Sunday, February 9, 2014

BIRTH | Feb. 9 - HvS

Hilda van Stockum as Art Student
Hilda van Stockum was born this day in 1908 (108 years ago in 2016), eldest child and only daughter of Capt. Bram van Stockum and Olga Boissevain. She met an American, Ervin Ross Marlin, when she was attending the Royal Hibernian Academy of Art in Dublin and her brother Willem van Stockum was his roommate at Trinity College, Dublin.

She became Mrs. Marlin at a Dublin wedding in 1932. She followed her husband to New York City and then Washington, DC, where he joined the FDR Administration based on a competitive exam that took the top 300 people out of thousands of people who took the test. (He worked for eight years in several Federal agencies and during World War II he was sent by the OSS under Bill Donovan to Ireland. After the war he worked for the UN for 20 years.)

She wrote and illustrated her first book for children in 1934, A Day on Skates, published by Harper & Brothers. It had a foreword by her aunt Edna St. Vincent Millay and won a Newbery runner-up award. During the next four decades she averaged one book per year - written or illustrated or both, plus several translations from German or Dutch. After her first book, most of her books were edited by May Massee, who moved to Viking Press in 1932 and remained her faithful editor for 25 years. Her other main publishers were Constable, the Modern Library and Farrar Straus. Since 1994 about 15 of her books have been kept in print by Bethlehem Books and Boissevain Books.

One book (The Winged Watchman, published originally by Farrar Straus) has sold 51,000 copies in reprint, after all the sales by Farrar Straus & Giroux. She died on All Saints' Day, 2006.

The following remembrances of Hilda van Stockum on Her Birthday by Her Children were written in 2013, with two updates in 2014. [These were all in the form of emails, posted here by permission. Notes in square brackets by John.]

Olga Marlin [in 2013 in Pamplona, Spain for medical treatment, on leave from her Kianda Foundation family in Nairobi, Kenya – she sent this on February 8 as an email to her five younger sibs]: Tomorrow is Mom´s birthday,and a day when I pray especially for all of us. Are you following the work of John Beaumont? [Beaumont is finishing up a book on U.S. converts to Catholicism, including Hilda van Stockum.] I´m touched that he is so interested in mother´s religious background. It is built into her whole life, and always had a great influence on me. I don´t know whether he would like to read my book [To Africa with a Dream, Scepter and Boissevain Books]: it brings up quite a lot about Mom. I´m eagerly waiting for a feedback from my Kenyans on Lis´s book [Lis Paice, New Coach: Reflections from a Learning Journey, Open University Press]. I'm sure they are going to like it immensely. We have a number of philosophers coming and going in this Centre [in Pamplona]. An Ecuadorian has just left, who is studying the substance of freedom in the writings of Fernando Polo. Another, from Uruguay, is studying philosophical aspects of anthropology. I discuss their theses with them from time to time - very interesting, but out of my depth... I feel more at home in theology. I´m looking forward to April when the family visits start again!! I can walk around OK now, just using a stick outside for security. My love and a great big hug - I can just hear Mom singing: "Bind us together, Lord, bind us together..." XX

Olga 2014 - Warmest greetings from Pamplona, where I'm thinking of you all especially on Mommy's Birthday tomorrow, I'm sure she'll hear our "Happy Birthday!" in Heaven and bless us all. It has been a cold winter across the Atlantic – I hope you didn´t suffer too much. Here we are having huge tidal waves at the coast, with some loss of life and lots of property destroyed. The seaside walks have been cordoned off, to avoid people being swept away. Olga

Brigid Marlin [in Berkhamsted, UK, responding to Olga’s 2013 email] I've been missing Mum so much in different ways. We always discussed painting problems together, and if either of us had a difficulty, a second artist's opinion was very helpful. She was endlessly patient in advising about writing - I always appreciated that very much. And finally she was brilliant at interpreting dreams! And how we all miss her great love for us; uncritical, believing in us and admiring us, giving us confidence and belief in ourselves! Thank you, Mother!

Randal Marlin [in Ottawa, Canada, responding to Olga’s 2013 email] I play violin with our parish choir, Olga, and we recently played "Bind Us Together," and I thought of Mom at the Castle [in Galway]. "He will raise us up on the last day" is another reminder. I can't remember whether "Be not afraid" was a favourite of Mom's but it expresses her thoughts and is a great hymn. I'm studying Spanish with a good teacher and hope to be more fluent when I next come to Pamplona. I'll be playing "Pescador de Hombres" on Sunday, though the music is the same in English or Spanish. Maybe there's a slightly different feeling when I think the Spanish words as I play. Congratulations on your health improvement, Olga. Love to all. Randal

Sheila O'Neill [in Garston, UK, responding to Olga’s 2013 email] Hi all, I miss mother a lot but I feel her presence, watching over us. She was a strong influence on us and a great example of dedication, hard work and religious fervour. She did something right because all six of us have been very successful in our careers. I raise a toast to Mum, long may our memory of her live on! Sheila

John Tepper Marlin [in New York City, USA, in 2013; in Tiradentes, Minas Gerais, Brazil in 2014]
2014 – We think of religion as a pacifying influence, especially in Latin America. But for Mom, her references to the Oxford Group suggest it was revolutionary, and that is what religion was in Tiradentes. The revolutionaries who started the movement to make Brazil independent from the Portuguese Empire, inspired by the American Revolution, first met in 1789 in the home of Padre Toledo in this small mountain village. They were called the Inconfidencia Mineira. One of the group testified against 11 others, and they were all executed on April 21, 1792. Only Lieutenant Jose da Silva Xavier, known as Tiradentes (tooth-puller) was hanged, and since independence of the Portuguese monarchy was achieved a century later, in 1889, the anniversary of his death has been a public holiday in Republican Brazil. The flame that was lit in Tiradentes never went out. Mom lit flames like that and many are still burning.

Elisabeth Paice [in London, UK, responding to Brigid’s 2013 email] Awwww. That does bring Mom back, Brigid! And “How Great Thou Art!” She loved to get mimosa on her birthday, and Yardley’s Lavender Water, and a poem. I just reread The Winged Watchman in her memory.

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