Kate Dolly’s Linens

Kate Dolly’s Linens

So, the past few years my grandmother (via my aunt with whom she lives) has been sending family things for Christmas presents. This year I got a wonderful box full of many random things including a set of table linens that once belonged to Kate Dolly.

Kate Dolly’s mother and my great-great-grandmother were sisters. Kate’s mother moved to St. Louis and married Thomas Dolly, and my great-great-grandmother went on a blind date (in her sister’s stead) and married Charles Plamondon, had five children, and died on the Lusitania. Somehow, most of “Aunt Kate’s” stuff wound up back in Leland, on the farm from which the two sisters originated. (A farm, by the way, that Mary and “Big Kate” fought for the right to inherit. When their father left it to them, their male cousins, who their father had paid passage for from Ireland, sued them because “girls” couldn’t inherit property. They took it to the Illinois State Supreme Court and won. And they guy who painted my house here in Montana three summers ago — he’s descended from those men who tried to steal our farm. Small world.)

Anyhow, I inherited all these lovely table linens. White damask, with Kate Dolly’s monogram embroidered on the napkins. The napkins are probably two and a half feet square. They’re enormous. They’re meant for huge Victorian robber barons. They make me giggle they’re so outrageous. All these lovely linens arrived and I washed them, worked the ancient wine stain out of the tablecloth, hung them on the line, and ironed them. Some old friends have arrived in town and I think perhaps this weekend it’s time to thaw a leg of lamb, put the leaf in the table, and set it with Kate Dolly’s linens. Linens that have survived a century of dinner parties. Things should be used, and I love that these are well used, and have endured.

3 thoughts on “Kate Dolly’s Linens

  1. Inheriting from living folks can be a mixed bag. From my mother, I have her mother’s federal reproduction bedroom set and dinning room. I sleep in that bed every night and the dinning room set looks nice in my 1890’s farmhouse. And I have a lot of table cloths from that household also.

    But sometimes my mother wants to place things with me with conditions. That I am to provide it back upon request and am responsible to the rest of the family for it or some such. It can be awkward, as we have received a great deal of largess (in the good sense). It can be difficult to make the point that when something comes to rest in our home, it becomes ours, to dispose of as we choose. I don’t suppose I would deny my mother any of the peices she has given us if she requested them. But I can make no promises that they will be here when she returns for them. And I can’t afford to be held responsible for them. For if they are here, we will use them, and sometimes not as they were intended…

  2. Linens are some of the best things I’ve inherited. From the embroidered jul tompte Christmas stuff to my other-side, Irish grandma’s linen and lace. I’ve used them for curtains, hung them on the wall, and finally, now, use them on a dining room table. What is it about texture that brings memories to the surface? I can feel my grandma’s joy and pleasure in the heavy drape and softness each time I smooth them out on the table. Great story attached to yours. Spread them out and enjoy.

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