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Rags To Riches Tale Of Oswego Woman Told In New Book

OSWEGO – The Oswego County Historical Society will host its annual meeting presentation on Saturday, May 19 at 1:30 p.m. in the banquet hall of the historic Oswego Elks Club, 132 W. Fifth St.

During a public meeting acting-president Mary Kay Stone will present a brief annual report of the projects, events and accomplishments of the year.

Immediately following will be a special keynote presentation by Ann Callaghan Allen on “The Extraordinary Life and Tragic Death of Madame Malvina Guimaraes.”

“Madame Guimaraes is a legendary woman in Oswego history, with a rags to riches tale. Over time the life of Madame Guimaraes has been filled with local lore and now the real story is surfacing,” said Justin White, OCHS board trustee and Oswego County Historian. “I first learned about her life at a young age when researching the history of the Oswego Elks Lodge historic home, the last place she owned and lived in. I was amazed by her story which is more fascinating than fiction. Sadly, her iconic monument located at her final resting place in Riverside Cemetery on the outskirts of town is in total disrepair.”

Allen, an Oswego native and retired college professor, has written a biography of Madame Guimaraes.

The book project was inspired by local civic leader Ruth Sayer, a benefactor of the Riverside Cemetery for many years.

One of Sayer’s dreams has been to restore the Guimaraes gravesite at the Riverside Cemetery to its former glory.

The lavish monument was made in Portugal in 1877, shipped to the United States, and installed at the cemetery on East River Road.

“Malvina Guimaraes was a pioneer businesswoman, creating her own business empire as the first person to market sewing machines in Brazil,” said Allen. “In a time when women struggled for equality, she defied the conventions of the day and amassed a fortune.”

The book highlights her extraordinary accomplishments, as well as her impact on the city of Oswego in the latter part of the 19th century. It also details the struggle over the control of her fortune that contributed to her tragic death.

“Her final home was the Oswego Elks Lodge historic house and the fascinating story of Madame Guimaraes will be told there,” said White. “The Lodge has generously supported the launch of the Guimaraes restoration project.”

Proceeds from the sale of the book, which will be available at the event, will support the restoration which will be coordinated through the Friends of Riverside Cemetery.

More information about how to support the project will be available at the annual meeting.