Submitted by Griffin Bay Bookstore
Candace Wellman will dicuss her book “Peace Weavers: Uniting the Salish Coast through Cross-Cultural Marriages” at 7 p.m., Sept. 27 at the San Juan Island Library. The event is co-sponsored by the library and Griffin Bay Bookstore.
While helping researchers at the Washington State Archives, Wellman discovered that about 90 percent of all marriages in Whatcom County’s early decades were cross-cultural. The husbands included nearly every community founder and official. Yet when she studied the written chronicles, only white women were mentioned as founding mothers. It seemed many historians considered the indigenous women to be unknowable, unimportant and uninteresting. She became determined to illuminate the hidden history surrounding these relationships. Producing her manuscript required 18 years and close to 200 collaborators.
An expert in research methods, sociology, history, and genealogy, Wellman began re-scrutinizing old sources and searching for new ones, particularly legal cases. Focusing on cross-cultural couples, she found evidence that, except in rare cases, local and regional historians stereotyped and ignored the Frontier West’s intermarried women. “Peace Weavers” challenges that viewpoint and Wellman hopes her efforts will inspire others to re-examine the historical role played by those relationships.
The strategic cross-cultural marriages in Coast and Interior Salish families played a crucial role in regional settlement and spared Puget Sound’s upper corner from tragic conflicts. The four women profiled in “Peace Weavers” — Caroline Davis Kavanaugh, Mary Fitzhugh Lear Phillips, Clara Tennant Selhameten, and Nellie Carr Lane — exhibited endurance, strength and adaptability. They ran successful farms and businesses and acted as cultural interpreters and mediators. Each wife’s story is unique, but together they and other intermarried women helped found Puget Sound communities and left lasting legacies.
Wellman writes with a depth of detail and compassion that will make this an instant classic in the genre and a reference touchstone for decades to come.
About the Author
Candace Wellman holds a B.A. in Sociology from Washington State University and a B.Ed. in History/Secondary Education from Western Washington University, and has pursued graduate work in sociology. Born and raised in Washington, the Bellingham resident is a local history consultant and speaks regularly about women’s history and regional settlement.