Tribute to Jane LaTour: 9th Blogiversary — #AtoZChallenge 2023

Today is the Ninth Blogiversary of Molly’s Canopy, which I am dedicating to the late author Jane LaTour, my friend and colleague who passed on April 3, 2023.

Nine years ago this month, my friend Jane LaTour and I embarked on a landmark trip to Fredericksburg, Va., to attend Civil War reenactments of some May 1864 Overland Campaign battles my Union Army ancestor fought in.

At the time, Jane and I were each at a crossroads in our writing lives.

Jane had completed her first book Sisters in the Brotherhoods about union women in non-traditional jobs organizing for equality – and she had a deal for a second book about union men who were labor reformers.

But Jane had recently lost a friend and mentor who advised her during her first book, and she was grappling with how to start the second book without him.

Back from the battlefields (2014). Jane (with Irish Brigade flag) and me at Manhattan’s Penn Station after our victorious return from Civil War reenactments of the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House that my Union Army ancestor fought in. Photo by Russell Smith

Meanwhile, I was deeply into genealogy and family history research — and had long wanted to write about my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull, but was unsure how to begin.

I had studied his pension file, read up on his Civil War battles, attended writing workshops and begun short essays for a possible book – even considered blogging about his experiences. But how to get started? The answer came when Jane agreed to go with me to Virginia.

Our trip is planned

At the time, Jane and I had worked together for more than a decade as labor journalists. At an after-work communicators happy hour, I was complaining to colleagues that I couldn’t get anyone to go with me to upcoming reenactments during the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

At the troop encampment (2014). Jane and I pose with by a cannon wheel in honor of my Union great-great grandfather Arthur Bull, who was in the 6th NY Heavy Artillery.

“I’ll go with you!” said Jane, who had overheard the conversation.

“Seriously? You’d really go?” I asked — and yes, she would.

So, we started to plan – and that was the impetus I needed to take the plunge. On April 24, 2014, I quickly set up Molly’s Canopy and wrote the first few blog posts before we departed.

On my first post, Jane left a comment typical of her supportive enthusiasm:

Dear Molly, This is just wonderful and so inspiring! You are amazing! I am honored to be your traveling companion and a part of your journey of discovery. It is going to be one great adventure!…Keep blogging…it’s just great! Jane

A life-changing experience

The entire trip turned out to be a bonding, life-changing experience for us both – and great fun, too! Jane was a history buff, and we both gasped in awe as we drove to the first battle and saw the tents of reenactors who bivouacked by the roadside – as if we were driving all the way back to 1864!

Buffalo Soldiers contingent (2014). Jane and I wandered through troop encampments, chatted with battlefield journalists and postmasters, visited medical and supply tents, talked to the Irish Brigade and the African American Buffalo Soldiers (and their supporters). Photo by Molly Charboneau

Jane and I wandered through troop encampments, chatted with battlefield journalists and postmasters, visited medical and supply tents, talked to the Irish Brigade and the African American Buffalo Soldiers.

We also witnessed two realistic looking battles – with troops advancing on one another and cannons booming (particularly exciting for me since my ancestor was an artillerist!).

At one point the Gen. Ulysses S. Grant reenactor galloped up on a horse and talked to the gathered crowd. And Jane was thrilled to discover a busload of history buffs from a Civil War Roundtable in Vermont – her home state.

Behind Union Army lines (2014). Union reenactors form up for their assault on the Mule Shoe’s Bloody Angle as the Gen. U.S. Grant reenactor gallops up on a horse to talk to the gathered crowd. Photo by Molly Charboneau

After each day’s excitement, Jane and I would return to our hotel with gun smoke permeating our clothes and change for dinner. Then we’d head to the local Golden Corral buffet – where reenactors in uniform wandered about surrealistically with plastic trays piled with food, and where we chatted up a Union reenactor and his wife, who was in period dress. It was quite an experience!

Cementing a 20-year friendship

Between battles, which were held on private land, we drove over to the actual Spotsylvania Battlefield – a huge, quiet hallowed ground imbued with the spirit of soldiers who laid down their lives in the war to end the brutal system of slavery.

We also talked into the night about our writing plans and how we hoped to move forward – Jane on her book, me on my blog.

Jane with a New York Herald journalist reenactor (2014). Being a labor journalist and author, Jane was particularly taken with this New York Herald journalist — one of the encampment reenactors who gave a sense of historical authenticity to the overall battlefield experience. Photo by Molly Charboneau

In the end, that trip cemented a 20-year friendship during which we continued to write and write – me on Molly’s Canopy and Jane completing the manuscript of her second book. We also met monthly in a wonderful Writers Circle with our colleagues Jon and Donn to discuss our work and offer mutual support.

I will miss Jane immensely – for her enthusiasm, solidarity and thoughtful observations about the writing process and life in general, and for the way she always called me her “French connection” because we both had French heritage.

I will remember Jane always as my good friend who was there with me from the start of my genealogy writing journey — and I’ll let her have the last word, from a treasured comment she left on my First Blogiversary post:

Dear Molly, Congratulations! This is a beautiful summation of your journey, one that I am proud and happy to have shared with you. I love the layering and unfolding of your ancestors’ stories…onward! In admiration, Jane

Up next, U is for Unusual Sixties TV Shows. Please stop back

© 2023 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

24 thoughts on “Tribute to Jane LaTour: 9th Blogiversary — #AtoZChallenge 2023”

  1. What a wonderful story and tribute to share about all the layers of your friendship with Jane. You both are remarkable women and the world is fortunate to have your writings that explore people’s lives, their contributions and place in history. Glad the two of you bonded. We all have benefited. Sending much love. xox Pamela

    1. Thanks for this thoughtful comment, Pamela. The same could be said for our friendship, too. We have all been ground breakers in a labor movement that was once overwhelmingly male — and thankfully has diversified during our working lives. A great deal for us all to be proud of as we remember Jane, one of our leading lights. Hugs!

  2. Happy Blogiversary! What a beautiful tribute to your friend. I’m so sorry for your loss. Sounds like she was a great cheerleader and friend and will be greatly missed.

  3. Quite a moving tribute to your friend and your long-time friendship. Sending a hug for comfort. And congrats on your blogiversary, looking forward to your future posts.

  4. What a heartfelt tribute, and what an amazing friend you had. It’s obvious how much affection you shared. She is surely celebrating your 9th blogiversary as well.

  5. How special to have a wonderful memory like that you shared with your friend. My sympathy on losing a friend, colleague and like-thinker.

    1. Thanks, Pauleen. If Jane were here, she would have wanted to celebrate my blogiversary — which in many ways was hers, too — so I had to celebrate her this year.

  6. What a wonderful friendship, and I can tell Jane’s memory will live on with you and your writing. And a big congratulations on 9 years of blogging. That makes me wonder how long I’ve been at it…so will go see if I can find any stats. I’ve certainly enjoyed reading your posts here every Saturday.

    1. Thanks so much Barb. Jane was such a good friend, I can almost hear her commenting as I finish up the A to Z Challenge. She will be missed.

  7. Congratulations on your 9th blogaversary!
    It’s hard to lose those who share our researching, or writing or blogging journey.

Comments are closed.