Zapruder film captured Kennedy’s assassination


Posted Oct 16, 2017 at 12:01 AM Updated Oct 16, 2017 at 4:08 PMhh Zapruder1

HUDSON – The assassination of President John F. Kennedy continues to impact generations.

For one family, its effects have been uniquely, “hauntingly” historic.

Alexandra Zapruder, granddaughter of Abraham Zapruder, the Dallas man who captured those indelible 26 seconds on film from the Grassy Knoll on Nov. 22, 1963, shared her family’s history to a packed room of more than 150 people Oct. 10 at the Hudson Library and Historical Society.

The Zapruder film was a home movie, Alexandra said — key to understanding it as an historic document and its effects on her family.

“If you don’t understand it was a home movie made by an individual with a family history, you can’t understand the life of the film,” she said.

Abraham Zapruder, a dressmaker and Russian immigrant who came to the country in 1920, left his shop (“Jennifer Juniors”) on Dealey Plaza that fateful morning, stopping briefly at home to pick up his 8mm video camera to capture the president’s visit.

“He loved technology and progress,” Alexandra said. “He was a modern man.”

Abraham and his family also loved Kennedy.

“My family were real Kennedy fans,” Alexandra said.

Abraham arrived around noon at his selected perch, a concrete abutment on the Grassy Knoll, to capture the moments when the motorcade passed. The twenty-six seconds of color film ultimately captures Kennedy emerging after a sign with his hands to his throat — and then being hit by what is believed to have been the final, fatal shot.

Darwin Payne, a reporter with the Dallas Times Herald (which ceased publication in 1991), interviewed Abraham after the shooting. Alexandra showed a clip of the interview, as her grandfather describes hearing the shots, seeing the president’s head “opened up” and knowing Kennedy was dead long before Walter Cronkite announced it.

“The killing of the president belonged to the [Russian] world he had left behind,” Alexandra said. “Violence on the street didn’t happen in a democratic society. It was more than he could bear. He couldn’t believe [President Kennedy] was shot down like a dog.”

Abraham had the film processed and three copies made, she said. Two went to the Secret Service. He drove home with the camera, the original print and the other copy.

“For him, it was a nightmare,” Alexandra said. “He didn’t know what to do with it.”

Richard Stolley, journalist and editor of LIFE Magazine, called in the days following the assassination. Abraham was said to have trusted the then-reporter, that Stolley might treat the film with respect and not exploit it. He sold the film to LIFE for $150,000.

“He agonized over it,” Alexandra said. “He didn’t sell to the highest bidder or give it away.”

The Zapruder family gave $20,000 from sale of the film to the widow of J.D. Tippit, the Dallas officer whom Oswald shot and killed the same day as Kennedy. Ironically, both Tippit and Oswald were buried the same day, after Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby days after Oswald’s arrest.

Alexandra noted that her family was criticized through the years for selling the film to LIFE, which printed 31 black and white frames from the video in its Nov. 29, 1963, edition, leaving out the fatal shot.

The first rule of the Zapruder film, Alexandra said, was not to talk about the Zapruder film — both out of respect to the Kennedy family and because of the moral dilemma it posed for Abraham, Alexandra said.

The film haunted the Zapruder family.

“It was horrible to see and disrespectful to the Kennedy family,” Alexandra said.

In 1975, as the film was under the auspices of LIFE magazine, a pirated copy was released on television, and LIFE returned the rights to the Zapruder family. Alexandra’s father, Henry, tried to allow some viewing but limit it. The film was used in the 1991 JFK film by Oliver Stone.

In 1998, ownership was transferred to the JFK Collection at the National Archives Records Administration. The U.S. Justice Department paid the family $16 million, about half of what the film’s value was capped at. The Zapruders have retained the copyrights.

In 2000, the Zapruder family donated the film copies, photographs and all copyrights to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

Most of the people in the room at the library were old enough to be alive that fateful Friday in Dallas, coming up on 54 years ago this Nov. 22.

During the question period at the end, Al McCaulley of Tallmadge stood up and offered another unique perspective.

From 1958 to 1967, he said, he worked in the photo lab for the FBI in Washington, D.C., and was called in for a 24-hour shift the day after Kennedy was shot to handle a special film coming in from Dallas.

McCaulley said the now iconic Zapruder film “seemed longer than 26 seconds.”

“Everyone sees something different [in the film],” he said.

Alexandra agreed, and says it raises more questions than answers, including conspiracy theories.

“The film is a visual record but it complicates the discussion,” she said.

Abraham died when Alexandra was 11 months old, so she researched his life and ultimately authored “Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film.”

“Everyone else got to know him — but not me,” Alexandra said.

In 2004, Alexandra’s father died and the film became her responsibility.

“I had to take responsibility for the Zapruder film and those who were part of it,” Alexandra said. “I was a writer so it was natural for it to fall to me, but I knew nothing about the film. I ran into historical gaps and misinterpretations of the family story.”

Alexandra’s resume extends far beyond being an author and curator to both national and family history. She is a founding member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

A graduate of Smith College, she served on the curatorial team for the museum’s exhibition for young visitors, Remember The Children, Daniel’s Story. She earned her master’s degree in education at Harvard University in 1995.

In 2002, Alexandra completed her first book, “Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust,” which was published by Yale University Press and won the National Jewish Book Award in the Holocaust category. She wrote and co-produced “I’m Still Here,” a documentary film for young audiences based on her book, which aired on MTV in May 2005 and was nominated for two Emmy awards.


Phone: 330-541-9434




Editing your story

Editing your work with editor Jennifer Fisher, speaker at Hudson Library and Historical Society on Sept. 25, 2017.

Self editing your novel – to enhance work, streamline, robust language, create a product to sell

Type of editing

  1. Development (subjective) – what is the big picture, characterization, plot development, and narrative flow
  2. Line editing – focus on prose, word choice, paragraph structure, and sentence flow
  3. Copy editing – check facts, punctuation, and capitalization
  4. Proofreading – eliminate typos

Keep notes on lingering questions or items to check for clarity and accuracy. Review comments from others but stick to your gut instinct. Reread your manuscript.

Narrative voice – Should be unique, consistent, and reader should “hear” the voice.

Setting – When, geography clear, if historical work, introduce to all the customs, mores, and way of life.

Timing – Storyline length, need dates and make clear how much time as passed in the story.

Tense – Most are past tense. All verbs need to be consistent.

Plot – Needs a beginning, middle, and end. Are there too many subplots that distract from the main plot? Can you distill plot to 1-2 sentences? Bring some originality to the story line. Most plots have been written. What makes your story different?

Pacing – Moves along smoothly and evenly. Are the chapters a consistent length? Are there long scenes that take over story line and slow down narrative pace? Does story move along too quickly or confuse reader? The story should slow down at climax.

Characters – How large is the cast? Are all necessary? Are you familiar with the background of each main character? Do you know them? Be aware of names – keep them distinct and not sounding alike.

Point of View – 1st or 3rd person limited. How many characters have POV? Introduce all characters in 1st few chapters and be consistent in how you refer to them. Cycle through POVs regularly. Do not head hop!

Incorporating the unfamiliar – Don’t assume others know what you know. Explain complicated concepts and devices. Example is military terminology, foreign countries, futuristic worlds.

Series or stand alone – If first in a series, drop in element that can be picked up in later books. If stand alone, resolve the plot

The first page – Pulls reader into the story. Make sure the first sentence, first paragraph, first page will entice reader. How many characters are introduced in first page? Sense of setting and mood established.

Give feeling of what to expect in story – Give clear picture of setting, pose questions to create interest. Is the mood scary, suspicious, or upbeat?

The first chapter – Introduce most of the characters, tell the reader what to expect and make them want to read more. A dead body should appear by chapter 3 in a mystery, and a romance should start by page 30.

The ending – Is it satisfying? Is the central plot resolved? Does it wrap everything up?




Writing a cozy mystery

Every writer should attend conferences or classes to improve their craft. I attended the 34th Annual Western Reserve Writer’s Conference Sept. 23 at the South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. The event was free and had a variety of workshops and speakers.

Amanda Flower book2Amanda Flower explained the difference between a Cozy Mystery and regular mystery.

A cozy mystery usually has a funny title. Amanda’s new book is “Assaulted Caramel.”

  1. A cozy is a subgenre of a standard mystery
  2. Death takes place off stage
  3. Minimal to no sex or violence
  4. Few if any curse words. It’s a sweet book but people are killed in it. It’s similar to Agatha Christie but funnier and sweeter.

Hardboiled mysteries are darker, more graphic and more cynical – Patricia Cornwell is an example

Soft boiled mysteries are lighter and more humorous; they focus on puzzle solving

Elements of a Cozy Mystery or topes, standards for a genre, that a reader expects in that genre. You can break or embrace them.

  1. Protagonist

She is an amateur sleuth and her job is NOT in law enforcement (Stephanie Plum is bond enforcer but not very good at her job.)

A shop is often a setting – garden, candy, etc.

The protagonist has a flaw – what is her damage?

She is a good person who wants to do the right thing but gets into trouble and snoops or meddles.

She thinks she can help by using her skills. She gets involved because of a connection to the person killed.

She wants justice served or she is the main suspect or someone she loves is the suspect

MOTIVATION is everything – she has to have a reason for doing the dangerous task of solving the crime.

  1. The cozy voice

Light and funny, humorous. Shows the protagonist has a life outside of the story – relief from tension.

All mysteries have right or wrong, good or bad and in the end justice prevails.

  1. Supporting cast

Small town with quirky people. Everyone helps or hinders the protagonist – the details of the story. Some kind of animal is in story (some talk) and a sidekick most of the time who is quirky and has the good lines.

  1. Love interest

Single woman 9/10 times her boyfriend is in law enforcement. She needs someone to get info from or someone involved in the investigation. Meet cute (watch The Holiday movie) – first meeting or first time reunited after long absence. Love gone wrong or something wrong with the person for getting involved. Has the tone of Janet Evanovich where Stephanie is a disaster waiting to happen but somehow “gets her man.”

  1. Unlikeable victim

9/10 person killed everyone wanted him dead so you have a lot of suspects. 1 real, 3 suspicious ones and 3 throwaways that are cleared quickly. All have great reasons to kill – love or money. An option for the victim is some redeemable trait.

  1. Lots of Suspense

In all mysteries their livelihood is threatened or a sick family member needs money for an operation. Every chapter should end with a hook to make the reader turn the page. James Patterson has short chapters, but reader keeps reading to find out what happens next.

  1. Red herrings and clues

Clues lead to the killer.

Red herrings lead away from the killer, misdirect and confuse the reader but do not irritate. Don’t leave loose ends. Everything is done with intention and logical. The clues tie the story together and makes sense to the reader.

Trick the reader – they think they know who the killer is but in the end someone else but makes sense. Do not have killer to jump out late in the story. He must be introduced early.

  1. The killer can be likeable or hated.

Sympathetic character is upset and makes stupid decisions to murder someone.

Action has MOTIVATION. He doesn’t kill because of psycho behavior. Killer is a normal person that snaps under stress.

Motivation – son dying and needs money to pay bills. An elected official has gambling problem and used public funds. They make a stupid decision concerning love or money and kill someone to hide mistake.

Killer’s rationalization – he had to kill the unlikeable troublemaker.

How to kill: blunt force trauma; stabbing; strangling; poison

9/10 murder crime of passion but in cozy – plan the murder

  1. Protagonist in Peril

Reach the climax and wrap up in four pages. Once the mystery is solved, end the story. The final setting should be familiar to the reader from earlier in the story. The protagonist has put the clues together and figured out who the killer is but he arrives with gun and she has to get herself and others out of trouble. Protagonist saves herself and others NOT cop or someone else. She’s the heroine.

Mystery subgenres: Golden Age; Police Procedure; Forensic; Private Eye; Thriller

First person is more common – reader finds same clues as protagonist.

80,000 words is common length.




How to get published

Every writer should attend conferences or classes to improve their craft. I attended the 34th Annual Western Reserve Writer’s Conference Sept. 23 at the South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. The event was free and had a variety of workshops and speakers.IMG_9676

Brian Klems of Writer’s Digest Magazine offered suggestions for getting published:

  1. Write a great story with an exciting incident to send the story into action where life as usual changes. The protagonist has clear goals, and the setting puts reader into the story. Use active voice, active verbs, and good grammar.
  1. Get to know editors and agents before pitching a story and make sure it fits the category they represent.
  2. Follow writing guidelines of editor or agent. Look at website for submission guidelines. Send at least five out at a time from your target list.
  3. Write a killer query letter
    1. Introduction with book, topic, and number of words
    2. Pitch or blurb
    3. Similar books and where it fits in their books (find through research)
    4. Qualifications and platform
  4. Have a platform – visibility and show how people can find you with blog, website, Titter, and Facebook
  5. Be kind, useful, and network. Never bad mouth agents or publishers.
  6. Embrace all feedback and don’t let criticism get to you. Move on.
  7. Be the easiest person in the world to work with.
  8. Have more than one idea; ready for alternatives –what else do you have?
  9. Stay positive – lot of rejections




Writing real crime stories


Posted Aug 16, 2017 at 10:45 AM

HUDSON — What if you wrote about a gangster’s moll in a non-fiction historical novel and a descendant of the woman called you?

What if the caller lived in the house behind you?

Award winning non-fiction author Jane Ann Turzillo, of Akron, had just such an experience. She will be the first speaker in the “Writing to Publish” series returning this year to the Hudson Library and Historical Society, discussing research for writers Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.

In Turzillo’s “Wicked Women of Northeast Ohio,” a woman named Akron Mary is a gangster’s girlfriend who likes having a good time.

“The book was out two weeks, and the phone rang, and the man was her grandson,” Turzillo said. “He was pleased with the way I wrote about her and told me much more about her that I didn’t know.”

It turned out the connection was closer than Turzillo thought, as she discovered the man lived in the house right behind her.

“I’m always careful what I write,” Turzillo said. “In my current book, I’ve talked to their descendants so they know what’s coming.”

As one of the original owners of an Ohio weekly newspaper, Turzillo covered police and fire news and wrote a historical column. Later, she taught writing and literature at the college level.

Her book, “Unsolved Murders and Disappearances in Northeast Ohio,” was nominated for an Agatha Award and won the Ohio Professional Writers award for adult nonfiction/history. It was given an Honorable Mention from the National Federation of Press Women. “Ohio Train Disasters” also won the Ohio Professional Writers award and won top honors from the National Federation of Press Women.

Research about murders and disasters is essentially historical detective work, Turzillo said.

“I like following the facts, following the trail,” Turzillo said. “When it comes to the disasters, I like to present the human side of the story and not just the crash, burn and explosion.”

Turzillo said she will discuss the best places for research such as libraries, historical societies, county archives and other places writers may not consider.

Research is more important than ever with fake news, Turzillo said.

“If you’re writing anything that is nonfiction, you have to be sure of your facts and know what you’re writing about,” she said. “You may have to defend what you’re writing about.”

Talks like Turzillo’s are part of a series begun by local best-selling mystery author Amanda Flower, who is also the adult service librarian at the Hudson library. The series offers insights into the competitive occupation of a published writer.

Other topics in the 2017 series include “Editing Your Work” with editor Jennifer Sawyer Fisher Sept. 25 at 7 p.m.; “Social Media Platforms for Writers” with literary agent Jennifer Wills Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.; and “Writing for Children” with author Tricia Springstubb Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. Registration is required. For more information visit or call 330-653-6658 ext. 1010.

A writer writes, Turzillo said, especially if they want to be published. Don’t allow distractions, she said.

“You can’t dream about it,” Turzillo said. “If you only write a sentence a day, just do it. You have to be tenacious. The more you do it, the better you get at it.”


Phone: 330-541-9434

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP

Author Mary Kubica on writing

My article appeared in the Hudson Hub-Times July 3, 2017

Hudson – A best selling author kept her writing secret from everyone but her husband, who wasn’t allowed to read it until her first book was published.

Author Mary Kubica June 28, shared her writing experience with more than 50 readers of her “chilling psychological thriller” at the Hudson Library and Historical Society.

“Every Last Lie” is a widow’s search for the truth after her husband’s tragic death in a car accident that may not have been accidental.

She writes in first person because “I felt like I was outside with a third person perspective.”

“Every Last Lie” is written from two points of view, Clara and her husband, Nick, before he dies.

Kubica said she writes each point of view separately and then merges them like a deck of cards being shuffled.

A New York Times and USA Today best selling author, Kubica has written “The Good Girl,” Pretty Baby” and “Don’t you Cry.”

“The Good Girl” was an Indie Next, received a Strand Critic Nomination for Best First Novel and was a nominee in the Goodreads Choice Awards in “Debut Goodreads Author” and “Mystery & Thriller.”

Kubica began writing as a young girl and lived vicariously through her characters. She didn’t dream of sharing her stories.

“I was shy about writing and kept it private,” Kubica said. “I was passionate about writing but didn’t want to be an author.”

Instead she became a history teacher, but after the birth of her children, she resumed writing.

“I was quickly consumed by it,” Kubica said. “I felt guilty not doing other things [chores].”

She learned by trial and error and found her voice with mysteries.

It took Kubica five years to write “The Good Girl.” She sent it to nearly 100 agents and was rejected by every one. When the rejections arrived in the mail, she rushed out to retrieve them before her husband saw them.

“It was so demoralizing,” Kubica said.

Two years later, an agent contacted her about the book for publication.

“It was a dream come true,” she said.

She was contracted to write a second book,” Pretty Baby” but her first proposal was rejected.

“I had only one idea,” Kubica said. “I was under deadline and losing time. I needed a new idea.”

She had an image of a teen holding a baby and wrote the first chapter, Kubica said.

“It was not inspiration,” she said. “It was desperation.”

Kubica answered questions from the audience and signed books afterwards, giving fans a chance to meet their favorite author.

Hudson Library and Historical Society offers programs every month on a variety of subjects, including wellness, walking tours, music, book clubs, cooking, genealogy and culture. For more information, visit


Phone: 330-541-9434

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP

Review of Cowboy on the Run

Cowboy on the Run by Devon McKay

The story crackles with sexual tension and memorable imagery from beginning to end as Nate Walker, quick to run from trouble, returns to Jessie Calhoun, the woman he left behind but still loves.cowboyontherun_w7754_300

Their mental and emotional battles take the reader on a roller coaster ride that is intensified by near fatal accidents.  Past problems and new surprises keep the reader turning the page to find out how the fire and ice couple resolve their feuding love life.

Will Jessie forgive Nate and trust him not to leave again or will she accept Alan, the man who doesn’t hide his love but may hide a darker secret?

The characters are interesting and the situation believable. The prose is easy to read and the story moves at a quick pace.  I highly recommend this romance.


The value of book clubs to a writer

The column appeared in the Jan. 29, 2017 edition of the Hudson Hub-Times at

by Freeman of the Press

A Hudson book club, with a little prodding from Barbara Bos, read my first book, “Impending Love and War” in my Impending Love series.  Barbara is a trustee for Case-Barlow Farm, and we share a love of history and old barns.

Barbara invited me to join a dozen ladies in the club for their meeting in January to discuss my book.

Hudson has several book clubs, but this was my first time talking to one about my book.

I confess, I was excited to talk about my writing. Wouldn’t any writer?ImpendingLoveandWar_w8676_300

I read my book, which I had written in 2014, to refresh my memory and gathered some visuals to share.

We met at the home of one of the members and upon talking to some of the other ladies in the club, I learned Barbara had the reputation for picking books no one liked. Oh no!

For many of the club members, this was their first historical romance novel and were under the misconception it was a bodice ripper, a term used for novels written in the 1970s. Instead of violent confrontations between the hero and heroine, modern romance novels emphasis an equal relationship with a clever first meeting and problems more complex than how to land a husband.

Although the romance genre is identified with a happily ever after ending, women’s literature, doesn’t guarantee romance or a happy ending. I explained that women’s lit emphasizes a woman’s voyage through a trial, disease or life altering even and doesn’t guarantee a happy ending to clarify the difference.

My writing combines romance, history and suspense and many genres are blended in modern books to appeal to a larger audience of readers.

The Hudson residents enjoyed the emphasis on local history. The story takes place in the fictional town of Darrow Falls and one club member guessed Darrowville inspired the name and at least one building in the book.

They asked an assortment of questions, including where I came up with ideas for the book.

As a reporter I covered a story at the library about the Underground Railroad in the local area, which helped to develop the idea for the story about a runaway slave.

They say write what you know. Since my family has lived in the area for more than 150 years, I had plenty of personal history to draw from.

I shared the fact that the homes in the story were based on my grandparent’s house and the Goldsmith House at Hale Farm & Village.

The Beecher name is a family name and my heroine, Cory Beecher, like me, is a distant cousin to Harriet Beecher Stowe.

To create tension, the abolitionist heroine, has two suitors. One is a stranger looking for a runaway slave and the other is an instructor from Western Reserve College, who believes in colonization.

I shared some of my research photos with the favorites being those about the canal in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I love traveling along the towpath and wanted to incorporate it into the story. In addition to sharing history, I try to add humor and hope the reader has fun reading the book.

The six books in the series can be read independently with each one focusing on one of the Beecher sisters from 1860 through 1866. I’m finishing the fourth and will be sending it to my editor soon.

The club members enjoyed a chance to read something lighthearted, and some of the book club members bought the next book in the series, which I greatly appreciate. Fans are built one book at a time, and I hope I gained a few.


Phone: 330-541-9434

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP

Author Tracy Chevalier’s new book

Find the story in the Hudson Hub-Times at

International bestselling author to visit Hudson library

Author Tracy Chevalier discusses her latest historical novel at the Hudson library

By LAURA FREEMAN Reporter Published: January 25, 2017 12:00 AMhh-orchard-ppbk-cover

HUDSON — An international bestselling author will discuss her latest book about a pioneer family living and struggling on the American frontier, set in Northwest Ohio.

Tracy Chevalier returns to the Hudson Library & Historical Society to discuss “At the Edge of the Orchard” at 7 p.m. Feb. 1.

Chevalier is the author of eight historical novels, including the international bestseller “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” which has sold more than 5 million copies and been made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth.

American by birth, British by geography, she lives in London with her husband, son and cat. She is also the editor of “Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre.”

Chevalier is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has honorary doctorates from her alma maters Oberlin College and the University of East Anglia.

“I am always amazed at how close nature is to us in the US,” Chevalier said. “You think it’s tamed, and then a bear steps out, or a river rises, or a lightening strike starts a forest fire, or whales appear offshore, or mosquitoes swarm you in a swamp. Then you feel connected to the past, because this is exactly what your ancestors felt.”

The book, “At the Edge of the Orchard,” is about the desire to move around to escape problems, Chevalier said. A boy witnesses something awful in his family, and he goes west to get away from it. When he reaches the Pacific ocean, he can’t run anymore and must face his problems.

Chevalier does a lot of hands on research in addition to reading books on the topic.

She walked the Black Swamp, ate apples, learned to graft apple trees and walked among giant sequoias.

“I think the most surprising thing I learned was that sequoias actually need fire to propagate,” she said.

Chevalier also includes historical figures John Chapam (Johnny Appleseed) and William Lobb, a plant collector in her novel.

“I like having real people in fiction; they anchor a story, and make what is made up feel more real,” Chevalier said.

During her research Chevalier reread the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and “Pioneer Girl,” a non-fiction account of Wilder’s life.

“It was fascinating to see how she took her real life and fictionalized it, emphasizing some things while cutting parts that didn’t work,” Chevalier said.

Although Chevalier writes to entertain and hopes the reader cares about the characters, “At the Edge of the Orchard” has a message “to ask readers to look at the landscape around them — especially trees — and ask how it reflects their lives. What choices to they make, to move or to stay, based on their surroundings?”

Copies of “At the Edge of the Orchard” will be available for purchase and signing courtesy of the Learned Owl Book Shop.

Register for this free program online at or call 330-653-6658 ext. 1010.


Phone: 330-541-9434

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP


Author Tracy Thomas writes about Stanton’s impact on women’s rights

19th Century woman paved way for modern rights for all women

Local author examines Stanton’s views on women’s equality, family issues

By LAURA FREEMAN Reporter Published: January 22, 2017 12:00 AM

Read the story here or in the Hudson Hub-Times at

HUDSON — Modern women may have had their ideas about family and equality introduced by a 19th century woman.hh-stanton-book-cover

Tracy A. Thomas, professor of law at the University of Akron School of Law for 18 years and the director of the Center for Constitutional Law, will discuss her new book, “Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law” at the Hudson Library & Historical Society Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.

The book examines Stanton’s views on women’s equality in marriage, divorce, domestic violence, childcare and other family issues.

Historians have written Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s biography, detailed her campaign for woman’s suffrage, documented her partnership with Susan B. Anthony and compiled all of her extensive writings and papers.

Stanton herself was a prolific author, including; her autobiography, “History of Woman Suffrage” and “Woman’s Bible.” Despite Stanton’s body of work, scholars and feminists continue to find new and insightful ways to re-examine Stanton and her impact on women’s rights and history.

But for a time Stanton’s writings were omitted from the women’s rights movement.

When Thomas heard of a reference about Stanton in family law and looked it up, she couldn’t find anything more than one sentence referencing Stanton. But she found 10,000 documents talking about the topic.

“There’s a huge gap in our common understanding of history and law,” Thomas said. “I wanted to correct the legal and historical record.”

Thomas extends the discussion of Stanton’s impact on modern-day feminism by analyzing her intellectual contributions to — and personal experiences with — family law.

Throughout her 50-year career, Stanton emphasized reform of the private sphere of the family as central to achieving women’s equality.

Another reason Thomas wrote the book is to bring women’s historical experiences into the mainstream and show that women were an active part of the women’s movements beyond the right to vote.

“Stanton was a prolific writer in New York and left a huge paper trail,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t hidden. It was intentionally left out.”

By weaving together law, feminist theory and history, Thomas explores Stanton’s little-examined philosophies on and proposals for women’s equality in marriage, divorce and family and reveals that the campaigns for equal gender roles in the family that came to the fore in the 1960s and ’70s had 19th-century roots.

Thomas, who teaches divorce history, said many think women didn’t become interested until 1972 about divorce, but women in the 19th century wanted to escape abusive spouses and claim their economic rights to own and control their own property.

“We have to get the story correct,” Thomas said.

Using feminist legal theory as a lens to interpret Stanton’s political, legal and personal work on the family, Thomas argues that Stanton’s positions on divorce, working mothers, domestic violence, childcare and many other topics were strikingly progressive for her time, providing significant parallels from which to gauge the social and legal policy issues confronting women in marriage and the family today.

Stanton advocated reform from the beginning of the Women’s Rights movement at the 1848 Seneca Falls convention with 17 other reforms besides the right to vote. Some of the other reforms included joint property rights instead of the husband owning everything, mothers should have custody of their children instead of only the father, who could hire children out to work, and women should control sex and reproductive rights.

“She took on the marriage idea that the husband was in charge and she wanted equal partnerships,” Thomas said. “Stanton wanted to go to the heart of about how we think about marriage.”

She got into trouble with the church, which claimed women were cursed and should be subservient to men, Thomas said. Fundamental churches did not embrace Stanton’s true equality of marriage partners.

“They (women) heard every week they don’t have these rights,” Thomas said.

Some people were afraid that if women had all these rights, men would have no responsibilities and women would have to work, Thomas said. Stanton’s solution was that women should work.

“You had to have equal economic power to have social and religious equality,” Thomas said. “Equal partners means equal respect toward careers and raising children.”

Thomas teaches Remedies, Women’s Legal History, Alternative Dispute Resolution, and Family Law at the University of Akron. She is the Seiberling Chair of Constitutional Law and from 2007 to 2009, she served as director of Faculty Research.

Thomas received her bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from Miami University, M.P.A. degree from California State University and J.D. degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, where she was a member of the Order of the Coif and production editor of the Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Journal.

Copies of Thomas’s book will be available for purchase and signing courtesy of the Learned Owl Book Shop. Register for this free program at or call 330-653-6658 ext. 1010.


Phone: 330-541-9434

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP