Mary's Mysteries

A pioneer woman of Skagit County


What: "Mary Roberts Rinehart: A Pioneer Woman of Skagit County"

When: 1 pm Sat., Apr. 7

Where: Burlington Public Library, 820 E. Washington St.

Cost: Free

Info: http://www.burlingtonwa.gov

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Even though she started writing years before her British counterpart, popular mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart was often referred to as “America’s Agatha Christie.” But Rinehart was much more than a writer. She traveled the world, started her own publishing company, was a war correspondent, raised a family and, in 1916, crossed Cascade Pass. Find out more about her fascinating life when historian Jesse G. Kennedy III, Ph.D presents “A Pioneer Woman of Skagit County” Sat., April 7 at the Burlington Public Library.

Cascadia Weekly: You used to work for the North Cascades National Park. What was your job?

Jesse G. Kennedy III: I retired from the National Park Service in 2014 after 26 years of service, all of them at North Cascades National Park Service Complex. I was the first Chief of Cultural Resources Branch for the park. That basically means I spent my career learning about the North Cascade Mountains, learning about its people and their lives, working to preserve the history with my primary staff of the park archeologist (Bob Mierendorf), and park curators (most recently Kelly Cahill). We built one of the largest museum repositories on the West Coast in Marblemount, purpose-built to museology preservation standards.

CW: When did you first learn about Mary Roberts Rinehart?

JK III: As a young man, I could not pass up a book titled The Bat. I consumed the book when I was probably about 10 years old.

I’m interested in the people of the mountains, and Mary Roberts Rinehart is just one of the stories about those little-known people and activities that have documentation in the Marblemount Curation Facility.

CW: “Fear, courage, hope and salvation” were terms mentioned about the expedition on the press release for the event. Can you share a little more about what you’ll be talking about during the presentation?

JK III: I will concentrate on the crossing of Cascade Pass, but also provide additional dimension to the writer and person through discussion of her life and achievements. I will try to capture her essence, for her life captures the essence of “and still she persisted”.

CW: Have you read any more of Rinehart’s mysteries? What about her poems, short stories, travelogues or other articles?

JK III: Mary Roberts Rinehart was, as you indicate, much more than just a mystery writer. She also wrote romances, comic stories, plays, short stories, editorials and feature articles. I’ve read a number of her books, including Tenting Tonight (that describes her expeditions through Glacier and Cascade passes), The Circular Staircase, The Red Lamp, The Door (in which she introduced “The butler did it”) and more.

CW: Why should Mary Roberts Rinehart be remembered in the annals of history?

JK III: Just look at her achievements: wife and mother, nurse, feminist (marched for women’s suffrage); adventuress, first female war correspondent of the Belgian Front in World War I, first to take the statement of King Albert, interviewed Winston Churchill, was introduced to the Queen, business person (she principally built Farrer-Rinehart publishing house), women’s health advocate (following a radical mastectomy, she wrote about it in Ladies Home Journal, encouraging women to have breast examinations), tribal advocate (consistently working for the Blackfoot tribe, and was inducted into the tribe), and first American woman offered an ambassadorial appointment. I could go on…

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