The University of Wisconsin Press

Biography / Politics / Wisconsin


A Mind of her Own
Helen Connor Laird and Family, 1888–1982
Helen L. Laird

Wisconsin Land and Life
Arnold Alanen, Series Editor

"This biography of my grandmother interweaves a woman's personal story with the history of her time. I found it to be a deeply moving, well researched, suspenseful odyssey."—Jessica Doyle, First Lady of Wisconsin

A Mind of Her Own: Helen Connor Laird and Family, 1888–1982 captures the public achievement and private pain of a remarkable Wisconsin woman and her family, whose interests and influence extended well beyond the borders of the state.

The eldest child of William Duncan Connor, a major figure in Wisconsin's emerging hardwood lumber industry and its turbulent turn-of-the-century political scene, Helen Connor Laird spent almost her entire ninety-three years in central and northern Wisconsin. Nevertheless, her voracious reading and probing mind connected her to the world. Her early life in frontier communities, home influences, Presbyterian background, and education, as well as the talents she recognized in herself, impelled her to lead.

Marriage, duty, and four sons did not stem that desire. By the time her third child, Melvin R. Laird Jr., became secretary of defense in 1969, she had served in leadership positions in her community, district, and state. While business absorbed her competitive family, her own interests lay elsewhere: in politics and education. Throughout her life, she kept records of the evolving world she and her family inhabited, and of her own emotional states. "Remember, we are all lonely," the "closet poet" said. Spanning almost a century, the family's history speaks to the way we were and are: a stridently materialistic nation with a deep and persistent spiritual component.

"A Mind of Her Own is first and foremost the highly insightful biography of a remarkable woman who was an astute participant/observer in many of the most significant events and developments of her time over nearly nine decades. It is the saga of one of Wisconsin's most important and influential families over three generations."–John Buenker, professor emeritus of history, University of Wisconsin­Parkside

Helen Laird is the author of Carl Oscar Borg and the Magic Region: Artists of the American West. She lives in Marshfield, Wisconsin, and serves on the Wisconsin Historical Society's Board of Curators.

The Terrace Books logo is designed in the shape of a book with a Union chair in silhouette on the cover. The words Terrace Books, Madison, Wisconsin appear also.

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Laird's book is an illustrative collage of portraits from three periods in Helen Laird's life

November 2005
LC: 2005010204 CT
504 pp.    6 x 9
42 b/w photographs

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Cloth $34.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-21450-0
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Updated March 15, 2010

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