The Indigo Girl

Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Natasha Boyd
The Indigo Girl

I happened upon this novel in the NEW BOOKS area at HCDL.  I was intrigued by the "indigo" component since I'm a quilter/crafter and knew enough about it to be dangerous.  As it happens, this novel is based on the true story of Eliza Lucas Pinckney who developed indigo as a major cash crop in South Carolina which helped fund the American Revolution and America's independence.  Most of the characters are real and the events are taken from her own personal journals which include records and parts of her correspondence.

In 1739, Eliza is sixteen years old when she is left in charge of managing her family's land near Charles Town, SC as her father returned to fight the Spanish in Antigua.  She has a strong interest in botany and tried to find new crops to raise money to keep the family holdings intact as her father has mortgaged them to earn his commission in the military.  Eliza faces many obstacles as a young woman and is deliberately undermined on several occasions. She is also keenly aware that even if her efforts succeed, her brother will be taking over his inheritance and she has no legal claim to the property.  The challenges she faces are very frustrating and I enjoyed the fiery temperament that she displays at times when she reaches her limit.

I did struggle with her unusual fixation on a former childhood friend from Antigua who is a slave and later comes to South Carolina to help with the indigo harvest and production. He obviously does not view her in the same light now that they are grown and I found this relationship irritating.  Also, I was raised in the South and have know about the limitations for women but still found it frustrating to see Eliza bound by her gender when she was obviously a bright and competent woman.  Our world isn't perfectly balanced now but we certainly have more rights and privileges than our predecessors.

Although this story ends when she is a young woman, a short epilogue follows with a brief synopsis of her remaining years.  She is well respected and lived a fairly long life before succumbing to cancer at 70.  President George Washington volunteered to be a pallbearer at her funeral.  Two of her sons went on to fame - one as a Founding Father and representative for SC at the the Constitutional Convention and another who authored the Pinckney Treaty which gave the young country use of the Mississippi River and established the boundary between the United States and the Spanish colonies.  The current state flag of SC remains blue as a tribute to its history and the importance of indigo.

Although there were moments in this fictional account of Eliza's life that irked me, I find her an intriguing character.  I can't begin to understand how she managed to run a successful growing operation in the heat and humidity of South Carolina especially encumbered by being female and while wearing a hoop skirt!  She definitely has my admiration! 

This book has inspired me to further research indigo and Eliza's life and honestly, I feel like that's an excellent selling point for any book. Check our catalog

The library also has an audiobook version available as well.

Dana, Administration


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