Below is an excerpt of my MFA Thesis.
It was my first semester in my MFA program. Knee deep in research for a new body of work about the lineage of women in my mother’s family during the Victorian times in London (1850-early 1900s), I stumbled upon a mystery. Fifty years of documents revealed that my Irish great-great grandmother alternated between aliases—Bridget Carrey and Elizabeth While. My mind raced, pondering all the possibilities in the split of this woman’s identity: is this one woman or two, was this an attempt to disguise herself or perhaps she suffered from multiple personality disorder? Her own granddaughter (my great-aunt), now in her eighties, remembers very little of her grandmother—not even her name. Hazy memories from her childhood recall an immensely dislikable and angry old woman always dressed in black. Through my research I discovered that she wasted many years of her life slaving away in a Dickensian workhouse, suffered the early deaths of five of her children, and spent several months in an asylum for stealing food with additional punishment for “want of drink.” Such melancholy warrants sympathy for the ire of this woman. I envisioned my great-great grandmother as a voiceless and misunderstood woman with little control of her life. Her thoughts and feelings mattered to no one. Her life seemed to hold very little importance, even within her own family, who failed to preserve any memory of her.