- May 26 & 27 - All libraries CLOSED for Memorial Day
Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester Heiress to the Rifle Fortune by Mary Jo Ignoffo.
If you visit one of San Jose’s local attractions, the Winchester Mystery House, you‘ll learn Sarah Winchester was a reclusive, eccentric, (if not insane), superstitious heiress haunted by ghosts of victims of the Winchester rifle. According to local historian Mary Jo Ignoffo, such speculations began during Winchester’s lifetime and continued after her death when her large uncompleted mansion opened as a tourist attraction. Ignoffo carefully examines and refutes these charges, concluding that Sarah Winchester, at one time the richest woman in California, was a successful businesswoman, investor, orchardist and amateur architect who relocated to California in midlife after her husband’s death. Crippled by arthritis and other ailments, Sarah preferred the company of her extended family and chose not to participate in the social life of the rich and powerful of the Santa Clara Valley.
In the introduction, Ignoffo tells that us she was challenged to write a biography of Winchester by former California Room librarian Bob Johnson, after finding little reliable information in the King Library’s California Room files. Ignoffo searched local archives, locating correspondence between Sarah and her lawyer and scrapbooks and photo albums kept by Sarah’s former employees at her ranch in Campbell. Visiting New Haven, Connecticut, site of Sarah’s former life and legacy, Ignoffo researched Sarah Winchester’s family history. Since Sarah Winchester left little personal correspondence, nothing is known of her inner life and thoughts; Ignoffo has pieced together a fascinating story of Sarah’s Winchester life in historical context, digressing at times into related subjects such as the history and manufacture of the Winchester rifle, séances and spiritualism and San Francisco high society in the early twentieth century.