June 24, 2017
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The Sitting Room celebrates a special Memorial Day for women authors

  • Ann Neel and longtime Sitting Room participant at the annual obituary readings. Photo by Robert Grant

  • JJ Wilson, who led the Sitting Room participant group in their annual obituary readings. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Christina Molcillo
May 26, 2017

Traditional Memorial Day festivities haven’t yet begun, but the ladies at The Sitting Room aren’t interested in traditional. On Sunday, May 21, they held their annual reading of work by women authors who’ve died within the last year, along with a reading of selected obituaries. 

Started in 1981, The Sitting Room in Penngrove is a privately funded library with a collection of books and resources that focus on women’s issues and achievements.

While it may sound macabre to have readings of obituaries, the group who met was anything but. The head curator, JJ Williams, welcomes all with a warm smile and will lead newcomers into the library to explain more about what collections are available. This day, she insisted that everyone who came made sure they helped themselves to tea and freshly baked scones before settling into the comfortable couches and chairs that were arranged in a circle in the front room. Before the discussion began, I spoke with longtime Sitting Room participant Ann Neel, who commented that one of the best things about this venue is the people, “There’s such a diversity of people,” she said, “you never know who’s going to show up - it’s always interesting.”

And it was. The women who gathered this day were indeed diverse; poets, authors, librarians and artists, each one introducing themselves before the reading began and talking about one recent thing they’d done that they were proud of. Most notable was Eloise van Tassel’s exclamation of “I’ve just finished paying for my cemetery plot!” This announcement was met with cheers and congratulations. It was clear that this is more than a library where books are dissected and discussed; it’s a safe, welcoming space for anyone with literary interests to meet and celebrate the lives of the women they’re reading from, and their own as well. 

Before the readings began, after all the introductions had been made, JJ Williams had one more idea to talk about for The Sitting Room, “We should do a proactive obituary workshop…people die at the most inconvenient times – and they just keep doing it!”

The Sitting Room has events, workshops and readings nearly every week. If you’re looking for something unique to do in Penngrove that won’t cost you a thing, stop by at any time to see what’s happening.