Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Third Mrs. Galway

                                         The Third Mrs. Galway by Deirdre Sinnot


      Helen Galway was young, newly married to Augustin Galway, a widower. She was arm candy. Before arriving home from their honeymoon she was outfitted, instructed and expected to keep up his reputation in their home in Utica, New York. He was an important, commanding man and the important and commanding first wife’s portrait is right there at the top of the staircase greeting Helen each time she decends.

     On her first morning in her new home she finds her husband laid out with a severely broken leg from a fall from a horse and the unsavory Dr. McCooke insinuating himself into the home to oversee Augustin’s care and in the shed she finds a woman and her son, runaways and hiding, the woman near giving birth.  This on her first morning.  Helen finds herself at a whole new level of insecurity. 

     Maggie, the free formerly enslaved housekeeper/cook/general runner of the household is an anchor for Helen. Maggie has command of Augustin, takes no stuff from the snarky doctor and guides Helen in the ways of the household and her new husband.

     Utica at the time was a major stop on the Underground Railroad, a stop Harriet Tubman used to get people to Buffalo and Canada. It was the place of the New York Anti-Slavery Society’s first meeting, the home of the minister Orange Scott whose anti-slavery sermons culminated in the forming of an abolitionist group. Tensions were running high on the slavery question in Utica and Helen now finds herself trying to decide whether to help the people hiding in her shed or being a good wife and telling her husband.

     The tensions of the time rank high in this story of choices. Tensions between those running to freedom and those with the power to prevent a person becoming free. Tensions between communities North and South. Tension between those who own and those who don’t. Tensions between knowing what’s right and what isn’t. Very timely, indeed.