How much have do you know about Winston Churchill?
Even if you are not a history buff, you probably know the basics, and can see a semi-correct picture of him in your mind?
Now, how much do you know about his wife?
Nothing. Right? Not even her name?
That is precisely why author Marie Benedict has written her newest historical fiction novel, “Lady Clementine,” a re-telling of the life of Churchill’s devoted wife and the woman who he relied on for counsel and advice. Her contributions to British history are arguably as important as her husband’s.
“It surprised me the way she was right in the thick of things,” Benedict said. “He relied on her for counsel. He trusted her to take a key role and she rose up and really fulfilled that role and then some.”
Clementine, who also wrote “The Only Woman in the Room,” The Other Einstein,” and “Carnegie’s Maid” focuses her work on women who made major contributions to history but have disappeared from the history books.
That focus became laser-pointed in middle school when an aunt gave her a copy of “The Mists of Avalon,” a re-telling of the King Arthur story from the point of view of the women.
“That was groundbreaking for time,” Benedict said. “It made me think about the voices of history we don’t know that are very much part of the narrative.”
Benedict later studied history at Boston University and graduated from the Boston University School of Law. She left behind her legal career to return to unearthing and retelling stories like Lady Clementine.
“I just really feel such a strong sense of responsibility. It’s an honor to tell their stories,” she said.
When Benedict searches for a topic she focuses not on the mention of historically important women, but rather their absence from collective memory.
“It’s almost as if the lack of mention made her more interesting because I just knew he (Churchill) could not possibly be married to someone who was a shrinking violet, she would not have survived that personality,” Benedict said. “When I dug into her and her world she was far more powerful and engaged than I could have possibly imagined. No matter what role he is playing or his responsibilities she’s beside him shouldering the mantle of power and success.”
Benedict hopes modern women will read Lady Clementine’s story with an eye toward the modern lessons that can still be learned today from the challenges she faced in her time.
“She’s coping with issues that are still very much pressing for us such as juggling work and family,” Benedict said. “Clementine and the other women I write about are offering us a fresh lens to look at the past so we can see where women have been impactful and held important roles.
“When we shift that lens to the present and see the vast scope of capabilities that women have and the vast ways women contribute to our current society and our future society, my hope is that we will start to change the way we think about all women, past, present and future,” she said.