She worked with Carl Jung.
She supported James Joyce as he wrote Ulysses.
She ate off Napoleon's plates and wore Catherine the Great's jewels.
She helped curb scarlet fever.
She was a brilliant intellectual determined to "think new thoughts".
That's the good side of the coin for Edith Rockefeller McCormick. Born the daughter of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, and married into the McCormick clan of reaper fame, she was once estimated to be the nation's richest woman. But when she died, she was broke. Broke, abandoned, agoraphobic, and alone.
Hers was a roller-coaster life -- the richest of highs and the saddest of lows. What happened?
I first learned about Edith when I wrote the Brookfield Zoo history book, "Let the Lions Roar!" (she donated the land to start the zoo). A cursory study of Edith showed her to be highly unusual. Now, after years of research, interviews, and contemplation, I find her character not only unusual but enigmatic, infuriating, and inspiring.
DISCOVERING EDITH (historical fiction) attempts to explain Edith, giving her credit for her accomplishments without minimizing her shortcomings.
It's Chicago in 1931.
Inside the mansion, reclusive heiress Edith Rockefeller McCormick is dying.
Outside the mansion (in a bush, to be exact), a former chauffeur is plotting.
When young reporter Mary Donnelley is thrown into this situation and offered an irresistible job opportunity, her life quickly becomes unrecognizable. It's the height of the Great Depression and things are difficult enough without these tremendous complications.
Will Mary discover the truth before tragedy strikes?
DISCOVERING EDITH is an exploration of what it means to be a woman. Edith and Mary both face gender discrimination, but handle their challenges markedly differently. It was the women of Edith's generation who paved the way for young workers like Mary. I believe today's women will find both Edith and Mary fascinating and inspiring.