On Monday, January 4, 2010, a Vermont judge overturned a permit for a planned museum celebrating the life and work of famed children's book illustrator Tasha Tudor.
Tasha Tudor died in June, 2008 at the age of 92.
In addition to writing and illustrating many books for children, Tudor was known for embracing and advocating a 19th-century lifestyle. Raising four children, mostly without a husband, she spun her own wool, shorn from her own sheep. She dyed the skeins and wove the threads into her own blankets and linens. She dressed herself and her family in clothing she sewed herself, and she made quilts for their beds and lace for their table. She also raised goats and chickens on their farm and made her own dairy products, as well as soap and candles. Her home, which she and her sons built, lacked electricity, and as a kind of Victorian Martha Stewart, she published a series of grown-up coffee table books full of color photos of herself working with bare feet on her crafts and in her gardens. In many New England homes, her holiday books that described traditional songs, activities and foods to be enjoyed by the whole family were a touchstone for those celebrating the season.
The decision to permit the museum had been appealed by her son Thomas, who questioned the authority and procedures of the Marlboro Development Review Board (DRB) that had approved it early in 2009. Environmental Court Judge Meredith Wright concluded, however, that the decision was insufficiently documented, and she was therefore unable to determine whether there was enough evidence to support the DRB's findings. She recommended the request be heard again, so that the DRB could "conduct a hearing that produces an adequate transcript."
Amy Tudor, Tasha Tudor's granddaughter-in-law, had asked permission to open the museum on an almost 10-acre plot of land at the Rookery on Raven Road. She planned for it to be open from May through October, with no more than 30 tour buses arriving each year.
Since their mother's death Tudor's four children have clashed over her estate, estimated to be worth approximately $2 million. It includes the copyrights to her many books, her business (Tasha Tudor & Family), and the rustic, secluded home with English-style gardens. Of her four children, she left the bulk of her estate to her son, Seth. Her two daughters, Efner and Bethany, received $1,000, but no provisions were made for her other son, Thomas.
The will maintained that Thomas, who is associate general counsel for international affairs for the US Air Force, had been estranged from his mother, but according to a Boston Globe interview ("The fall of the House of Tudor," March 15, 2009), he said he had been receiving letters from her until she had become too weak to write. Any estrangement came as news to him. He and his sisters are contesting the will, accusing Seth, who was also selected as the will's executor, of wielding improper influence over their mother. In court papers, Seth countered that the claims are without merit and the will is valid.
Tudor's youngest daughter, Efner Tudor Holmes, told the Globe her mother had anticipated the turmoil. "Some of the last words she said to me were, 'Oh, will there ever be a cat and dogfight when I die. But I don't care. I won't be here to see it.' It bothered her—but not enough to do anything about it. I think there's a side of my mother that was very cruel. And that's the side of her that I'm wrestling with to this day."