New York City is in bloom. And dogs.

I probably do this every year, but there’s a certain section of my book where I worried that people would think it was made up. I’m describing 11th Street.

“… there’s a stretch where for a brief time during the spring the cherry blossoms are so abundant and so lush they make a big, fat, fluffy white and pink canopy that stretches from sidewalk to sidewalk. It’s a dazzling display. The best part however, is when the petals begin to fall. It makes me wish New York City were car-free. I want to be able to walk down the center of the street like I’m in the middle of my own botanical ticker-tape parade. I’d raise my arms to the skies and twirl around in this confetti-like explosion of renewal and possibility and pretend it’s all for me.”

Well, here’s the proof. I don’t see any pink ones though, and I swear there used to be pink ones. How can that be? Anyway, imagine what this looks like when the petals begin to fall. On a windy day. Enchanting!

Flowers on 11th Street, New York Citu

So then I was taking pictures of this flowering tree on my block of Perry Street. Because we’ve never had a flowering tree on Perry Street. I don’t know who planted this and when, but I am seeing it for the first time myself. It’s small now, but of course it will grow.

I thought as long as I’m taking a picture I might as well get a dog in the shot. Because what photograph isn’t improved by the presence of a dog??

Flowers on Perry Street, New York City

Holy shit, Tim Daley is My Age

I was watching Madame Secretary and I googled Tim Daley and learned that he is exactly my age. There’s no getting around it, Tim Daley is aging a lot better than I am. Quit it, Tim Daley! You’re making the rest of us look bad. That said, looking good Tim Daley. Damn you.

Normally I’m just fine about my looks. I’m aging, I’d rather not, but I don’t dwell on it. Then I got my hair cut for a piece that PBS is doing about my singing book. This is such a great opportunity and I wanted to look my best, except they cut my hair too short. This caused me to really look at myself, and now I’m terrified at how I’m going to look in this PBS piece. It doesn’t matter, right? It’s what I say that matters? Except even as I type that I realize of course it matters. Ugh, ugh. ugh. I blame Tim Daley.

A rare sighting of Finney and Bleecker in close proximity to each other.


Thank you, Laine Nooney

Yesterday I spoke at an amazing program titled, Mistakes Were Made, produced by Laine Nooney. Laine, you did a great job, and can I just say that the speakers you chose were amazing. Every one of them was brilliant, and if they weren’t such lovely people I would have been terrified of them.

The pictures below were taken by the great writer and illustrator, Vivian Swift. Thank you very much, Vivian!

On the far left is my co-speaker, Joy Rankin, @JoyMLRankin, who researches American history, the history of science and technology, and the history of gender. And next to her is the moderator of the event Finn Burton, assistant professor at NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Media Culture, and Communication.

Mistakes Were Made, NYU

And that’s me, doing my best not to show my nervousness. I stumbled over my words from time to time, but what are you going to do?

Mistakes Were Made, NYU

Saving Young Black Women from the Gallows

I’ve been researching an 1829 execution of a 21 year old black woman for my book, and I came across two other sentences of death. 18 year old Diana Sellick, who was scheduled to be hung on April 18, 1816, except her sentence was commuted to life in prison. That life wouldn’t turn out to be much longer, however. She died in prison in 1822. The other case was 19 year old Rose Butler, who was hung in 1820. Both Diana and Rose were also black. Sentences of death for women were exceedingly rare, but not so rare for young black women, it seems.

All these cases are very interesting, Sellick is an early example of the insanity defense, for instance, but I have tons of other research to do! I also noticed another person who turns up in all three cases, the Rev. John Stanford. He was a Baptist preacher who died in 1834 and apparently made an effort to save all three women. The fabulous historian Thomas C. McCarthy, writes about him here.

God knows if I will ever have the time but I’ve found an archive with some letters relating to Stanford and Sellick that I’m dying to read. I wonder if someone has done research into capital punishment and women, and looked at the percentage of white and black women executed. Probably, right?

Washington Square Park, where Rose Butler was hung in 1820. So far I haven’t found any indication of where in the park she was executed. It was very nice out on the day I took this picture, and students were sitting all around, enjoying the sun.

I was looking at the trees and trying to gauge which might be almost 200 years old.


Through the Passageway

If you are interested in education and the history of education, I just got this blurb about a book written by a friend of a friend. I wish I had gone to City and Country School and had someone like Jane for a teacher!

“Through the Passageway offers a short history of the founding of City and Country School by Caroline Pratt in 1914, and then, through the intimate view of a teacher in collaboration with colleagues from 1968 to 1998, shows the school’s dynamic approach to learning by experience involving jobs, trips, and the arts. The book presents lively anecdotes of the children (ages three to thirteen) in this setting, for example a five-year-old making a table herself from scratch, and eight-year-olds turning the entire classroom into a ship. It also recounts what happened when the school faced financial problems and when more conservative politics of the 1980s resulted in the pressure to change.

“Through the Passageway describes this vibrant school life as an alternative to the more regimented, test-driven direction education has taken at the present time.”

Jane Llewellyn Smith taught at City and Country School in New York, NY for thirty years. She is retired and lives in Orient, NY. To order a copy email: