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  • Writer's pictureBridget Walsh

Mixing created characters and a real woman from history. (2 min read)

Asenath Nicholson was an America philanthropist who toured Ireland twice in the 1840s.

The first book she wrote, "Ireland Welcomes the Stranger." describes her tour in the years before the Famine.

I read her next book, "Annals of the Famine in Ireland," which was published in 1851, after she had returned to America.

Nicholson comes across as an amazing woman. She wasn't young, in her early fifties, and she travelled around Ireland on her own, in the middle of the Famine helping wherever she could, by donating food and money that arrived from her supporters in America.

I don't think she had any family connection with Ireland, she was curious about the country that had sent so many of its young people to new lives in America. Perhaps she wanted to see what was driving this exodus.

Towards the end of the "Annals," she questioned why the British Government treated Ireland in such a terrible manner. She described the relationship between Britain and Ireland as follows:

"England has held this pretty gem of the ocean by the cable of king and queenship for centuries. . . . If she (Ireland) is loved, why not cherish her? If hated, why not wholly cast her off? . . . If the aristocracy of the United Kingdom have heaped evils unnumbered upon Ireland, why should not the people of the United Kingdom make ample restitution?" (Pages 202 and 202).

I'm trying to get one of my main characters to meet up with Asenath Nicholson. Annie Power, in "Daughters in Exile," (the second of the three novels about the Famine), will be in New York in 1846. It is possible Annie goes to one of Nicholson's talks about Ireland. Of course, Annie could always buy and read the book, "Ireland Welcomes the Stranger," which was published in 1847.

Alternatively, Jane Keating can meet Nicholson in Ireland, in the third novel. "Home - 1847," when Nicholson goes back to see the effects of the Famine.

Whatever I decide, I want this extraordinary woman to appear in my novel.

If you have any extraordinary characters, in your writing. Do share on Twitter (@bridgetw1807), or on the Contact page on this website.


Sketch of Asenath Nicholson is by Anna Maria Howitt,

Nicholson, Asenath, (1851, 2017). "Annals of the Famine in Ireland." Books Ulster.

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