2019: Marie Benedict Tells Untold Tales


“There are dangers to underestimating one another.”

The final comment of this year’s Carnegie Circle donor appreciation event summed up the evening: “When I was 15 years old, I had a job as an usher in a movie house outside Philly. There, I fell in love with Hedy Lamarr for the first time. Tonight, I feel alive again!”

Longtime Library supporter Bernie Hargadon addressed featured author Marie Benedict amid 150 cheering donors who shared his enthusiasm.

Benedict’s historical novels reveal women whose contributions to the world have gone unrecognized and her latest book, The Only Woman in the Room, features Hollywood icon Hedy Lamarr. Benedict tells of the star’s other achievements: she was a brilliant scientist whose invention could have changed the course of World War II. Hedy Lamarr invented and patented a “secret communications system” to help the Allies combat the Nazis. She wasn’t taken seriously at the time, but today the spread spectrum technology she proposed is the basis for numerous military applications and is the backbone for digital communications. “We each hold a piece of her story in our cell phones,” Benedict explained.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Benedict was a voracious reader and frequented the city’s Carnegie library system. “Libraries put me where I am, and put my extended family where we are. This is my happy place.” She became curious about how Andrew Carnegie transitioned from a ruthless businessman to one of the world’s greatest philanthropists and the creator of the free library system. Her research led to clues about a woman who may have inspired him, and Benedict’s imagination – and her own family’s history – filled the gaps and launched a career writing historical fiction. Benedict invented the character of an Irish immigrant woman, intelligent but uneducated, working in Carnegie’s home. “Free access to one of the first Carnegie libraries in Pittsburgh started my family on a path to education. His transformation directly led to our transformation, and the character in Carnegie’s Maid was inspired by my family’s history.”

Benedict shared that she “has an antenna for discovering the untold stories of women,” and her books are an opportunity to give voice to characters marginalized in their own time. “Imagine if men in Hedy Lamarr’s day saw her intelligence as clearly as her beauty? How many lives might have been saved by her invention? There are dangers to underestimating one another. My blessing is to fill in these stories.”

The 2019 Carnegie Circle recognition event was made possible with the generosity of presenting sponsor Bank of America and support from Foundation For The Carolinas.

About the Carnegie Circle
The Carnegie Circle recognizes and celebrates a special group of Library supporters whose annual gifts of $1,000 or more create a community where reading, learning and imagination thrive.

Investment in the Library comes from all parts of our community because so many of us recognize the Library’s critical importance as one of society’s great equalizers. Private support is a tangible endorsement of our belief that free and open access to information can change lives for the better and build a brighter future for the community we share.

The Carnegie Circle honors the rich legacy of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who donated funds to help build libraries around the world, including ours in Charlotte in 1901. We can’t think of a better way to recognize those individuals, businesses and foundations who demonstrate similar philanthropic leadership today.

Become a member of the Carnegie Circle

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