IN DEPTH with Jacqui
HIDDEN WOMEN was about the last thing I expected to find when I began writing books almost 2 decades ago. My goal was to drill down into my favorite places to gain a deeper understanding of them, and then to share my findings. While learning more about subjects I loved, I could live the ideal life as perpetual student. That was my reasoning, but what we’ve found has gone galaxies beyond my imaginings.
At first glance, my books on Lake Michigan’s southern shores, Slovenia, Paris parks and France’s Champagne region all seem light years apart. In fact, at the Frankfurt Book Fair a publisher told me to come back in 42 years after I’d filled in the gaps.
The oddest thing has happened, though. My strands have come together.
Underlying all my book themes is the common ribbon of family and environment that leads straight back to Celtic ideals. It started with my very first one, The Glaciers’ Treasure Trove. My Mother’s deep love of her Lake Michigan was Celtic in nature. As part of her legacy to me, Lake Michigan became a vital part of my life too. By writing my Finding Slovenia book, I appreciated how closely my grandparents’ homelands hold ancient Celtic passions for aesthetics, outdoors and camaraderie. Even my third book Parks and Gardens in Greater Paris embodies Celtic ideals of sharing natural beauty and stewardship of the land.
In researching the fourth book, Champagne Regained, I discovered many elegant, talented, innovative women who essentially shaped the drink and trade. Deep shadows still obscure their stature in history, though. That realization only stoked my infuriation with mass expulsions, massacres, wars, death tolls and “witches” burned at the stake. What caused such atrocity and darkness – and brutal unfairness to women? Frustration led me to look further and further back in time for clues that remained untouched, undistorted, underground.
The biggest surprise in peering into someone’s burial chamber from 2500 years ago was the sheer beauty of it. Not just small crypts, but large rooms with tables, chairs and beds contained carefully wrapped bodies and items, but also finely crafted golden wares. Celtic Iron Age discoveries started shedding light in other areas too. I began to see threads of continuity that reach all the way to my recent family history.
My grandparents had left ancestral lands in spectacular surroundings. What drove them on such extreme journeys to arrive penniless in a strange land? Initially, I had thought language must hold a key, so I studied French, German and Slovenian languages, and spent a year each at universities in Germany and Slovenia, and also at a summer program in Greece. The importance of education itself has lurked as a perineal puzzle. Why was educating their daughters so important to parents who could only complete 8th grade? With their backing, I completed a B.A at the University of Colorado, an M.A at the University of Michigan and a J.D. at Stanford Law School. From immigrant coal miners to lawyers in two generations – how does that work?
Along the way my story had taken another pan-European twist. I met a young U.S. Naval officer and we ended up married, practicing law and raising two terrific kids. Initially, I had taken our backgrounds to be at opposite ends of the scale. Who would suspect that Scotland and Slovenia had been forged together in iron long ago! Predictably, the scientific, technological and military aspects of this cross-continental quest fascinate my partner.
Now, by using the 2500-year wide lens, we continue our studies in a whole new Europe. Our common heritage comes not from loathsome, barbaric invaders, but from caring, accomplished people who preserved Europe’s magic for their progeny. It is for and from them that we must trace to the present and carry on their work.