Austin College Hosts Lecture on Mysterious History

By: By: Austin College
By: By: Austin College

SHERMAN, TEXAS—Mary Helen Specht and Alice Specht, a mother/daughter research and writing team, will present findings on the mysterious disappearance in 1925 of Gertrude Beasley of Abilene, Texas, in a lecture at Austin College on Monday March 5, at 4:30 p.m. in Wright Campus Center, Room 231. The presentation is free and open to the public.

The team has researched the life and writing of Beasley, who, in 1925, wrote a scathing memoir, My First Thirty Years, which included stories of abuse and sexual violence. She subsequently disappeared after the book was banned in the United States and Britain. An inquiry from author Larry McMurtry set the mother/daughter team on the trail of the author, and Mary Helen, through her work as a writer, is making the life and writing of Gertrude Beasley known to the public. The lecture will provide an overview of My First Thirty Years and introduce biographical information related to Beasley’s life in Abilene and what is known of her life after the publication of her memoir.

“Gertrude Beasley’s My First Thirty Years is a stunning Texas coming-of-age story, and more people ought to know about it,” said Randi Tanglen, Austin College assistant professor of English who is hosting the event. “This opportunity to hear from Alice and Mary Helen will allow students to consider the artistic and literary significance of lost and seemingly obscure literature such as Beasley’s memoir.”

In addition to the public lecture, the writers will visit Tanglen’s English senior seminar, “Recovery Projects in the Literary Archive.”

Alice Specht has been dean of University Libraries at Hardin-Simmons University since 2002, and has been a librarian at HSU since 1981. She is a board member for the Grace Museum and has an amateur interest in local and regional history. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Raymond College, University of the Pacific, a master’s degree in librarianship from Emory University, and an MBA from Hardin-Simmons University.

A Fulbright recipient and Dobie Paisano Fellow, Mary Helen Specht has written fiction and essays that have been published widely, including work in The New York Times, The Texas Observer, The Southwest Review, and Night Train Magazine, where she won the Richard Yates Short Story Award. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Rice University and a master’s degree from Emerson College in Boston. She also has lived and worked in Santiago, Chile; Quito, Ecuador; and Austin, Texas, where she has taught creative writing at Austin Community College.


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