This is Kathleen Foster
Updated: Feb 18
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Kathleen Foster
After spending many years working in the television news industry, Rutherford resident Kathleen Foster decided to make a few career changes. With a strong background in journalism and writing and an avid interest in her family's history, Kathleen decided to write her first novel, which was published this month. This is Rutherford spoke with Kathleen about her life in Rutherford, her past career, current career, and her brand new novel.
TIR: How long have you lived in Rutherford?
Kathleen Foster: I have lived in Rutherford for six years. My husband and I were previously living in a one-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. We moved in a hurry when we found out I was carrying not one baby, but TWO! Our first visit to Rutherford was on Halloween 2015. Watching all the kids go trick-or-treating… we knew we had found our home. We moved here in December 2015 and Elizabeth and Mary were born the following April.
TIR: Why do you enjoy living in Rutherford?
KF: Who knew I would find Mayberry just eight miles outside of New York City? Rutherford is so very special. Everyone who visits us immediately feels it. I love walking downtown for dinner or ice cream. I love walking my kids around the corner to the K-Center. I love knowing that everyone in town knows my kids and will look out for them just like I look out for theirs.
TIR: Tell us about your past career as a journalist and TV news producer.
KF: I spent 25 years working in TV news. I traveled all around the world covering major breaking news events like 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plane crashes, earthquakes, and hurricanes. I left my job about a year into the pandemic when I realized my career wasn’t going to grow further - and I suddenly didn’t want to do it anymore. Working from home and seeing my kids more was very eye-opening. Now, I work on contract with a PR company called The Brandman Agency training people how to be on TV. I also help Jen Darby-Metzger by writing ERA Justin’s PR articles in the Bergenite!
TIR: Why did you decide to begin doing genealogical research?
KF: My interest in genealogy was sparked by a cryptic clue my great-grandmother gave us before she died back in the 1980s. Her maiden name was Aldworth, which is my middle name. She said an Aldworth signed the Declaration of Independence. It took ages, but I finally figured out the signer was Elbridge Gerry, who became Vice President under James Madison. One of his ancestral grandmothers was an Aldworth and an early colonial settler in Massachusetts.
My particular interest in the Aldworth family grew further in the year 2000. I was celebrating New Year’s Eve 2000 at the pyramids in Egypt when a man there studying Freemasonry told me I shared the Aldworth name with the first ever female Freemason, Elizabeth St. Leger Aldworth. She is the subject of my historical fiction novel, Doneraile Court. Until I started researching her, I had no idea that my branch of the Philadelphia Aldworth family traced back to County Cork, Ireland. I had high hopes she was one of my great-grandmas. But she isn’t. We are merely very distant cousins by marriage.
TIR: How can you sum up Freemasonry for those who are unfamiliar with the term?
KF: I once heard a Freemason refer to Freemasonry as the oldest self-help group in the world. I am not a Freemason (women are now allowed in Co-Masonry) but I think that sums up for what they do today. They meet and perform ancient rituals meant to teach them moral lessons aimed at becoming the best person they can be. What’s particularly fascinating is that these rituals have been passed down orally for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
TIR: Why is the story of Elizabeth St. Leger particularly important and interesting?
KF: Freemasonry, as it is today, officially dates back to the creation of the Grand Lodges, which in Ireland was 1725. The Lady Freemason’s story is one piece of proof that Freemasons were holding secret Lodge meetings in private homes earlier than that.
Her story takes place in 1712 at her childhood home, Doneraile Court, in Doneraile, Ireland. She was caught spying on her father, brothers and other men in the middle of an initiation ritual. As the story goes, the men voted to kill her to keep their secrets, but instead swore her to secrecy and made her the first ever female Freemason (that they knew of!). You’ll have to buy the book to find out who saved her and why!
TIR: Now that the novel is published and available for purchase, why are you excited for others to read this incredible story?
KF: I wrote this book for people like me. When I first visited Doneraile Court back in 2006, I would have bought a book about The Lady Freemason on the spot. But there wasn’t anything like it. So I wrote it myself. When I travel, love reading historical fiction that takes place where I’m vacationing. Doneraile Court is now one of the top tourist attractions in County Cork, Ireland. I bet there are a lot of people who wonder why her own father would ever consider killing his own child. I hope this book clears up some of that mystery.
To order this book, click here.
TIR: While doing research on your family’s history, did you discover any other stories you might wish to tell someday?
KF: Yes! So many! My great-grandfather, Francis Cunnane, was an early member of the IRA. He was a Roscommon volunteer who spent years “on the run,” as they said, hiding from the British and carrying out ambushes. His parents’ house was burned down by the Black and Tans and word is Frank killed 18 Englishmen, which earned him a price on his head!
There’s also another story about a murdering bank robber who hid the money at his mother’s grave and died in the electric chair! And an Aldworth who died on the Titanic. He was the chauffeur of the only car in the ship’s cargo hold.
But first - I’d consider continuing with a series on The Lady Freemason. She earns her Entered Apprentice degree in Doneraile Court. Subsequent fictional novels could follow her journey to becoming a Master Mason. She died in 1775, right before our Declaration of Independence. So I’m thinking she could share some of her knowledge with our Founding Fathers, including cousin Elbridge Gerry!