the USA.

St. Nicholas came via Holland. When Englishman Henry Hudson sailed over in 1609 to what is now New York City on the "Half Moon" he was in the employ of the the Dutch East Indies Company.  He went back to Holland with news of the fertile river valley going north from the port that he called New Amsterdam. Within five years Dutch settlers had made a small city on the southern end of the island we call today Manhattan.

Thomas Nast Drew This Iconic Picture of
Sinterklaas Based on Moore's Poem.
The Dutch settlers brought with them their St. Nicholas, venerated by both the Protestants and Catholics in Holland. He was the patron saint of Amsterdam and sailors and children and became also the patron saint of New York City. Clement Clark Moore, an Englishman who owned a farm in what is now the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, is credited with the poem "'Twas the Night before Christmas" about a visit from St. Nicholas, "Sinterclaas" in Dutch, who was transformed from an angular bishop to a jolly elf driven by reindeer and a sleigh. Cartoonist Thomas Nast finished the picture of what we have come to know as Santa Claus.

The Dutch tradition includes two key elements:
  • On St. Nicholas Eve (December 5), children sing songs about the arrival of the saint and partake of special St. Nicholas treats, including the Speculaas almond-ginger cookies. At St. Nicholas parties the saint arrives with his bishop's miter and crozier, and presents are distributed. 
  • Whether or not there is a party on St. Nicholas Eve, children leave out a shoe in front of the fireplace and put carrots in them for St. Nick's white horse. On the morning of December 6, St. Nicholas is supposed to have arrived during the night on the rooftop with presents for good children. The carrots are gone and the good children get sweets and toys, whereas the bad children get just a lump of coal from the fireplace as the saint goes back up the chimney..
Most Germans emigrated to the United States much later than the Dutch. The German immigrants were mostly farmers and less likely to move than the Dutch, who were traders. The new Germans settled inland, in Ohio and Wisconsin and Minnesota. They have big populations in cities like Cincinnati and Milwaukee. Keillor's Lake Wobegon celebrates the Lutheran émigrés from Scandinavia and Germany. These farmers brought with them the Christmas tree (Tennenbaum), and the feast day that is celebrated is Christmas.

Children leave out a shoe in the German tradition, but the appearance of St. Nicholas is rare and the December 6 feast day is nothing like as important as in Holland, where traditionally has been more important than Christmas.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy St. Nicholas Day to van Stockum Fans - Dec. 6

St. Nicholas Day has great significance in Holland, Belgium and much of Germany - at least the equal of Christmas as a day of gift-giving. With New York still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, it is notable that St. Nicholas is the patron saint of millers and sailors, Holland and New York City. Hilda van Stockum's book Kersti and St. Nicholas (1934) which was just republished (2010) for $13.99 after being out of print for 50 years and available only through rare-book dealers at $200 for a good copy..
This is what the Dutch call a 
"Speculaas Moulin" - a windmill 
cookie, with almond and ginger 
spices. In Belgium they are called
"Speculoos" cookies. In both 
countries they are a specialty of St. 
Nicholas Eve (Dec. 5) and Day.

St. Nicholas is the patron saint of many countries, cities and groups, including millers, sailors, children, incarcerated people, Holland and New York City.

At left is a cookie my wife Alice purchased yesterday in Belgium. It is a St. Nicholas Day specialty. It has a windmill on it because Holland it's specialty of Holland and other low countries threatened by floods.

Hurricane Sandy recently shut down much of New York City and reminded us of the Dutch skill at keeping out water. Much of Holland is at or below sea level and the windmills were used to pump out the "polders", the areas surrounded by dikes (Dutch word for embankments).

The Port of Rotterdam is a great example of Dutch engineering to keep water at bay. It is also where my mother, Hilda van Stockum (1908-2006), was born. (Her father was a naval captain and she grew up near naval bases.) Her book, The Winged Watchman (1962), was republished in 1997 after 20 years being out of print. It has sold 45,000 copies in the reprint version and has been optioned for a movie and is in process of being the subject of a comic book. It is about  This book by my mother has special relevance in light of Hurricane Sandy, which caused most of its damage because of flooding and caused most of the lost economic activity because of the electricity outages.
First published in 1962, The Winged 
Watchman has sold 45,000 copies
in reprint since 1997 and was 
optioned  for a movie.
The story is about a family that lives in an old windmill during the Nazi Occupation. Two boys aged 10 and 14 join the Resistance. The book shows how the windmill did their work when the electric mills were starved for fuel during the Dutch famine.

New York City has lost the skills of its Dutch colonists and Hurricane Sandy did major target="_blank">damage to the areas of NYC near water. If the Dutch were still in charge this wouldn't have happened. NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo has assessed the damage statewide as $33 billion and has called for $30 billion in Federal aid. Speaker Christine Quinn has put the New York City damage (which would fit within the statewide number) at $26 billion and has called for $20 million and a surge-control system to prevent 15-foot waves from cascading through New York City streets.

Bring back the Dutch! They first came to New York when the Dutch East India Company in 1609 sent English navigator Henry Hudson to explore the river now named after him. He went far upriver into what is now Canada and wrote back to his sponsors that beavers lived on the river in abundance. A Dutch settlement, New Amsterdam, was founded in Manhattan largely to support trapping beavers and sending them to Europe for women to wear. The New York City coat of arms has two beavers on it as well as a four windmill wings in honor of the Dutch settlers.
Seal of the City of New York..
Note windmill wings and two

The Dutch have been facing these flooding problems for many centuries. Their world preeminence in building windmills to pump out water also made them experts in making sails for the mill wings and this helped make them a global naval power for a time.

After the English took over the Dutch colony in 1664, they renamed it New York. The city grew most rapidly when the Hudson River became the gateway not only to upstate New York but also, after the Erie Canal was built, to the Great Lakes.

The Dutch have developed many kinds of technology to deal with today's challenges to their flood-threatened system of polders. New York needs to get their advice. And The Winged Watchman provides both a history of the importance of windmills in Dutch history and an education in the ways to deal with flooding.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Hilda  van Stockum, Self-Portrait
- A Dutch publisher located near the Hague has translated "The Borrowed House" into Dutch. That is only the second HvS book to be translated into Dutch, the other being "The Cottage at Bantry Bay", with the title changed to "The Little House [Huisje] on the Bay".  We are sending her the best photos we can find of HvS in her 20s or 30s.
- HvS's obituary in the newspaper "Het Parool" said that her books were famed around the world, everywhere it seems except the country of her birth. With two Dutch books out, that should change. The next two books that should be translated into Dutch are "The Winged Watchman" (which has sold 45,000 copies since it was given up for dead by Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and "A Day on Skates" (which should be given the name in the Dutch edition of "A Day on Skates in Friesland").
- HvS is appearing in a forthcoming book on converts to Catholicism. She would be so pleased to think of herself being in the tradition of Newman and Knox. Chesterton was the writer, she told me, that persuaded her to become a Catholic.
- An Australian comic book publisher is looking into making a comic out of a movie script based on "The Winged Watchman". The Japanese editions of "A Day on Skates" - the first HvS book translated into Japanese - sold well in 2009-2010. The Japanese Ambassador's wife wrote to us saying how much she loved the book. The publisher is happy and is looking at the possibility of doing more books by HvS.
- Portuguese editions of "The Cottage at Bantry Bay" and "The Mitchells" were published. 
-. A French edition of "The Winged Watchman" appeared  under the name "Le Veilleur" published by Hachette.
-. A German edition of "Penengro" was  published..

Thursday, September 13, 2012

BRIGID MARLIN | New Book–"A Meaning for Danny"

Cover of "A Meaning for Danny".
Hilda van Stockum's gift for writing keeps on giving. Her daughter Brigid has now joined her older sister Olga in writing her memoirs. Olga's book is about her 60 years' work educating girls in Africa (you can order "To Africa with a Dream" from Amazon).

Brigid's book is focused on the first-born of her three sons, Danny. It is called "A Meaning for Danny" and it is about the difficulties of identifying mental illness in a child and determining what can be done.

The book is well written and entertaining. Brigid can't help writing down the moments of humor as well as the moments of depression in her long struggle to understand the nature and implications's of Danny's illness. The comic relief is crucial for keeping the reader going. Otherwise the series of unexpected discouraging events would have been too much for the parents. Each discouraging event forcing the parents to lower their expectations for Danny.

Ultimately, the unsolvable problem that Danny had was a combination of epilepsy and autism (what might be called today Asperger's Disease). Each could be treated by drugs, but what worked for one exacerbated the other. The desperation that this realization caused in the boy's parents intensified as more information was revealed. Yet this too passed, and the book ends on a philosophical note that should provide some comfort to many parents of children with mental illness.

I can't imagine the book not being helpful for anyone with a child in the family suffering from mental illness. I have sent a copy to the Executive Directors of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Arlington, VA and the state chapter in Albany, NY. They both have a lending library that utilizes the U.S. mail. The book can be purchased for less than $12 from Amazon.

This blog is sponsored by Boissevain Books, which publishes books by Hilda van Stockum and her daughter Brigid Marlin. To buy a book, go to

MARLINS | Reunion of 4 in Berkhamsted

John, Lis, Sheila, Brigid Marlin, a.k.a. Timmy, Catherine, Angela, Patsy Mitchell.
Photo by Alice Tepper Marlin. Painting by Brigid Marlin.
I am visiting my three sisters in the UK - Lis, Sheila and Brigid. We have just had dinner at Brigid's house in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, UK. The painting behind us is by Brigid and signifies the attempt by a young girl to repair a wounded church symbolized by the dove.

We have 11 children among us, grandchildren of Hilda van Stockum and Spike Marlin. Lis and Sheila have multiple grandchildren and they are writing a book together on caring for grandchildren. I was surprised to learn that people who care for grandchildren have a lower life expectancy than those who do not. When I cogitated on why this might be so, it made sense, mostly because of whose children are likely to be in the care of grandparents, and the challenges that small children pose for older carers.

Alice and I are on our way to Oxford for the Alumni Weekend.
House at 8 Castle Hill, Berkhamsted, formerly owned by
Hilda van Stockum after Spike's death in 1994.

At the bottom of Castle Hill, near the top which is Brigid's house, before dinner, I snapped a photo of the former home of Hilda van Stockum at 8 Castle Hill. Between the time of E R ("Spike") Marlin's death in 1994 and HvS's own death 2006, the house suffered a bit on the maintenance. The renovations seem to be timely. Spike extended the dining room in the front and built a  studio in the back. It's not clear what is being done with the studio.

During the days when Spike was alive he would buy frames at auctions and would then have canvases made to fit them. He bought gorgeous frames at knock-down prices because who could use the frames but artists, and how many of them went to auctions?

From left: Sheila, Brigid, Lis, Alice (behind Liz). Photo
by John Tepper Marlin.
Brigid and Alice prepared a delicious meal with a whole fish and lots of veggies. The dining room is filled with art and sculptures by Brigid and her artistic colleagues. Brigid is deeply involved in promoting the hundreds of artists who are members of the Society of Art of Imagination.

Sheila's High Elms Manor has become a great success as an events venue since it was chosen as the subject of a "Country House Rescue" show.

Lis has retired from full-time work as a medical dean but continues to consult, mentor and write, as well as help care for her grandchildren. She is working on a project to integrate the various components of services provided by medical teams. The teams try to ensure that there is a common plan for the patient's route to wellness. It seemed to overlap with the management systems element of the SA8000 workplace standard.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hilda van Stockum - June Was Busting Out

Sometimes we can infer one thing from another.

We know that Hilda van Stockum's Winged Watchman has sold more than 42,000 copies since it was allowed to go out of print by its original publisher, Farrar Straus. This book by my late mother continues to sell 2,500 new copies a year through Bethlehem Books. In addition, there is an active used-copy market that operates through Amazon and various on-line bookstores.

Now, put that together with the fact that the site reports the number of hits every month. The daily average is ordinarily about 300 per month. In May 2012, that number doubled. In June the daily average bust out to 1,900 average hits per day and in July it went to 2,500.

Ladies and gentlemen - I conclude that "The Winged Watchman" is on a lot of summer reading lists, and the lists are including links to the author's websites. So in July every year several things are happening:
1. Parents and their chilldren are checking on the author to decide which books to read.
2. The girls and boys are writing their book reports and they are web-surfing to prepare author notes.
3. Who knows, maybe some parents are web-surfing to check on the credibility of the author.

Also, I conclude that if 2,500 people per day in July are checking in on the author, the ratio of new books sold to books read has to be a small number like 1:20 or 1:10. The combination of 42,000 used books in circulation and local library availability means that readers don't actually have to buy a new book.

God bless young readers, and older readers, and buyers, every one!

John ("Timmy" Mitchell)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Maria Montessori's birthday

Dr. Maria Montessori, 1870-1952

Happy Birthday, Maria Montessori

I and my five Marlin siblings, born 1934-1945 and all living, were brought up largely by my mother (Hilda van Stockum) and grandmother (Olga Boissevain) until we went away to school. 

Both of them were trained directly by Dr. Montessori, so in a way the family was a mini-Montessori Pre-School.

My sister Sheila O'Neill for decades has headed up several  Montessori Schools in the UK, notably High Elms Manor School.

I am reminded today by Lake Wobegon's Garrison Keillor, in his daily newsletter, that it is her birthday.

Here is what he says about her.


It's the birthday of Maria Montessori (books by this author), born on this day in Chiaravalle, Italy (1870). She was a bright student, and she wanted to study engineering. So when she was 13, against her father's wishes, she entered a technical school, where all her classmates were boys. After a few years, she decided to pursue medicine, and she became the first woman in Italy to earn an M.D. degree. 
As a doctor, she worked with children with special needs. And through her work with them, she became increasingly interested in education. She believed that children were not blank slates, but that they each had inherent, individual gifts. It was a teacher's job to help children find these gifts, rather than dictating what a child should know. She emphasized independence, self-directed learning, and learning from peers. Children were encouraged to make decisions.
During World War II, Montessori was exiled from Italy because she was opposed to Mussolini's fascism and his desire to make her a figurehead for the Italian government. She lived and worked in India for many years, and then in Holland. She died in 1952 at the age of 81. She wrote many books about her philosophy of education, including The Montessori Method (1912) and The Absorbent Mind (1949).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Little Old Bear" Sells at EH Children's Fair

The annual East Hampton Library Children's Fair was a big production this year. The food and drinks and rides were all free during the afternoon of August 12 (the previous evening's authors' cocktail party and small dinners brings in the money and this is a give-back investment in future readers).

I was in the book section, discussing the appropriateness of specific books by my late mother Hilda van Stockum for different children. The conversations were held with the children themselves or with their parents or grandparents. The children outnumbered the adults; many of the children were impatient to get to the next source of excitement, but there were enough left who were genuinely interested in getting to know new books that it was fun.

Because of the construction work on the expansion of the East Hampton library, the Children's Fair was held at a nearby farm, eliminating the need to hunt for parking on the streets.

Altogether, parents purchased 42 of van Stockum's books. The biggest seller was "Little Old Bear" (Boissevain Books, 2010), which accounted for one-quarter of van Stockum sales.

I must have read out "Little Old Bear" some 20 times. I had a large-sized version of the book to read from and hold up. In no case did I lose my audience - there was always at least one child that couldn't wait to see how the story ended.

For next year, I made a few suggestions. For example, reading out books at the table seemed to get attention from both grownups and children. I have suggested that I and other authors read out more than one book and that the readings be scheduled ahead of time so that parents can target a certain time slot. Maybe there could be a way to set up a Power Point presentation that could accompany talks.

Another thing: It was a struggle to talk to people and sign books ("from the author's son" etc.) and also handle the paperwork for the books. If each person who attended would register and get a number, all I would need would be the number.

So much was going on that some parents seem to have been suffering from the Disney World effect, i.e.,  they felt under pressure to get to all the events. But what came through clearly was the earnestness of both the parents and the children to understand the nature of the stories in the books displayed all around them.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

East Hampton Library Childrens Fair - August 12

Little Old Bear will be featured at the Fair.
The East Hampton (Long Island, NY) Library is having its annual Childrens Fair on Sunday, August 12. 

Admission is free!

Since the Library is being extended, the event this year is being held in a tent on a farm across the road. 

More details including the exact location of the event  are hereI will be there with copies for sale of books by Hilda van Stockum!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

V for Victory Anniversary July 25

Hilda van Stockum, The Mitchells, Cover
The Mitchells, 1945 [Click here for link]

On July 25, 1941, the New York Times reported, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced a plan to take back Europe from Hitler, called "V for Victory".

This was also the subtitle of Hilda van Stockum's book The Mitchells, which is about the World War II effort as seen through the eyes of her five children growing up in Washington, DC.

We were in Washington because my father E.R. "Spike" Marlin, HvS's husband, was an early recruit to the management ranks of FDR's New Deal, via a competitive Civil Service exam he took in 1933 after FDR's administration had taken over. He worked for the Farm Credit Administration, the Civil Service Commission, and the Budget Bureau before the war broke out. After the war he want back to the Budget Bureau.

How did the war affect the Mitchell and Marlin families? The reality was quite close to the fictionalized story, with some important differences. Here are ten of the ways the war affected the family as described in the first 26 pages of the book, with some comments on the reality of the story:

1. On page 1, Joan is teary-eyed because Daddy is leaving to be drafted. The five children and Grannie are at Union Station to see them off. Uncle Jim has already been drafted. Fact: Daddy was exempted from the draft because he was working for the Federal Government already. But he was  taken away from Washington work for the OSS in Dublin and then London, after a period of training with firearms and OSS protocols.

2. Daddy is described as an electrical engineer. Fact: He actually concentrated in history and political science at Trinity College, Dublin. He was recruited by the OSS because he had many Irish friends and his first post was in Ireland where he worked with the Irish and British intelligence services on the activities of the German and Japanese representatives in Ireland.

3. Uncle Jim had already enlisted. Fact: Dr. Willem Jacob van Stockum, HvS's brother, who was teaching at the University of Maryland, was subject to the draft although a Dutch citizen. WvS got a deferral to complete his academic year at Maryland. The American military apparently wanted him to work on the bomb and he wanted to see action, so WvS volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he became a bomber flying instructor and then a pilot of a Halifax bomber.

4. To skip to the end of the book - both Daddy and Uncle Jim return. Fact:  HvS's husband returned from the war, but her brother Willem perished after a series of successful bombing runs on German-occupied France during the week of the Normandy landing, June 1944. He flew with the Royal Air Force in 1943 and 1944, and was shot down over Laval, France on June 10, 1944. He is buried with the other six members of his crew and with the seven members of another Halifax bomber on the same mission.

5. On page 10, Peter makes the point that in a war people have to leave home, even if it isn't safe.

6. On page 11, the taxi driver explains that he is too old to be drafted, but has two sons in Italy.

7. On page 20, Uncle Jim is described by the children as braver than Daddy because Uncle Jim enlisted. Mother explains: "Uncle Jim had no one else to worry about while Daddy has all of you as well as Grannie and me."

The NYTimes Story
on V for Victory
8. On pages 21-22 the three eldest children discuss the fact that Mother is not looking so well and wonder what they can do to help her and help win the war. Prices have risen and military pay is not as good as private-company pay. The "V for Victory" (Five for Victory) idea is something they come up with as the name of a club to make a contribution to the war effort. Their first ideas were to earn war stamps and save scrap. Fact:  The V for Victory slogan was picked up in the United States - Victory Gardens were one manifestation. Prices did rise a lot during World War II, but were kept down by (1) sale of Victory Bonds via stamps sold in denominations as small at ten cents, which took purchasing power out of the economy, and (2) price controls.

9. On page 25, the two club songs of the V for Victory club are "Anchors Aweigh" for Daddy and "Into the Wild Blue Yonder" for Uncle Jim. Fact:
Daddy was in the OSS (the World War II-era U.S. intelligence service, succeeded by the CIA), but two of his brothers were in the Navy; both returned. Uncle Willem was in the air force, but not the U.S. Air Force.

10. The Five for Victory Club on page 26 shows how the club got money for turning in (recycling, we would say today) bottles. Peter took the money and bought stamps toward a V for Victory bond. Fact: The Savings Bonds were a brilliant idea for financing the war effort.

Hilda van Stockum wrote three books about World War II. The Mitchells is about an American family in the United States. The Winged Watchman is about a Dutch family in German-occupied rural Holland. The Borrowed House is about a German couple that goes to a Dutch city, Amsterdam, to entertain the troops (the SS and the Wehrmacht), and their daughter Janna, who is shocked to find that the Dutch do not welcome their German invaders.

The Mitchells is usually grouped with two later stories about the family in Canada. But the three books about World War II make their own trilogy. As a group, for me they are the centerpiece of Hilda van Stockum's work. It is remarkable to have these family-oriented perspectives on that terrible war. Someone once asked: "Who is the protagonist in The Mitchells?"  If you had to pick a single person, it would have to be Mother. But my mother's answer to the question was: "The Family is the protagonist. It is the Family that must cope with all the disruptions and threats."

The two books about the Dutch occupation are among the top dozen books about World War II for children (out of 125 listed). The Mitchells is among the top 40 on the same list.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

MONTESSORI | Missing Book Discovered

Maria Montessori
My mother, Hilda van Stockum, often spoke about Maria Montessori and the course she took with her, I believe in Dublin, Ireland. Her mother Olga Boissevain van Stockum was also Montessori-trained. My sister Sheila O'Neill heads up a Montessori school at High Elms in Garston, near Watford, UK, and all four of her daughters are trained Montessori teachers.

One of the things HvS did as part of her Montessori training was prepare a curriculum book. This was a labor of love for my mother and Mrs. Montessori was - my mother told me - very impressed with it. HvS told me she loaned it to a nun who was interested in the Montessori method and it was never returned.

As HvS's executor, I have been hunting for this book in order to reprint it for use in Montessori schools and and for perusal by those interested in the history and practice of the Montessori method. Recently some Montessori School files were cleaned out in London and a copy of the missing book was retrieved - a long and interesting story that got the information to me via someone in Nairobi - and I therefore now have it,

However, I am still trying to track down the original book, because the copy is in black and white whereas the original was in color.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

HvS | "The Vocation of Women"

I was going through my mother's papers today to find her writings on what she called "the Vocation of Women." What got me started was an email from Sen. Barbara Boxer today that expresses her outrage at  assaults on the gains that women have made:
House committees that hold hearings on contraception -- and don't invite any women to testify on the panel. State legislatures like Idaho, Virginia, and Texas trying to force women to undergo invasive procedures. Senators who want employers to be able to deny women life-saving health care because it violates their "moral convictions." Right-wing radio hosts who call young women who testify about contraception "sluts."
The issues have come to surface during the primary campaigns and can be expected to continue into the general election, competing with issues relating to the economy. I wondered what my mother had written on this topic that might resonate today.

When it came to feminist issues, my mother was torn in two directions. On the one hand, she became a  Catholic in 1938, when my sister Olga was four years old. As a convert, she was highly orthodox. So in the 1970s she wrote articles defending the traditional role of the nurturing mother. She quoted G. K. Chesterton who extolled the freedom of a woman in the family - out of the rat race and with the potential to become Queen of her Home. However, given the choice, women have shown they like the idea of joining the rat race, and they have done well.

On the other hand, my mother was an admirer of the idealism of the suffragettes. She had two prominent feminist American aunts, Inez Milholland and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Her Dutch aunt Maria Pijnappel Boissevain was a leader in her country's movement to grant the vote to women and became one of the first female elected officials; at the same time she gave birth to and raised ten children.

Like Maria Pijnappel, my mother had a significant career as well as raising six children. She would have fought for the right for women to make their own choice, whether to work or not. If she were alive today, I think she would above all be distressed at the tone and content of the debate. She had experienced discrimination against women from the age of three:
My first experience of discrimination against women was when I was three and played with my little boy cousins [Eugen and André van Hall] of four and five. "You're only a girl," they'd sneer. And then they made immense efforts to prove their superiority, which had more to do with their greater age than with their being male. But I was happy to admire them; they were handsome little fellows. One had curls [André?], but I really preferred the one with straight hair [Eugen?], who asked me to marry him when his brother wasn't looking.
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Monday, March 19, 2012

BOISSEVAIN | Edna St. Vincent Millay and Eugen

Edna St. Vincent Millary and Eugen Boissevain, Austerlitz, NY, 1945
Edna St. Vincent Millay and Eugen Boissevain, 1945, at their
700-acre farm, "Steepletop", which Eugen purchased in 1925.
Edna St. Vincent Millay married my great-uncle Eugen Boissevain (uncle of my mother Hilda van Stockum) in 1923. 

He had been a widower since 1916 when his previous wife, Inez Milholland Boissevain, died in Los Angeles after collapsing while on stage, campaigning for the National Woman's Party (now housed in the Sewall-Belmont House in Washington, DC). 

Millay's poetry is clever and often soothing, but faces reality squarely in the eye. She wrote a post-mortem note to Eugen after he died in 1949, saying "The only thing I every did for you was survive you - but that was much." 

From stories of their marriage together, Edna was not far off the mark. He kept her alive much longer than she is likely to have survived on her own. 

His devotion to her was so great that at one point he suggested he join her in her addiction to pain-killers, so that he could fully empathize with her withdrawal difficulties.

Edna was found in 1950 by the Austerlitz, NY postmistress (as she was called). She was lifeless at the bottom of the stairs. Here is a link to 16 of her poems and a tribute to Eugen:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

HvS BOOKS | Tim Sullivan's LTV Show (Updated Oct. 5, 2016)

John Tepper Marlin (left) talks with Tim Sullivan (right).
EAST HAMPTON, NY, St Patrick's Day, 2012–Tim Sullivan interviewed John Tepper Marlin about the life and books of his late mother, Hilda van Stockum (1908-2006).
The interview aired March 18, 21, 23, 25, 28, and 30, and April 1, 2012.

The word “Penengro” means “storyteller” in the language of the Roma (gypsies) or “tinkers” (more respectfully, “travelers”) in Ireland. Rory O'Malley runs away from a foster home he finds difficult, and is protected by the travelers. He learns their language and ways and falls in love with one of the Roma girls. In the end he is persuaded to leave the travelers to go to university. A bittersweet ending that shows respect for the beauties of the Roma culture, especially its oneness with the environment, while cutting no corners in showing how cultural differences can get in the way of permanent relationships. To download Part 1 (8:37 minutes), click here:  Here is the full story of Rory’s adventures:

The son of author Hilda van Stockum  talks about two of her books for young readers. Little Old Bear is about a bear (Jeremy)  who gets two new eyes and gets a new owner and a new home in his old age – a story that will please both child and the grandparent who reads it out. Patsy and the Pup is about a young girl who finds a puppy and is required to return it to its owner, with a surprise happy ending.  To download Part 2 of the interview (9:35 minutes), click here:  For more about Jeremy Bear, go to For more about Patsy and the Pup, go to

The interview covers Hilda van Stockum’s life – how she met her husband Spike Marlin at Trinity College, Dublin through her brother Willem van Stockum – and some of her other books, including two very popular books for teens about the Nazi Occupation of Holland, both originally published by Farrar Straus and Giroux. The Winged Watchman is available in reprint from and The Borrowed House from The Purple House Press (just reissued Oct. 3, 2016). The remainder of the interview is about the changing opportunities in publishing. To download Part 3 of the video (10:04 minutes), go to

Video details: 480x360 pixels, 295 average kbps 10-stage fps, 30 video fps, 27 dropped. To report download problems please email