Addie Laird is Addie Card, officially and finally By PHYLLIS MCGUIRE Article Launched:11/30/2006 11:35:58 AM EST Thursday, November 30 By PHYLLIS MCGUIRE The wheels of change often take decades to come full circle, but once award-winning novelist Elizabeth Winthrop became aware that an error had been made in what was a historical marker, her mission to correct it was accomplished in two years. So, earlier this November, during a Superfund cleanup overseen by the Federal Environmental Agency, a sign marking the place where the North Pownal Textile Mill had stood was altered to change the surname in Addie Laird to Card. Addie had been one of a number of girls and boys who worked in the mill, but through happenstance she became the symbol of the child labor reform movement. Winthrop had visited the site of the mill when she was in the midst of writing "Counting on Grace," a novel about a young girl who worked in a textile mill. "I closed my eyes and imagined Grace going from the spinning frame to a window where she heard the bubbling of the river," Winthrop said. Although the main character in the book, Grace Fortier, was born of Winthrop's talent with the written word, the author had been inspired by a photograph of a mill girl that she had seen in the summer of 2002 when she visited Bennington Advertisement Museum. Taken by Lewis Hine in 1910, the photograph showed a 12-year-old, whom Hine identified as Addie Laird, leaning against a spinning frame she operated in the North Pownal Cotton Mill. During an interview, Winthrop, who splits her time between New York City and Williamstown, recalled thinking, "She has a beautiful face, but she looks world weary. Her smock is filthy; is it the only one she owned? Her left arm looks broken; was it ever set?" As soon as Winthrop finished writing "Counting on Grace," she started searching for Addie, and with the help of friend and fellow author, Joe Manning, unraveled the mysteries surrounding Addie's life. As it turned out, Addie was the youngest of two daughters born to Anne Card, whose husband's surname was Harris. "Addie was just a toddler when her mother died of peritonitis," Winthrop said. "Her father went missing and Addie was raised by her grandmother." At the Pownal Town Office, Winthrop looked for lists of residents who had died. "The town clerk went to the vault in back, and then I heard a scream," she said. A huge dusty book had fallen to the floor and opened to Addie's marriage certificate. "I think Addie made that happen," Winthrop said. The marriage recorded on that certificate ended in divorce, and custody of the child born of the union was given to the father. When Addie remarried, she and her husband, Ernest Lasvigne of North Adams, moved to New Jersey, where they adopted a child named Ellen, who eventually had two sons, Larry and Bobby, Winthrop said. Addie's great-granddaughter, Piper Lea Provosk, who was 19 when Addie died in 1993, remembers her as warm and loving. "I liked to sit at the kitchen table with her and listen to her stories," Provosk said in an interview. Addie had lived with the Provosks in Albany, N.Y., for about 30 years. And Cathleen Provosk, Piper Lea's mother, recalled that Addie had told them she had a nervous breakdown soon after Hine had taken her picture. While searching for Addie's story, Winthrop went back to the North Pownal mill when Addie would have been l07, and pictured Addie standing next to her and the conversation that would have ensued. "I said to Addie, 'They took the mill down. Look at the marker. It has your name on it,'" Winthrop said. "That's not my name," Addie snapped, seeing the marker read Addie Laird instead of Addie Card. Then Winthrop told Addie that she had been on a postage stamp when she was l00. "I don't care," Addie said. "Just get my name right." While endeavoring to grant Addie's wish, Winthrop found there were several theories for why Addie had been identified as Addie Laird instead of Card. Some people suppose that when Addie wrote her name at the mill, the C was not clear, appearing to be an L, or that it was so noisy there that when she announced her name, it was mistaken for Laird. Winthrop suggests that since Hine was an advocate of child labor reform he would not have been allowed to enter the mill to take photographs of the girls and boys who worked there, and, therefore, had sneaked in, taken his photographs and then hurriedly scribbled Addie's name in his notebook, which would account for the error. Whatever the reason, it is no longer being perpetuated on the sign marking the place where Addie Card had worked as a mill hand.