Historical spotlight on local authors

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August 6th, 2012

Omaha, NE – The Douglas County Historical Society is hosting its monthly discussion with local authors on Sunday. Three writers will read from recent works. Robyn Wisch sat down with Karen Linder, the author of The Women of Berkshire Hathaway.

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“If you had asked me back in 1982, when I first moved here, where do you see yourself 20 years from now, I probably would have given a variety of answers. I don’t think any of them would have included still being here in Omaha.”

Karen Linder is the author of The Women of Berkshire Hathaway. (Courtesy photo)

That’s an excerpt of Linder’s interview with Susan Jacques. Jacques is a Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) native and current CEO of one of Omaha’s largest companies, Borsheim’s. Linder, who has authored her first book, interviewed an array of women who climbed the corporate ladder, some leaping hurdles to do so, and now lead some of the nation’s top companies.

“They all came from different, diverse backgrounds including socio economic, geographic, educational,” Linder said. “I don’t think that very many of them had a career planned out that would take them to the place that they all eventually reached, the pinnacle of each of their careers.”

The nine women profiled in Linder’s book are all related to the circle of Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries, and some directly to the man-in-charge of Berkshire, Warren Buffet. One of the most recognizable names for Omaha readers is likely Mrs. B. “Most of us that were around in the 80s and 90s had a personal encounter with her, so the stories about her are very, very numerous,” Linder said.

Mrs. B outside the Astro Theater. (Photo courtesy Nebraska Furniture Mart)

Mrs. B (Rose Blumkin), the late founder of one of the largest furniture stores in the country, Nebraska Furniture Mart, had to fight to get her store off the ground in the late 1930s, Linder said. In a tough industry dominated by men, she said Blumkin was an anomaly for her time. “She grew up in a culture where the women worked and the men studied, back in Russia,” Linder said. “So she saw her mother, as a very young child, being the breadwinner for the family and running a store.”
Linder said Blumkin began working with her mother when she was six years old. “She always had that work ethic, so it didn’t seem unusual to her for a woman to be the breadwinner, and to be the owner of a store and provide for her family.”

Linder will be reading from her book and discussing some of her favorite interviews and stories at the Douglas County Historical Society’s Author Talk on August 12th at Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha campus. She’ll be joined by two other local authors. Tim Dempsey is a former Douglas County Sheriff who has written Rules are Made to be Broken: An Anecdotal History of the Douglas County Jail. Catherine Richmond’s novel Through Rushing Waters is a romance set in 1876 at the Ponca Indian Agency.

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