Rachel Grimes’ 2019 folk-opera “The Way Forth” tells the story of Kentucky’s founding mothers through spoken word and song. Premiered by the Louisville Orchestra in that same year, Grimes explored the lives of women from the early days of our commonwealth: her own great-great-grandmother Pauline Grimes, Sara Katherine Simpson Jones, Patsy Treadway, and Dolly, a slave owned by Richard Callaway at Fort Boonesborough. Dolly, the first woman slave in Kentucky, was enslaved 80 years by Callaway, of whom Grimes is a direct descendent.
In “Finding a Founding Mother,” documentary filmmaker Catharine Axley and Grimes focus specifically on Dolly’s story. Excerpts from “The Way Forth” frame scenes from present-day Fort Boonesborough and spoken word of an imagined monologue from Dolly, who reflects on the “…dreadful nights he [Callaway] would come to me…,” and the birth of her son Frederick, whose father was likely Callaway. The documentary also examines the genealogical work descendants of slavery embark on to learn about their ancestors, who are often unnamed in official records. “Finding a Founding Mother” is available on YouTube.