I met Ellen at an Irish festival near Boston, Massachusetts and was instantly intrigued with her book. A trove of forgotten letters in a dusty attic ignited her desire to learn more about the role her family played in the Civil War. Ellen and I shared the linkage of Irish ancestry and a desire to tell Ireland's history through our books. I know you'll enjoy meeting Ellen here. If you're in the Boston area, come meet us both at Dorchester's Irish Heritage Festival.
Ellen Burke: A Hero on the Home Front
My historical novel is entitled, Yours Faithfully, Florence Burke and it is based on my great, great grandfather’s Civil War letters. Florence Burke, a strapping, determined man, is an Irish immigrant volunteering for war in the place of a wealthy banker in exchange for a piece of farmland. He needed land in order to improve the lives of his beloved family and in order to apply for citizenship. Florence became a soldier for the 37th Mass volunteers. While he was fighting in Virginia he wrote love letters to his wife Ellen and his three children back home in West Springfield, MA. There’s no doubt that Florence was a hero to his family, enlisting to improve the lives of those he loved.
But there is another person, a quiet, unlikely hero named Ellen Burke who is thrown into an unimaginable situation and emerges as a strong, resilient “guardian of the home front.” When Ellen learns that her beloved husband Florence has volunteered for war without her knowledge or approval she is shattered and frightened. How will she keep her children safe and well through the harsh New England winter? How will she manage a new farm on her own? How will she support her embattled husband? How can she do this alone?
After Florence heads off for training camp Ellen manages to put aside her resentment and concentrate on providing food, shelter and love for her children. She is alone now and must make all the decisions for her family. But the battles on the home front have just begun. Ellen faces winter storms, thieves, disparaging rumors and illness. Through it all, she remains steady and confident, and acts as a strong mother and “stand in” father. Besides family and property management, Ellen also finds herself battling with the prominent town councilman who promised her husband a deed to a parcel of land in exchange for his conscription.
In Florence’s absence she must fight for this legal contract and other specific trade agreements. Ellen has never even entered her city’s Town Hall and now she finds herself in a man’s world, fighting for what is rightly owed to her husband and her family. Standing on her own and taking responsibility for all the household duties, Ellen transforms from a meek, naïve woman, to a strong, self-confidant mother, wife and friend. She even manages to rise above her anger and feelings of betrayal toward her husband, Florence. She focuses on staying strong for her children and using her mental and physical strength to cultivate her farm and keep her family consoled.
Ellen uses every resource available to her in order to survive during war time. She seeks help from neighbors, friends and family and the advice from local professionals. She’s a strong Irish immigrant whose wit, fierce determination and unconditional love see her through many difficult times. To her children, neighbors, and friends—and especially to me, she is a true hero!
Ellen B. Alden is a dynamic first time author who began the journey of writing after discovering an old leather box filled with nineteen Civil War letter in her attic. The letters were written from her Irish immigrant great, great grandfather, to his wife and children at home in Western Massachusetts. Ever since that day Ellen has worked tirelessly to learn their story and bring it to life through this novel. She travelled to Ireland several times to meet with a local historian, to explore her ancestry and to research the Great Potato Famine.
Ellen is a graduate of St. Michael’s college in Vermont. She earned a teaching degree from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California and then attended Merrimack College Graduate school of Education. She has worked as an elementary school teacher and she has also dappled in the wine business. She earned wine certificates at Boston Universities Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center and worked as a wine consultant for several liquor stores and a winery.
After living in Los Angeles, London and Boston, Ellen calls Andover, Massachusetts her home. She lives here with her husband Michael, her three children Nathan, Liam and Jillian, and her two dogs Moxie and Frosty.