The Invention of Wings

As my kids have gotten older, I’ve been able to get back to reading for fun. I’m the type that you’ll find reading at 2 am because I keep saying to myself, “just one more chapter.” I love lots of genres, but especially enjoy historical novels.


Sarah Grimke

Last summer, I read “The Invention of Wings” by Susan Monk Kidd. The book starts in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1800s and tells the story of Sarah Grimké. As an adult she and her sister became advocates for rights of women and African-Americans. It’s an interesting and compelling story, having never known about them previously.

You may be wondering why I’m writing about this book on this genealogy blog. Well it turns out there is a connection between the Grimké family and my family that I discovered while reading.

My DuPre ancestors were French Huguenots and arrived in Charleston in 1685. That line lived in the area until 1813 when my 5th great-grandfather, Benjamin DuPre, moved upstate. When we visit our relatives in Charleston, we often go by Benjamin’s house at the corner of East Bay and George Streets.

Several times in the book I wondered where in Charleston the Grimkés lived, but didn’t recognize enough from the descriptions to make any connections until Sarah described an owl flying across George Street. I wondered if it was close to the house Benjamin DuPre lived in between 1804 and 1813.


The DuPre house when it was called Maison DuPre.

A quick search told me the Grimkés and the DuPres lived directly across George Street from each other with both houses fronted onto East Bay Street. (This link will take you to Google Street view. The Grimké house is yellow one on the right and the DuPre house is the grey one across the street.) Another search revealed that the Grimkés moved into the house about 1803 and the events of the beginning of the novel took place about 1805.

Following these searches and more reading, I found my ancestor mentioned by his last name and residence by one of the slaves.

I don’t know if the families interacted with one another and may have had different social circles. Sarah’s father, John, was a planter and state supreme court justice. Benjamin was a “French tailor.” At any rate, it feels a little bit like rubbing shoulders with history.

Today the DuPre house is a boutique hotel and the Grimké house holds law offices.

One thought on “The Invention of Wings

Comments are closed.