If you haven’t heard of Maud Lewis, you’re not alone. I’ve had juvenile arthritis for 20 years and not once heard the name until I picked up a book (that I thought would be very different by the way) on how the arts help people handle their illnesses called When Walls Become Doorways: Creativity and the transforming illness by Tobi Zausner.
|Look at her hands 🙁|
Maud was born in Nova Scotia and lived within a short distance of her childhood home all of her life. No one really knows exactly when the onset of her disease was, but it had to have occurred sometime between age 4 and 10 just based on photographs of her as a child. Due to bullying about her deformities caused by JIA, she stopped going to school and began to help her mother with illustrations for her greeting card business. Unfortunately, the bullying and prejudice didn’t stop then – her deformities continued to worsen her entire life and she was constantly teased. She eventually married and continued to sell greeting cards. Eventually her JIA-related issues got so bad she had to stop leaving the house, but she always kept painting.
The book points out something that I think needs clarification. One paragraph on her issues dealing with other people ends with:
“When a child isolates herself, as Maud Lewis did, it may not indicate that she wants to be alone but that she needs to be alone because social interactions are too painful” (212).
I certainly agree having lived much of my life like this, but the way this is phrased makes me feel like the blame is somehow on Maud. I dunno, maybe I just read into things oddly, but it does. I want to just say that if you are being bullied or abused, the blame is ALWAYS on the person abusing and bullying and not ever on the victim.
That being said, come check out some of her art!
I can’t even fathom how painful it must have been to continue making art with the deformities Maud had in her hands, but she kept going. I wish I had known about her a long long time ago.