A selection of Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Guild, and Quality Paperback Book Club
Featured in "New Paperbacks For Readings Groups," Bookpage, October 2007
A "beautifully rendered biography" that tells "a fascinating story"... a "compelling and authentic recreation" of a life.
2007 Lincoln Prize Finalist
Civil War Institute and Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Best Books of 2006
"Hodes delicately unwraps papers left by Eunice Connolly, a mid-19th-century New England working-class woman who led the kind of life usually lost to history. Connolly ultimately married a black sea captain of the British West Indies and in that unconventional act found an interlude of stability. Both the biography of an unexamined and unexamining woman and an account of mapping her tempest-tossed life."
“Recognized for honorable mention by the Lincoln Prize judges is The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race and War in the Nineteenth Century
, by New York University history professor Martha Hodes. She has done an extraordinary
job of writing the story of an ordinary New England woman who was a prolific letter writer and who made unusual decisions for her time. . . . The author does a masterful
job of interweaving and layering the quotations with observations of the times and the places where Connolly lived.”
The Washington Post
"Hodes is the rare scholar who can present historical research for mainstream readers." The story "comes surprisingly, and movingly, alive
"Few researchers have the imagination
or tenacity to reconstruct a lost life as carefully as Hodes has done. . . . an absorbing
account of a life reclaimed from obscurity."
Times Literary Supplement, London
“I felt as if I were about to open a box of treasure.” Hodes “pieces together a fascinating story
Christian Science Monitor
Recommended reading in biography and memoir.
"An unusual story from the time of the American Civil War -- the life of Eunice Connolly, born to a poor family in New England, whose husband died in the fighting. With the help of a cache of family letters, Hodes tells how Eunice met and married a black sea captain and moved with him to his home in the West Indies."
Publishing News, London
"The story is fascinating . . . . a rewarding and absorbing
The Times, London, on-line
“Hodes reconstructs the intriguing and unusual life
of Eunice Richardson Stone Connolly, a mill laborer in mid-19th-century New England who went South with her husband to seek their fortune; homesick, even as her husband fought for the Confederacy, she returned to New Hampshire, where she was reduced to working as a washerwoman. The only thing that brought an impoverished Eunice respectability was her white skin. But then she heard of her husband's death, and in 1869, mystifying some of her relatives, Connolly put that respectability at risk, too, marrying a well-to-do black sea captain from Grand Cayman Island and moving there with him. . . . Hodes's prose. . . is lucid
and her account is engaging
A “gem of historical writing and research
.” Hodes “has produced another outstanding
work showing the complexities of 19th-century racism. . . . The compelling story
and graceful writing
will appeal to general readers who enjoy American history.”
Library Journal, starred review
"Life was not easy for Eunice Stone Connolly. Born in 1831 to a working-class New England family, she knew only hardship and adversity. Writing letters was her greatest luxury, but even that was a struggle and many were destroyed. But a fraction, mostly to and from her mother, were preserved, eventually discovered by Martha Hodes, a history professor at New York University. This is a history book -- Eunice's letters sit ensconced in Hodes's analysis and much remains unexplained about Eunice's life. She escaped by marrying Smiley Connolly, a sea captain of African descent, who lived on Grand Cayman Island. It is unknown how Smiley and Eunice met and how their relationship developed despite the stigma of such an alliance. Yet the conclusion of this dense, academic biography is well-founded: 'On Grand Cayman Island, Eunice Richardson Stone Connolly...found an interval of happiness as a member of an elite family of colour living in a community of former slaves, and it is there that her name will be engraved in granite."
Financial Times of London, Arts & Weekend Magazine
history. . . . In compelling
prose, Hodes captures Eunice's financial struggles and desire for a stable home. . . . Highly recommended."
"To date, the most important microhistorical studies have dealt with European figures and events. But a recent book by New York University historian Martha Hodes about 'an ordinary woman who led an extraordinary life' transports the methodology to this side of the Atlantic. . . . As singular as it is, the microhistory of her life is broadly illuminating. It sheds light on the complex (indeed, bewildering) macrohistory of 19th-century racial categorization.
new book . . . resourcefully gathers scraps of evidence to stitch together the hard-scrabble life of one white woman." A "gripping tale
of a courageous, resilient and unconventional woman."
Raleigh News and Observer, Sunday Arts & Entertainment
A "touching and captivating story
San Antonio Express-News, Indianapolis Star, Berkshire Eagle, and Mobile News
“Eunice Richardson Stone Connolly’s life is a road map to learning about 19th-century America. . . . Those who love books about history will revel in the book’s detail
Cape Cod Times
"A biography hard to put down
Midwest Book Review
“An excellent history
of a family as well as a time.”
Civil War News
"As a scholarly achievement, this book is outstanding. It is no less impressive as a gripping human interest story."
International Journal of Maritime History
story -- The Sea Captain’s Wife
comes highly recommended. . . . a mesmerising
story which truly brings past and present closer together."
Nautilus UK Telegraph
“. . . a detective story, a history of the period and a travelogue all rolled into one. I enjoyed this book immensely. It is thought provoking, a pleasure to read
, and one that I wholeheartedly recommend.”
Nautical Magazine, UK
"A page-turning tour de force
, The Sea Captain's Wife
captures the fragility, volatility, and vitality of everyday life in the United States." A "splendid book
Reviews in American History
A "beautifully written book
. . . . a remarkably complex biography of a woman who should have fallen through the cracks of history."
Journal of American History
New England Quarterly
". . . reads like a novel. . . . Hodes expertly brings the struggles and vindication of an obscure woman to light, giving the reader an intimate view into the extraordinary lives of everyday people."
Journal of American Folkore
A "masterfully written
narrative biography complete with intrigue, suspense, and fastidous detail regarding nineteenth-century life."
tells of the life of Eunice Connolly, born white and poor in New England, who lost a husband and a brother on opposite sides of the Civil War, became well acquainted with despair, and yet fetched up as a genteel lady in an elite family of color in the Cayman Islands.”
Featured in Reading Room: “Martha Hodes uncovers the extraordinary life of a Civil War-era woman.”
Princeton Alumni Weekly
Written "with the historian’s skill and a story-teller’s flare . . . . A richly detailed look at an ordinary woman’s experience. Fascinating reading
. . . . Recommended!"
The Bookbag, UK
“Hodes’ book . . . is a monument both to a woman who otherwise would have been utterly lost to history and to the historian’s ability to do justice to the dead. . . . The Sea Captain’s Wife
shows us how powerful an ordinary life can be in the hands of an extraordinary storyteller
Phi Beta Kappa Key Reporter
"Why would a white Yankee woman in the Civil War era marry a black Caribbean man? The answer is, for wealth and prestige. Counterintuitive though that may be, that's exactly what happened to Eunice Stone, and the tale of how she came to do that and how her life and that of her children changed as a result is a riveting tale
. . . . Readers, have at it."
History Wire: Book Alert
Daily Book Pick
on December 5, 2006
Jim Agnew's Literary Website
Radio 2GB Book Club, 873AM, Sydney, Australia
"Told by award-winning historian Martha Hodes, Eunice Connolly’s story will fascinate you
“The fascinating true story
of an impoverished 19th-century white widow who defies convention to marry a wealthy black sea captain. . . . Her story will fascinate you.”
, true-life story of misfortune and defiance. . . . a rich tapestry of women’s lives in the middle of a turbulent century--and a moving
story of a love that defied convention."
Quality Paperback Book Club
“I couldn’t put it down. I was with Eunice, heart and soul, on every page. A gripping story.
Paulette Jiles, author of the national bestseller Enemy Women
“What a terrific book! I could hardly put it down
. Hodes’s detective work in chasing down scattered information about Eunice and all of her various family members and relatives is extraordinary. Equally so is the way Hodes puts it together in a narrative that holds the reader’s tight attention, wanting to know how things came out. Eunice’s story is so poignant but at the same time, in many ways, a story of triumph over adversity that is inspiring.”
James McPherson, author of Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom
book, marvelously researched in so many directions and clearly and lovingly
written. It makes an important contribution to the history of the time, with links to the present."
Natalie Zemon Davis, author of The Return of Martin Guerre
“A marvelous book
. It is brilliantly researched and beautifully written
. With unerring artistry, Martha Hodes leads us through her archives and into the fascinating story of an American family.”
Ann Fabian, author of The Unvarnished Truth
“Martha Hodes has performed an amazing feat of historical recovery
, bringing to life the heretofore unknown Eunice Connolly and the extraordinary personal choices she made in her love life. Hodes’s engagement with documents, old houses, personal letters, and descendants is captivating
, as is Eunice herself, transformed from passivity and hard luck to empowering happiness.”
Patricia Cline Cohen, author of The Murder of Helen Jewett
“Few of history’s secrets remain as stubbornly hidden as family secrets, but few reveal more about our culture. And few historians equal Martha Hodes as a detective and storyteller
. To find a white woman who married a black man after the Civil War, she dogs cold trails from New Hampshire to Alabama to the Caribbean. With extraordinary sensitivity, Hodes persuades old documents and living descendants to give up this heartbreaking and unsettling story. Without ever telling us how to feel about it, Hodes unobtrusively supplies context and insight, giving The Sea Captain’s Wife the pacing and sweep of an epic film
Scott A. Sandage, author of Born Losers
“Martha Hodes has again proven herself a master of the historian’s craft
with this beautifully wrought narrative. The book will by turns engage and surprise both those who know little about the history of that time, and those of us who think we do. A wonderful read
Leslie Harris, author of In the Shadow of Slavery