Book talk with Dorothy Wickenden, Belle Zars Friday

Dorothy Wickenden and Belle Zars will discuss their new books Friday, June 24 at Off the Beaten Path
Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and Café/Courtesy photo

There will be a meet and greet with authors Belle Zars and Dorothy Wickenden at 7 p.m. Friday, June 24, at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and Café.

Wickenden, executive editor for the New Yorker, will be discussing her new book, “The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women’s Rights,” and Zars will talk about her book, “Only Connect: Creating and Sustaining Community,” which details the history of Elkhead.

“People should expect a really cool talk from some local authors, and it’s the first time we’re having an event in Off the Beaten Path in a long time,” said Hallie Priday, the shop’s marketing and events manager.

Patrons will have the opportunity to chat with the two authors, purchase their books, get them signed and participate in a question and answer session.

“The Agitators” explores the lives, friendship and advocacy of three women who were central to the abolition and women’s rights movements of the 19th century — Martha Coffin Wright, Frances H. Seward and Harriet Tubman. 

Tubman is famous for escaping slavery and then working to free slaves via the Underground Railroad, and she is perhaps the most well known of these women. Martha Coffin Wright was a Quaker who helped to organize the Seneca Falls Convention.

The story of Frances Seward and her activism was often overlooked in favor of the history of her husband, William Henry Seward, a New York senator and U.S. secretary of state, Wickenden explained. 

If you go:

What: Author talk with Dorothy Wickenden and Belle Zars

When: 7 p.m. Friday, June 24

Where: Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and Café

The triple biography chronicles what caused these women’s paths to cross in Auburn, New York, and their radical advocacy for abolition and women’s suffrage. 

“What these women did, arguing for women’s rights and against slavery, was incredibly dangerous,” Wickenden said. “Women weren’t allowed to talk in public,” particularly Black and formerly enslaved women like Tubman.

Wickenden explained that these women were able to cause “good trouble” while finding friendship in each other despite their extreme differences. She added that this story is especially relevant today, with political unrest and polarization becoming the norm throughout the country. 

“I grew up knowing about second-wave feminism, but nothing about these women who really laid the groundwork for that and for the kinds of grassroots efforts we’re seeing now,” Wickenden said. 

Wickenden’s previous book, “Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West,” is what originally brought her to the Yampa Valley. She explored the story of Rosamond Underwood and her grandmother Dorothy Woodruff, who were school teachers that arrived in Hayden in 1916.

During the research process for “Nothing Daunted,” Wickenden met Zars, whose grandfather was a cattle rancher, lawyer and Woodruff’s employer — he created the Rock Schoolhouse where Woodruff taught.

“It’s just such great personal history,” Wickenden said. “Belle and I really struck up a friendship.”

Zars, a local historian herself, compiled decades of research and interviews into her book, “Only Connect.” She looked at the history of the area beginning with the Yamparika Ute tribe.

“As a child, I had an enormous curiosity about who was here before us and what happened to the Ute. After reading through many original sources, I came to realize that this land was enormously precious and valued to them; it was a place of hunting and gathering and also a place of renewal,” Zars told The Pilot in Feb. 22. “I feel like I share that same attachment to the same land.”

“I’m very eager to get together with her and have a joint talk,” Wickenden said. “We tell a version of the same story, but from different perspectives.”

Priday said she was looking forward to these authors discussing these histories of the Yampa Valley in addition to Wickenden’s new book.

“Those two stories really tell the story of the valley,” Priday said.

“We’re really excited just to get people in the shop after hours and have a little night time gala,” Priday added.

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