The widely heralded Dorothy West wrote this column from 1967, when it was called Cottager’s Corner, to 1993 (the column’s name was changed to Oak Bluffs in 1973). Her writing graced us with pure literature each week, often laced with humor, common sense and care.

Ms. West was part of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and whose members visited the Island including Lois Mailou Jones, Helene Johnson, Harry T. Burleigh, Warren Coleman, James Weldon Johnson, Isabelle Powell and others.

Born in 1907, Dorothy West came here with her parents when she was only a year old. She moved here full time in 1947, and stayed until she died in 1998. Dorothy was a writer—she once wrote: “I have no ability nor desire to be other than a writer, though the fact is I whistle beautifully.”

In 1926, she tied with future novelist Zora Neale Hurston for second place in a writing contest with her short story, The Typewriter. Today, Ms. West’s 1965 Smith-Corona typewriter is on display at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and immortalized in the museum’s book, Island Stories.

Her first novel, The Living Is Easy, was published in 1948 and is my favorite. She autographed a paperback version for me.

Her second book wasn’t published until 1995, and it was thanks to former First Lady Jacqueline Onassis, who encouraged her to finish The Wedding. Mrs. Onassis, who had read Dorothy’s column in the Gazette, was an associate editor at Doubleday and helped get the book published, often visiting with Dorothy at her home in the Highlands. The Wedding was a best seller and made into a miniseries by Oprah Winfrey starring Halle Berry.

The book was reviewed as “a triumph” by Publishers Weekly, resulted in a PBS documentary and led to the publishing of her third and final book in 1995, For Richer or Poorer. This is a compilation of Dorothy West’s “stories, sketches and reminiscences” for which she thanked Henry Louis (Skip) Gates Jr. for encouraging her, and to the Vineyard Gazette and its staff.

Dorothy West dedicated The Wedding to Jackie Onassis—who died before publication—writing: ‘’Though there was never such a mismatched pair in appearance, we were perfect partners.’’

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wasn’t the only First Lady to appreciate Dorothy West and her talent. At Ms. West’s 90th birthday party, Hillary Rodham Clinton labeled her “a national treasure.”

In honor of Flag Day (Tuesday, June 14) on Saturday the Oak Bluffs Library is having kids three and up construct their own canvas flags from 10 to 11:30 a.m. When the flags are finished there will be a parade around the children’s room.

Next Saturday, for Father’s Day, the library celebrates Dapper Dads with doughnuts and crafts from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

On Saturday, June 11, from noon to 3 p.m., Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ Connect to End Violence program is hosting a women-only self-defense class at the regional high school by Alpha Krav Maga of Boston and Cape Cod. Krav Maga is a relatively new martial art developed by Israeli defense forces that emphasizes counterattacking the vulnerable parts of the body to quickly stop someone from hurting you or your family. The class fee is a donation of $25, and the proceeds benefit Connect. For more information or to register contact Isadora at 774-549-9667, ext. 106 or email

There’s a brand new sidewalk on Wamsutta avenue along Niantic Park, another jewel for Oak Bluffs. This one is thanks to donations from local contributors and built by local craftsmen and town workers. The new playground, basketball and tennis courts will be open for summer.

Condolences to Megan Alley, Oak Bluffs columnist for the Martha’s Vineyard Times, upon the death of her husband Dennis Alley on Memorial Day. He was chief of the Oak Bluffs Fire Department for 12 years until retirement, and a part of the department for 52 years. His career was a remarkable sacrifice and contribution to our town. May Chief Alley’s family have the peace we hope he rests in.

Dorothy West once wrote: “There is no life that does not contribute to history.” We’re fortunate that Ms. West will be memorialized next fall when her cottage and Isabell and Adam Clayton Powell Jr.’s cottage is installed into the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture representing Oak Bluffs, a Place of Pride.

Keep your foot on a rock.

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