Janet Benton & Shan Holt: Lilli de Jong and Philadelphia Women's History

Join us on Thursday, March 15, at 6:30 pm
for a reading and discussion with 

Janet Benton, author of Lilli de Jong,
in conversation with historian Shan Holt (Penn State)

about Lilli de Jong, a novel of motherhood, womanhood, and 19
th century Quaker Philadelphia,
and the surrounding stories of women's history in Philadelphia
“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.”
—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her. 
Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive. 
Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family's home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jongis both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. "So little is permissible for a woman," writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”


Janet Benton began writing early and has worked hard to give books a central place in her life. She grew up in a small town in Connecticut and skipped eighth grade to travel the world with her working-artist mother. She holds an M.F.A. in English/fiction writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a B. A. in religious studies from Oberlin College. After working at magazines, newspapers, and publishers, running an editorial business, and teaching writing at four universities and privately, she began The Word Studio (www.thewordstudio.us) to focus on working with writers. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and elsewhere. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television, including the Emmy award-winning "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment.
Click here to read an interview with her in Publisher's Weekly, March 2017, called "Mothers from the Past: PW Talks with Janet Benton."

Dr. Shan Holt teaches history and coordinates the public history program and Penn State University's Abington campus. As a public historian, scholar, teacher, and executive, she builds community connection and civic vitality around searching understandings and bold presentations of American history. Over more than a decade of progressively more responsible leadership in the public humanities around the MidAtlantic region, she has brought about new initiatives, improved the strategic focus and financial management of non profits, built brands, managed teams of staff and volunteers, and contributed to statewide, regional, and national discussions on the future and purpose of the humanities. She lectures in the United States, Europe, and Australia, and publishes in journals of public history, museum studies, and American history.


Event date: 

Thursday, March 15, 2018 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Event address: 

130 S. 34th St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Staff Pick Logo
LILLI de Jong Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385541459
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Nan A. Talese - May 16th, 2017