Compiled by her grandson, Houghton M. White, Class of 1958
A Maine Prodigy is the story of Skowhegan native Mary Elise Fellows White, compiled from her autobiography, diaries, and other primary sources. Marked as a violin prodigy from an early age, Elise goes to Boston in 1883 to study at the New England Conservatory. She is introduced into society by the prominent Winthrop Sargent family, trains with Franz Kneisel, meets and plays for the likes of Oliver Wendell Holmes and Booker T. Washington, and eventually goes to study in Vienna, the music capital of Europe.
Despite her social connections, money is always a problem. Elise is forced to return to the U.S., where, in 1895, she and two other young women travel as a musical trio to small towns and still-wild territories of the western U.S. and Canada. It's a whirlwind tour -- filled with politicians and prospectors, run-away horses and male admirers. One admirer becomes her husband -- prospector and mine operator Bruce White -- leading to nine challenging years together in a raw mining boomtown of British Columbia.
A Maine Prodigy evokes the joys and struggles of a woman who seeks refinement, artistic recognition, and financial security from childhood to old age. Throughout the book we have her sharp eye and articulate voice. "Surely someone must find [my diaries] worth keeping ... I have put myself into them, heart and soul. All the life I have known is depicted in them ..."