Fanny

 While working on this piece, I listened to the audio recording of Team of Rivals by Doris Kerns Goodwin.  The biography focuses on the  political genius of Abraham Lincoln.  To achieve the desired contrast in political brilliancy, the author goes into great detail about those who opposed Lincoln in his bid for the Presidency within his own party.  Goodwin dedicates a large portion of her book to shedding light on those who, eventually, became Lincoln’s cabinet members, but originated as his rivals.  I confess that I found myself almost swayed at times by his opponents, especially William H. Seward.

William Seward happened to be the Governor of New York, and just so happened to live in Auburn, about 25 minutes from my home. I had the opportunity a year ago to tour his home.  I was struck with how much was preserved by the Seward family.  Seward served as Secretary of State and was responsible for the purchase of Alaska.  Following his tenure in Lincoln’s cabinet, Seward traveled the world and received gifts from countless countries…and many of those gifts, including a canoe from Alaska, are on exhibit in his house.  What struck me most was that much of the items preserved were done so at the behest of Seward’s daughter, Fanny.  She was a woman ahead of her time:  smart, driven, organized, visionary…and not willing to sit passively by as some her age and social situation would be expected to behave.  Who would have thought to save John Adam’s calling card for future generations to see?  She did.  Sadly, she died at the age of 22, but she left quite an impact on her family and those who knew her.

As I considered a name for this piece, I thought “Fanny” fit her well:  bright, feminine, but not soft or submissive.  Both could be called “bold” and it would be a compliment.  And, like Fanny, I worried that this “Fanny” was destined to an early grave as I watched her being hauled away in the back of a pick up truck with only one guy holding on to her with one arm to keep her from sliding out.  Thankfully, she survived.

 

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