“It was a dark and stormy night”¦.”so goes the old writer’s cliché. But the night of December 15 really was stormy, and it made for an exciting adventure for Vinalhaven School’s fourth- and fifth-grade girls, all members of a book club named A Girl’s Point of View, as they held their first meeting of the school year at Brown’s Head Light.
To start the year, the girls in the book club read Abbie Against the Storm, by Marcia Vaughan. This book depicts the true story of Abbie Burgess, who kept the lights burning at Matinicus Rock Light and cared for her whole family during the winter of 1856 while her father sailed to the mainland for much-needed supplies. Club leader Susan Raven asked Town Manager Marjorie Stratton if she would host the book club meeting at her home, Vinalhaven’s Brown’s Head Light. Stratton agreed. “I thought it was a good opportunity to connect [the girls] to the island,” said Raven, “and I like to connect them to women they can look up to. The girls had never been to the lighthouse before, and they didn’t know Marjorie.”
And so, on the evening in question, four girls and their chaperones, wearing rain slickers, mud boots, some with headlamps and even an old lantern, made their way through the wind and rain down a wet and muddy path to Brown’s Head Light. “The girls were giddy,” said Raven. “It was quite a kickoff; they were really excited.” Fourth-grader Hannah Newton emphasized, “It was pitch black and REALLY muddy.”
Once inside, Stratton invited the girls into her living room where she talked about the history of Brown’s Head Light and shared her experiences living at a lighthouse. She also shared some historical artifacts including old Coast Guard maps and postcards with pictures depicting ways the lighthouse was set up in different periods in time. There was also a diary of people who had lived at Brown’s Head Light in the past. Another activity included looking up the histories of Matinicus Rock Light and Brown’s Head Light online. Interestingly, Abbie Burgess’s brother, Benjamin Burgess, was the keeper at Brown’s Head Light from 1867-1904. Stratton also served the girls homemade Christmas cookies that all the girls agreed were “awesome!”
Later, the group was taken up into the actual light tower, which is separate from the house. “We had to climb down over rocks in the rain to get to the lighthouse,” said Raven. “The girls enjoyed that.” Fourth-grader Richelle Walker explained, “we got to go halfway up the stairs and look out.” According to the girls, they were not permitted any farther because there is a “danger zone” in place near the glass of the lighthouse. They had to keep away due to safety precautions. Due to the inclement weather, the foghorn was sounding that night. “The foghorn was loud!” pointed out fourth-grader Corey Lazaro.
Overall, the whole group really enjoyed the experience at the lighthouse that night. “It was nice that we went to Brown’s Head,” said fifth-grader Frances Eder. “It was a really fun book club.”
For her part, Stratton was happy to host the book club. “We felt good about somebody using the lighthouse and relating it to the book and learning some of the history,” she said. “The way I think is that the lighthouse is owned by the people of Vinalhaven and if they can use it for something like that, it’s kind of cool.”
A Girl’s Point of View book club is made possible through Mainely Girls, a statewide, nonprofit organization that focuses on girls’ needs in a “¨positive, preventative, and proactive manner and works at the state level to bring about positive change for girls.
Kris Osgood is a freelance writer who lives on Vinalhaven.