COUNTING ON GRACE

Inspired by a famous Lewis Hine photograph, Elizabeth Winthrop’s latest book is set in a Vermont mill town in 1910, when child labor was common, and a bright, eager girl had to struggle to receive an education. Against a backdrop of callous mill owners, national calls for labor reform, and a family that can barely make ends meet, Winthrops protagonist, the courageous 12 year old Grace Forcier, strives to balance the needs of her family, the call of her true self, and her profound sense of right and wrong.

Listen to an interview of Elizabeth Winthrop on WUNC with Dick Gordon by clicking here

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“Winthrop’s compelling story vividly captures the mill experience. Much information on early photography and the workings of the textile mills is conveyed, and history and fiction are woven seamlessly together in this beautifully written novel. Readers won’t soon forget Grace.”
–Starred Review, School Library Journal 

1910. Pownal, Vermont. At 12, Grace and her best friend Arthur must leave school and go to work as a “doffers” on their mothers’ looms in the mill. Grace’s mother is the best worker, fast and powerful, and Grace desperately wants to help her. But she’s left handed and doffing is a right-handed job. Grace’s every mistake costs her mother, and the family. She only feels capable on Sundays, when she and Arthur receive special lessons from their teacher. Together they write a secret letter to the Child Labor Board about underage children working in Pownal. A few weeks later a man with a camera shows up. It is the famous reformer Lewis Hine, undercover, collecting evidence for the Child Labor Board. Grace’s brief acquaintance with Hine and the photos he takes of her are a gift that changes her sense of herself, her future, and her family’s future.

“Winthrop vividly portrays mill life and four characters who resist its deadening effects. Solid research and lively writing make this a fine historical novel.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Elizabeth Winthrop weaves this story of life in a 1910 textile mill with exquisite authority. Grace leaps off the page, grabbing us, completely engaging us…”
-Karen Hesse, OUT OF THE DUST, Newbery Medal Winner

“…a powerful novel that recreates the hopeless lives of young mill workers in an abusive company town. Winthrop’s remarkable writing talents bring Grace-and the past-alive.
-David Gill, “Bill’s Best Books” ALAN

“Winthrop’s compelling story vividly captures the mill experience. Much information on early photography and the workings of the textile mills is conveyed, and history and fiction are woven seamlessly together in this beautifully written novel. Readers won’t soon forget Grace.”
-Starred Review, School Library Journal

“The most compelling thread of the novel chronicles the mounting tension between Grace and her demanding mother who dominates the other workers. This enlightening novel explores the perils of mill work for children and adults alike. Readers will cheer the feisty heroine when Grace uses her smarts to triumph…..”
-Publishers Weekly

“The strength of this book lies with its endearing portrait of Grace. Readers will appreciate the fine attention to historical detail and Winthrop’s first-rate prose.”
-VOYA, Voice of Youth Advocates

Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, ISBN # 0-385-74644-X

Paperback Yearling, ISBN # 0-553-48783-3

Leave a Message for Elizabeth

  1. Cameron Slide :

    Hello Elizabeth!

    For the past few weeks in our social studies class we have been reading Counting on Grace, and I really thought the plot and writing style was fascinating! The historical information from back in the day of the mills really intrigued me as I continued to read the book!

    My social studies teacher loves the story and that’s why she teaches it to her class every year, and I was wondering if there was a way I could get her a signed copy of Counting on Grace. She does so much for us, and getting her a signed copy of this book would help pay her back, and definitely make her spirit more upbeat! So if there is a way I could obtain a signed copy of Counting on Grace for her I would greatly appreciate it!

    Love your work, and thanks so much!

    -Cameron Slide

  2. Elizabeth,

    I just purchased a copy of your book, “Counting on Grace,” from Amazon this morning. I am 84 and have been deep into genealogy since my 30s. I shared that interest with a sister of my mother’s who died in her 100th year in 2006. I will pass the book on to a 12-year-old grand-niece when I am finished. She is intrigued with such tales, and I am hoping it will kindle lots of interest in history with her.

    I forget now, and will have to research my own work to rediscover my distant connections with the cotton mill people of New England, but that is how I eventually found and became super-intrigued with Addie. I have spent the past week digging into her background.

    Between my research, your work, and that of Lewis Hiines and Joe Manning, nothing in my genealogy research in over 50 years has ever intrigued me as Addie Card and your participation in the work that exposes her life and saves her life for the rest of us. We need that desperately in our culture was we fall back again and again into the selfish greed and the other awful conditions that filled the early life of Addie Card.

    Thank you so very much for your part in preserving what we must never forget. When we forget those experiences, those lessons, we are doomed to repeat them. That sadly seems to be our present situation.

    Thank you so much!

    Gil Cantlin

    • Dear Gil Cantlin,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write and tell me about your interest in Addie. As you know, her photograph was the inspiration for my novel and while I was writing the book, I stayed away from knowing her real history. But once the fiction was done, I knew that I couldn’t go on without knowing more about Addie’s life and what happened to her. It was a fruitful and rewarding search and I’m so glad that with Joe Manning’s help in finding her relatives, I was able to get her name corrected on the Library of Congress/Lewis Hine website and on the marker at the site of the textile mill in North Pownal, Vermont where she worked.

      I agree with you that if we do not remember our history, we will be doomed to repeat it. Far too many children around the world are child laborers working in appalling conditions with no education or hope for their future. When will we ever learn?

      Best,

      Elizabeth Winthrop

  3. Karen Lampe :

    Hi,
    Do you still have a copy of the interview that Dick Gordon did with you so that I could play it in my class and a workshop on “Bringing History to Life with Primary Source Documents and Historical Fiction”? Thank you.
    – Karen Lampe
    Teacher Librarian

    • Karen, I so wish I did. I called Dick Gordon’s program, THE STORY, recently to ask for a copy and they told me it was too old to have been archived. Tell me, where you teach? The program sounds fascinating.

      Elizabeth

Trackbacks

  1. […] the author’s page for further information about Winthrop and her books or you can visit Wendy Lamb Book’s page that is the publisher of this wonder […]

  2. [...] always like to visit the setting where my story takes place. For example,  in my recent novel, Counting on Grace, the book really came to life when I found the site of the mill where my character had doffed [...]