Name: Mary Coffin Starbuck
Parents: Tristram and Dionis Coffin
Siblings: Too many to keep track of!
Places lived: Moved to Nantucket Island in 1660
Jobs: Wife, mother, ran a trading store for most of my life
Friends: Everyone I met
Enemies: None that I know of, or care to know of
Dating, marriage: Married Nathaniel Starbuck when I was 17 years old; he is the love of my life
Children: Ten children, eight of whom lived to adulthood
What person do you most admire? Peter Foulger—a true Renaissance man
Overall outlook on life: Optimistic and realistic, both
Do you like yourself? I am both content and grateful
What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? Other than losing two children to an early grave, there is nothing I lack
How are you viewed by others? A curious question! John Richardson, an early Quaker preacher said of me, “The Islanders established her a Judge among them, for a little of moment was done without her advice.”
Physical appearance: Small but mighty
Hair: Once brunette, now salt and pepper
Voice: Gentle in tone, forceful in content
How would you describe yourself? As a woman who has been fortunate to find an important role to play in a man’s world
Characteristics: Intelligent, logical; some say blessed with wisdom
Strongest/weakest character traits: It is both—my ability to see what needs to change, and my tolerance in allowing time for change to occur
How much self-control do you have? More with every passing year
Fears: Standing at the grave of one I dearly love and facing life without them
Collections, talents: I have a quick mind for details and accounting
What people like best about you: Friends kindly refer to me as the Deborah of Nantucket
Food, drink: Mullein tea on a cold foggy Nantucket day
Books: The Bible, of course; books are scarce on an island
Best way to spend a weekend: The same way as every other day
What would a great gift for you be? To have all my children together, under one roof…and all their children, too
When are you happy? Every single day brings a moment of joy
What makes you angry? Mistreatment of those who are less fortunate
What makes you sad? Same as what makes me angry
What makes you laugh? Little children, baby animals…oh, and my husband Nathaniel makes me laugh
Hopes and dreams:For our island to have unity, without oppression (remember, we came from the mainland, where the Puritans fined us for every little infraction)
What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? While still on the mainland, I stood by and watched friends and neighbors hurl rocks and stones at a Quaker woman
Greatest success: When Quaker missionary John Richardson came to Nantucket in 1701 and I had a spiritual awakening
Biggest trauma: Burying two of my dear children
What do you care about most in the world?My family, my island, my faith
Do you have a secret? Oh my! There are no secrets on an island
What do you like best about the other main characters in your book?Well, they’re all my great great granddaughters!
What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? Absolutely nothing
If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be:To end my life well
Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: Here is an example, taken straight from my journal:
Stephen Hussey came into the store this afternoon. He settled into Father’s rocking chair by the fire and drank gallons of my mullein tea, talking to every person who came in. He carried his ear trumpet with him, which struck me as ironic for, despite being a Quaker, he is not fond of listening, only of talking. Stephen Hussey never had a thought that he couldn’t turn into a sermon.
Today, though, he remained quiet until the store was brimming over with customers. He rose to his feet and announced in his loud shrill voice, “I have a riddle for thee, Mary!”
The store grew quiet, all eyes turned to Stephen, as everyone enjoyed a good riddle, and he enjoyed a good audience.
“What’s gray and old and likes to be everywhere at once?”
“Nantucket fog,” I said, hoping he would now go home.
“Nay. The answer is…Mary Coffin Starbuck!” He laughed and laughed, thoroughly amused with himself, until tears ran down his cheeks.That man! He sorely tries my patience.
Thanks for allowing this peek into your story, Mary!
Suzanne Woods Fisheris an award-winning, bestselling author of more than two dozen novels, including Phoebe’s Light, Minding the Light, the Amish Beginnings series, The Bishop’s Family series, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peaceand The Heart of the Amish. She lives in California. Learn more at http://www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and follow Suzanne on Twitter @suzannewfisher and Facebook at SuzanneWoodsFisherAuthor.