The Keeper of Lime Rock
Lenore Skomal
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Buy *The Keeper of Lime Rock: The Remarkable True Story of Ida Lewis, America's Most Celebrated Lighthouse Keeper

The Keeper of Lime Rock: The Remarkable True Story of Ida Lewis, America's Most Celebrated Lighthouse Keeper
Lenore Skomal
Running Press
152 pages
March 2003
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

previous review next review

Here is a book that should be drenched by the heavy waves of the sea in a storm, but it 's dry as dust. A story full of novelistic potential that has been offered up like a newspaper account. Just the facts.

Curled Up With a Good BookThe facts are these: Ida Lewis (born with the marvelous moniker Idawalley Zoradia Lewis) was a lighthouse keeper in Newport, Rhode Island. She received a medal by act of Congress for her heroic rescue of two soldiers whom she pulled off a cracking ice floe. This was but one of many recognitions Ida tucked away, modestly, along with a medal from the Life Saving Benevolent Association of New York, a gold watch, lace white stockings from the Chicago White Sox, a silver teapot, and innumerable smaller gifts and remembrances from a grateful populace. She even received a rowboat. In addition, she was, probably, the first formally appointed female lighthouse keeper in the United States, and was paid at the time higher than any other person with the same job. She met President Grant and General Sherman among many notaries who wanted to shake her hand. She became a buddy of Admiral Dewey for whom she named one of her beloved cocker spaniels. Andrew Carnegie gave her a private pension when no government resource was forthcoming. The lighthouse and its little island were bought and preserved by the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, and a Coast Guard buoy tender is named for her.

Ida banked the pension and left it all in her will to her brother Rudolph. She did not display her awards, and sadly, did not keep a diary. She wasn't that kind of woman.

Lamentably the photos in this small book are fuzzy, but one rather close shot shows a young woman with a strong face not lacking in humor, clear eyes and unruly curls. We are assured that Ida was a small person, weighing but 103 pounds, but was touted the best swimmer in Newport by the time she was fourteen years old, and was known to be able to row as well as any man. When her father was invalided and her mother had sole care of him and her ailing sister, it was left to Ida at an early age to effect the rescues which were to bring her fame. As one rescued soul recounted, "When I saw the boat approaching and a woman rowing, I thought, she's only a woman and she will never reach us. But I soon changed my mind."

Ida 's hand was sought in marriage by Schuyler Colfax, Grant's Vice-President, possibly on the strength of her heroism. She had had music named for her and been asked to go on the road as a vaudeville performer. The offer of matrimony, one of many, was refused, as Ida had agreed to be engaged to a local man. The marriage was a complete failure, ending after only a few months. This intriguing fact could be explored at length. Certainly Ida was the darling (some would say the "Grace Darling," after her English counterpart) of the feminists of the day.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B, Anthony took it upon themselves to visit her on the little island of Lime Rock where she lived and died and tended from early adolescence the light which guided mariners into and out of the harbor. Stanton and Anthony concluded succinctly that "Ida Lewis is a girl of rare common sense and self respect." And "Ida later expressed her exasperation regarding the meeting, commenting that she would rather have conducted another rescue than a visit with Anthony and her companion." Another mysterious tidbit that could have breathed greater life into the biography of this fascinating woman.

Lenore Skomal's The Keeper of Lime Rock provides only the basics. A lot of research went into its making, and it cries for someone to render the story more cinematic. As it is, the book was nearly 100 years late in commemorating the boldness and persistence of this heroine of the shore. Regarding her daily, nay hourly, care of the lighthouse flame as her greatest service, far more important than the many rescues attributed to her, Ida stated plainly, "There are hundreds of boats going in and out of this harbor. It's part of my happiness to know that they are depending on me to guide them safely."

© 2003 by Barbara Bamberger Scott for Curled Up With a Good Book.

buy *The Keeper of Lime Rock: The Remarkable True Story of Ida Lewis, America's Most Celebrated Lighthouse Keeper* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.