Sidney author Grant Hayter-Menzies loves to delve into the lives of women. “I grew up in a house with a strong, courageous and troubled mother whose motivation to action fascinated me,” says Hayter-Menzies. “She was able to move mountains and be defeated by things that were strangely inconsequential.”
She helped develop his drive to tell the stories of other strong women.
His newest is Lillian Carter A Compassionate Life, which takes a look into the life of the woman who, as nurse, mother and social justice activist in segregated southwest Georgia, made a lifelong habit of breaking the rules defining a woman’s place in and out of the home and the status of blacks in society.
“I was taken into the family,” says Hayter-Menzies, who wrote to former President Jimmy Carter for permission to tell his mother’s story after reading Carter’s memoir, A Remarkable Mother.
“He told me I was welcome to do it and he invited me to an event honouring his mother with an award in Georgia.” Hayter-Menzies hopped on a plane and met with the 39th president of the United States, who wrote the foreword for the book.
“Of immediate concern to Lillian was the civil rights issue. If she was alive today she would be marching with a sign: ‘black lives matter,’” says Hayter-Menzies.
He says the Carter matriarch was ahead of her time and only held back from protesting by her protective son. “She grew up in a household of compassion whose motto for everything the family did was not to recognize the colour of people but to take them on their merits.”
Not one to sit on her heels, well into her 60s, Lillian Carter joined the Peace Corps, spending two years in India caring for the poor in the slums of Mumbai. “She knew it was impossible to do what she wanted to do for black people (in the U.S.) and not have rocks thrown through the window. She wanted to go where there were people of colour she could care for (without retribution),” says Hayter-Menzies.
Hayter-Menzies’ works include biographies of Charlotte Greenwood, Princess Der Ling, and Billie Burke Ziegfeld. Lillian Carter A Compassionate Life is available at amazon.ca.