The edelweiss pin at Gertrude’s throat signifies her Swiss-American heritage and her autonomy as a woman activist. Gertrude’s “life’s work” is perfecting humankind, morally and socially. Confronting Gilded Age double standards, she advocates for sex education, marriage equality and “voluntary motherhood.” After she marries, Gertrude leaves Washington DC to explore opportunities in Boston, Maine, and Switzerland. But conflicting family duties and loyalties derail her ambitious crusade, and when an incurable illness ends her activist career, Gertrude must seek new meanings in her life and death.
June Vail has given us a nuanced portrait of a young woman negotiating the late 19th century…Gertrude Hitz Burton’s journey feels both strikingly modern and entirely distinct from our own time, and Vail records it in a beautiful, compelling way.
—Jane Brox, author of Brilliant
From Alexander Graham Bell’s Washington School for the Deaf to Bliss Carman’s Boston editorial office, and from Bernard Berenson’s Italian art sojourns to an insider’s view of tubercular sanatoriums in the mountains of upstate New York and Switzerland, this lively…deftly written biography illuminates fascinating, often overlooked connections among 19th century notables.
—Libby Bischof, author of Maine Moderns: Art in Seguinland, 1900–1940