The Irish Baptist's Geisha

Doing the housework the other day, I found myself taking extra time with this little fabric collage that my great-great-grandmother, Mary Steen, made. This handicraft is so unlike the legends I have of the Irish Protestant toughie with a sharp tongue.

Granny Steen
once struck my grandmother across the face for talking back. Grandma was about nine, and she said she wanted to be a teacher some day. "Well, I'm not paying for it," Granny Steen said.

My grandmother replied: "I didn't ask you to." That bit of back chat merited a blow upside the head from the good and upright Baptist who never drank or missed church. As I recall my grandmother's story, the more painful direct hit was the pronouncement that Granny Steen found the little girl to be unworthy.

Nonetheless, the same Granny Steen found the time and a few scraps of silk to create this small fabric sculpture of a geisha being admired by a rickshaw driver. When I was a young girl, it hung in my mother's very pink bedroom in the home my great-grandparents built and where Granny Steen spent her final years in the care of her family. I loved the ink sketch of the man watching the woman and the woman looking into the eyes of whoever dared to look at her. This 4-by-6 bit of art was queen of the boudoir.

Granny Steen lives in family lore as a tough old lady. An unkind one who hurt my grandmother. Still, she made this seductive bit of fabric art that just won't fade. I look at it now and think it's hard to know some women, even one who is a Japanese courtesan made of paper and thread. (more)


  1. Anonymous1:25 PM

    Ah, another wonderful piece about memories and family history. Your writing on this blog is full of your family, of adoration, admiration and love.

    It's so much fun to read your stuff in this Web 2.0 world of ours where there are so few blogs that are really worth our time.

    It's great to share these with you. Thanks...


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