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Throwback Thursday: Amazing Mothers Of History, Maria Von Trapp Edition

This week's Throwback Thursday holds a special place in my heart. As a kid who loved to sing, I spent hours and hours watching musicals. Unluckily for them, no one else in my family really appreciated the joyful tones of Rodgers and Hammerstein! I watched The Sound Of Music back-to-back once - I have no idea how my mother tolerated that. Julie Andrews was so perfect as Maria von Trapp, she inspired me to try out for the high school musical production of The Sound Of Music (for the role of Briggita, I was 11). My friend Jennifer ended up playing Brigitta and I watched the musical opening night. It was just as magical as the movie version! Looking back, I think part of the magic of the show was the fact that it is grounded in reality. Maria von Trapp was a real badass mother, really hiding from the Nazis, and really protecting all TEN of the von Trapp children.

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Yes, TEN! Maria had three children of her own after marrying Captain von Trapp, but upon marrying him became a stepmother to his seven children. She even admits that she wasn't really in love with him when she married him - she looked at it as "marrying the children". To be fair, Captain von Trapp was 25 years old than her, and proposed to her when she was their teacher.

In 1935, the (USA) crash on 1929 finally caught up with the von Trapps in Austria. Georg's money essentially disappeared from the bank, leaving the family financially strapped. They began renting out rooms in their home to keep the family afloat, and one of their boarders (Father Franz Wasner) encouraged them to start singing together as performers. After a concert later that year, the group became a popular touring act.

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Three years later, in 1938, the Nazis began to occupy Austria. More accurately, Nazi Germany decided to annex the whole darn country. The von Trapps were deeply troubled by the violence and cruelty they witnessed. Schoolchildren became hateful toward their Jewish classmates, and children were turned against their own parents by propaganda. Georg eventually was conscripted into the German Navy.

Finally, in September 1938, the family left Austria to tour the world - first Italy, then England, then the United States. Their manager encouraged them to ditch "The Trapp Family Choir" for the more Americanized "Trapp Family Singers". A year later, the last of Maria's children was born on American soil - in Philadelphia during a concert tour (naturally).

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In the 1940's the family moved to Stowe, Vermont and established the Trapp Family Lodge, their American home. In 1944, Maria and five of the children became citizens. Two more became citizens by serving in the US military, and the remaining three were either naturalized or were born on American soil. Georg never became an American citizen, but died in Vermont in 1947 and is buried at The Lodge.

After the war, the von Trapps began a charitable organization that sent food and supplies to impoverished post-war Austria. The family of singers ended their professional career in 1957, and Maria and a few of the children became missionaries in Papua New Guinea. Maria, badass mother that she was, always seemed to have children nearby. Even after her husband's death, the impressive matriarch unified the family time and time again. She outlived Captain von Trapp by forty years, finally passing in 1987. She was buried next to her husband at The Lodge.

Did the family have to sneak about and hide behind gravestones to avoid the Nazis? No, not really. But the choice to tour the world as a singing group was not an accident - it was intentional, and it saved their family from the destruction wrought by the Nazi occupation of Austria. Maria von Trapp was - and is - still an inspiration to me. Julie Andrews' version, wonderful as she is, has nothing on the real deal.

 

Did you know Maria von Trapp was a real person that really helped her family escape Nazi rule? Let me know which badass mother I should cover next week on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3 with #BadassMothersOfHistory.

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