Scarlet Letter Lives: Author and Genealogist Maureen K. Wlodarczyk weaves a work of historical fiction inspired by the true stories of the owners of three 1850s copies of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter: a Mississippi boy of thirteen who, along with his two brothers, is destined for the battlefields of Virginia during the Civil War; a New England sea captain’s daughter, newly-married and living in Alexandria, Virginia when that war breaks out; and a transplanted Virginia man living in New Orleans who must flee the Union occupation there. Their family stories converge over the ensuing decades as their copies of The Scarlet Letter and their lives intersect in one woman who will tell their tales and then the secret that defined her own life.
Jersey! Then . . . Again There’s no place like Jersey . . . today and in the past. Maureen Wlodarczyk’s collection of 36 unique, quirky and just plain interesting short stories about authentic New Jersey people and events spans the period from the early 1800s to the 1940s. New Jersey’s own favorite historian, Thomas Fleming, had the following to say about Jersey! Then . . . Again: “an historical treasure trove which no one who lives in New Jersey – especially in Hudson County – should miss. Stories range from wild-eyed suffragettes to daring hot air balloonists to patent medicine con-man “Dr.” O. Phelps Brown to forgotten political titans like Simon “King” Kelly of Weehawken. This book is a ticket to a magical time machine that will make you the best storyteller in your family overnight!” Hurricanes, windmills, theatre, military heroes, Irish boxers, the birth of competitive baseball, Titanic survivors and more – it all happened in Jersey, believe it or not!
Past-Forward: A three-decade and three-thousand-mile journey home, a non-fiction account of author Maureen K. Wlodarczyk’s thirty-year search for her grandmother’s Irish ancestral roots. The book, written in the form of a letter to Maureen’s grandmother Kate, tells both the story of the thirty-year search itself along with the discovered tale of Kate’s Irish ancestors from the late eighteenth century in the West of Ireland, to their emigration to America in the mid-nineteenth century fleeing the devastating potato famine and through the next eight decades in Jersey City, New Jersey as successive generations struggled to make their way despite hardship and tragedy. The Genealogical Society of New Jersey reviewed Past-Forward saying the book is “an excellent example of taking genealogy far beyond just names and dates….valuable to anyone who has an interest in the journey of seeking their ancestors.”
Young & Wicked: The Death of a Wayward Girl, Maureen Wlodarczyk’s second book is the true story of first generation Irish-Americans William Flannelly and his girl Polly Sexton. Born into poverty and growing up on the gritty streets of Lower Manhattan and Jersey City in the 1870s, this lesser Bonnie & Clyde took the wrong path early on, as child criminals. They continued down the slippery slope of petty criminality and anti-social behavior first as individuals and then as a star-crossed couple. They fled their homes and families to escape arrest and with the intention of disappearing into the shadows and fast times of the 1890s Bowery neighborhood in Manhattan. In the end, they not only disappeared, they lost themselves, one in body and the other in soul. A Star-Ledger book review described Young & Wicked as ”a sad and interesting tale.” A review by the Genealogical Society of New Jersey described Young & Wicked as a well-researched and well-illustrated “social history and a fascinating story of black-sheep ancestors . . . filled with details of hardscrabble life on the streets of New York City and Jersey City.”
Canary in a Cage: The Smith-Bennett Murder Case – The third book in Maureen’s trilogy of true family stories of the 19th century. In 1878, a Jersey City policeman is found bludgeoned and stabbed to death in his own bed, supposedly while his young wife lay beside him unaware. Suspicion immediately falls on the wife and her suspected teenage paramour. Did a twenty-something Jersey girl and farmer’s daughter turn city-girl killer? Canary in a Cage is historical fiction based on the true story of Officer Richard Harrison Smith whose wife Jenny Woolley Smith was accused of his murder, arrested and faced the hangman’s noose along with a local boy hopelessly infatuated with her. Twenty years later, Jorden Lang, a young newspaper reporter at the time of the murder, retells the story of the sensation that surrounded the killing and multiple trials and reveals a long-concealed secret confided by the accused wife during a jailhouse encounter.