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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Ann Lowe 1898-1981: Something to Prove

Several months ago I wrote that my work-in-progress historical fiction had taken on a life of its own and reversed course, thus becoming a biography.  At the time I explained it this way: "Soon it became clear to me that her story, her true, unvarnished story had to be told. It was, at that point told only in bits and pieces and often with the bits inaccurate and  the pieces changing with each retelling. I began my research to clarify things for myself and found myself getting to know a strong woman from a family of strong women.

As I researched, I gave up on the historical fiction for two reasons. First, as I said, her story in itself needs to be told. At times it reads rather like a fairy tale, and at all times is an inspiration. Secondly, I am a white woman, raised in the South. Try as I might I could not convince myself that I could do her justice in fiction. I could not get in her head and speak in her voice. I wanted her to speak for herself. And so she does."

Today is publication day for what I hope is a tribute to this, (if the term had been used during her lifetime) leading African American female in the world of fashion. She was born in a rural, poor area of the Black Belt South during the years of Jim Crow. On the morning that she entered the world as a tiny, squirming little black girl in her native state of Alabama very few took notice. Odds were against her, but she had but she had two things in her favor. Talent and determination. Of the two there is no questioning her talent, but personally, I think it was her determination, her eye on the prize, that made Ann Lowe a success.

Ann developed her talent, passed down from the strong women of her family who came before her, and used that talent along with her determination to reach her dream. Along the way she accepted challenges as stepping stones to, as she explained to Mike Douglas on national television, "prove that a Negro can become a major dress designer."

And prove it she did. From the Governor's mansion in Alabama, to high society in Tampa, Florida, and then, on to her final destination New York City where she became the favored designer for the ladies of high society--- the Duponts, Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Roosevelts, Lodges, Auchinclosses, and the Bouviers, as in Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Along the way there were husbands, a child, Paris, and even Christian Dior, and the most photographed wedding dress in American history.

On this day of publication, I hope many will read Ann's story. Get to know her and the behind the scenes events that shaped so many of her designs. As the ladies who knew her then think back on Ann, they have nothing but praise for her. I think you will also as you read and realize that she lived in turbulent times in American history, from the years of Jim Crow, through the depression and WWII, into the Civil Rights Movement and into the age of flight and television.

She should be better known, but she is not. As one of her debutants said to me earlier this year, "Ann was a lovely, gentle lady. Had she been designing today, she would be considered one of the great designers. Her time in history was against her."

I hope I can change the unknown part and introduce Ann Cole Lowe to an appreciative audience. As an educator I hope teachers will see Ann's story as an example to share with those students who often feel trapped by home, circumstances, distance, and society. I want them to learn from Ann that determination and a willingness to work toward your dream, can help anyone succeed. I believe the book can serve as a research resource for many; authors, students, etc.

I hope all enjoy Ann's story. There are two print versions for I first wrote the book with black and white historical photos and color photos of her designs. The outcome, labeled as a Special Color Photo Edition, will be cost prohibitive for many, especially for teachers who want more than one copy in their classroom. Therefore, I converted all the photos to black and white for a second version. While not as colorful, it still tells Ann's story and shows her work. In both versions, there is a link to a pinterest board that I made showing all of Ann's designs in color and historical photos from her lifetime. For anyone reading the black and white version, they should go to that site to view the photos in color. Also available on Kindle.

Below are the two full book covers, front and back. See what you think. Would love to hear from you about Ann and this project.

The Kindle edition is

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