I like to think of myself as a storyteller. As a historian who has spent hours cooped up in research rooms, enveloped in the rich documents and monumental photographs in front of me, I have immersed myself in the art of sharing the stories of pivotal figures in history who have inspired me to be better and aim higher.
I cannot pinpoint the precise moment I was bit by the “history bug,” but I do remember my tenth grade history teacher informing us that we would be required to read the autobiography of a well-known figure and then write that all too common dreaded paper. Cruising through the book store and barely glancing at all the autobiographies, there was one that caught my eye: The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Of course I knew who Eleanor Roosevelt was, but I was unfamiliar with her remarkable story, and I was somewhat surprised to find myself relating to her throughout the pages of her book. It was then that I decided that I too wanted to tell stories, and I made it one of my missions to contribute to keeping the legacies of those whose stories have inspired me alive and relevant.
In college, I was a driven and determined history major with one goal: to land an internship at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, our nation’s first presidential library. Despite my having interned at FDR’s Little White House in high school and completing my senior thesis on a Roosevelt-themed topic, my application was rejected twice. The sting was indescribable and I could not make sense of the rejection, but I was not ready to walk away from that dream.
Being innately stubborn, I set out to prove that I was just as worthy of this experience as anyone else. I made connections, described my passion for history and why both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s stories made an impression on me, and within a couple of weeks, I received the phone call I was longing for; my dream was coming true. Just one month later, I packed my small sedan with as many belongings as could possibly fit and embarked on the twenty plus hour drive to New York. I was 20-years-old and the world was my oyster.
After two years in New York working with the Roosevelt sites, I was ready for a new adventure in sunny Southern California. The time I spent working at the Richard Nixon Foundation was incredibly valuable, and I was honored to create an exhibit on Pat Nixon, a first lady who, I believe, is vastly underrated, at her alma mater: USC. On weekends I strolled the streets of Beverly Hills, crossed paths with the rich and famous, and dined at fine restaurants. But in the midst of the sunshine and glamour, it dawned on me how shallow that all can be. I had heard it said over and over again that money cannot buy happiness, but that realization did not truly sink in until I saw it with my own eyes and felt it in my heart. After this moment of reckoning, I decided it was time to revisit my roots and refocus on the few things that matter the most to me: faith, family, friends, and the future.
My Writing & Interests
I have spent the past few years building a solid reputation as a freelancer, aiming to take more control of my career and also getting my feet wet in industries outside of the history and nonprofit spheres. With that said, I have not forfeited my love for writing and research. One of the first contracts I undertook was writing a number of biographical eBooks for a small company that were to be published on Amazon. Unfortunately, this experience did not live up to my expectations, and when it was over, I felt incredibly embarrassed. With my pride wounded, I told myself I was walking away from writing.
Thanks to my steadfast faith, words of encouragement, and that passion for sharing my love for history, I came back to writing. In July of 2020 — in the midst of the COVID pandemic — I became a Medium member. It was during that chaotic summer that I decided to dive into new topics, dedicate more time to research, and strive to present messages of hope through my articles.
I believe that God has a way of bringing the most simple of things to us when we are least expecting them, whether that be in the form of a person, an animal, a song, or something else, these little things show up, so minute but overwhelmingly magnetic. More recently that has come to me in the shape of music, as my old appreciation for classic country music has opened new doors and revived precious memories.
It was an honor to have my article on “The Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Loretta Lynn, published in American Heritage Magazine. Writing an article on a country music legend was way outside of my comfort zone, and for awhile, it looked like it would not happen. There was nothing that qualified me, the girl who has worked at two presidential libraries, to compose an article like this. Yet that Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” ran endlessly through my mind. So I did it. It all sounds so simple in hindsight. I still wonder why we waste precious time doubting ourselves and our own capabilities.
As a writer, I have made the conscious decision to not publicly share my opinions on today’s political climate in my articles, it’s already so toxic and I see little benefit in adding my two cents. However, just because I choose to not endorse nor denigrate politicians or public figures on social media does not mean I am ignorant, nor does that imply I will not take a stand on certain social issues that require my attention and action. It simply means that I do not want to get involved in a petty argument with a stranger online. I keep my ears and heart open; speaking less and listening more is what I am striving to adhere to.
At the same time, I hope to be heard more as well. I know I am not always taken seriously as a writer and historian, and I am aware of this because I have been told so. I feel the burn from the sting of those words for a time, but I have no plans to stop. Even if the end result is not what I hoped it would be, I do not view that as failure. The fact I tried at all is a triumph, and in order to be at peace with myself, I need to say I gave it my best.
With the passage of time, I find that I am less impressed by what I have done and focused more on impressing myself with what I will do. After all, the only direction we have to move is forward. I have been in the work force for less than a decade, and I have already chased some of those beautiful childhood dreams that used to occupy my thoughts and attention during school. More importantly, I have had the great fortune of meeting people from all walks of life and hearing their stories.
As I continue to embark on new research endeavors and dive deep into the lives of those figures in history who have grabbed my attention, I realize that there are certain people probably more revered and remembered than they should be, while others are vastly overlooked and undervalued. But they all have a story worth telling, and they all mattered. I have made it my goal to continue to tell these valuable stories, and perhaps you will be inspired to tell yours too.
As Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Social Media Links and Writings
Feel free to follow me on Medium and Instagram, where I share my latest articles and updates and introduce you to historic sites across the country through my #HistorywithHolley adventures. Links to my social media pages and published works can also be found below.
LinkedIn: Holley Snaith
Medium: Holley Snaith
American Heritage Magazine: The Coal Miner’s Daughter
Herstory Club: Saint Jane: The Life and Reform Work of Jane Addams