Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours

by

Lisa Wingate

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Rill Foss’s biological mother. Queenie ran away with Briny Foss when she was just a teenager and the two are deeply in love. Queenie loves being a mother to Rill, Camellia, Lark, Fern, and Gabion, and living on the family’s shanty boat on the Mississippi River. She is Polish and Catholic, although her family does not share her beliefs and she is the only one of them who speaks Polish. Although Queenie has no trouble delivering her first five children, when she goes into labor with twins it’s discovered that they are breech. This forces Briny to take Queenie to the hospital to deliver the babies. Queenie delivers a boy and a girl, but nurses tell her and Briny that they were stillborn. This is, of course, devastating to Queenie, and her heartbreak is compounded by the discovery that her first five children were kidnapped while she was in the hospital. As Rill and Fern discover later, just weeks after they were kidnapped, Queenie became ill with blood poisoning and died. Old Zede, a neighbor on the river, theorizes that she actually died of a broken heart. Briny buries Queenie on the banks of the Mississippi River and refuses to sail south without her. In the end of the story, it’s revealed that Queenie’s twins were not stillborn, but were sold by Georgia Tann. The baby girl grows up to be Judy Stafford, whose granddaughter Avery is one of the story’s main protagonists. The other baby was named Shad Arthur Foss but is never found.

Mary Anne “Queenie” Anthony Quotes in Before We Were Yours

The Before We Were Yours quotes below are all either spoken by Mary Anne “Queenie” Anthony or refer to Mary Anne “Queenie” Anthony. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Personal Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ballantine edition of Before We Were Yours published in 2017.
Chapter 12 Quotes

“Poor little waifs,” she says to the man. “We take them in when they are unwanted and unloved. We provide them with all that their parents cannot or will not give them.”

I bolt my eyes to the ground and make fists behind my back. It’s a lie, I wish I could scream at the man. My mama and daddy want us. They love us. So did the father who came to see his little boy, Lonnie, and ended up broke down on the porch crying like a baby when they said Lonnie’d been adopted.

Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile
Chapter 23 Quotes

“I only took it fo’ safekeepin’,” the woman says. She hands me the tin piece and the papers separately. “That cross been Queenie’s, long time ago. Miss Judy write the other. It’s her story, but she never write the rest. They decide they all gon’ carry it to they graves, I guess. But I figure somebody might come askin’ one day. Secrets ain’t a healthy thang. Secrets ain’t a healthy thang, no matter how old they is. Sometimes the oldest secrets is the worst of all. You take yo’ grandmother to see Miss May. The heart still knows. It still know who it loves.”

Page Number: 296
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire Before We Were Yours LitChart as a printable PDF.
Before we were yours.pdf.medium

Mary Anne “Queenie” Anthony Character Timeline in Before We Were Yours

The timeline below shows where the character Mary Anne “Queenie” Anthony appears in Before We Were Yours. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Personal Identity Theme Icon
...face initially reminds May of Fern, but then May realizes the woman looks more like Queenie. This sends May’s mind back even further to a night long ago when May was... (full context)
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...is usually so comforting, has an air of danger about it as Rill listens to Queenie groan inside the shanty. The midwife tells Queenie not to push anymore because the baby... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...look out the window of the shanty while the midwife yells at him to bring Queenie to the hospital. However, Briny is worried about a coming storm and is confused by... (full context)
Chapter 4
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Queenie is laid out on the shanty porch while Rill and her siblings watch her moan... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Rill tries to comfort Queenie while she screams and thrashes around. Briny left to get help, but it is a... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...them into the big bed their parents usually sleep in. Rill worries about whether Briny, Queenie, and Zede got across the water alright. Before she gets into bed, she grabs Queenie’s... (full context)
Chapter 6
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Rill dreams that she is on the boat with Briny and Queenie. Queenie is singing into the wind and Briny says she looks like a queen. Turning... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...so she and her siblings can go see their parents. Rill asks the man if Queenie and Briny are okay, even though she knows he’s lying about having seen them. Rill... (full context)
Chapter 7
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...in it. In her mind, Avery wonders if they’re “woodpile relatives.” Judy murmurs the word “Queenie” to herself and tears well up in her eyes before she turns back to Avery... (full context)
Chapter 8
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...her office smelling like whiskey and gets mad at Camellia for asking where Briny and Queenie are. Murphy says that Camellia is the reason the kids must sit instead of going... (full context)
Chapter 9
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
...talking about legal issues, she can’t shake her thoughts about what the words Arcadia and Queenie might mean to Judy. Unable to get her mind off them, Avery makes up an... (full context)
Chapter 12
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...she didn’t hear anything about Briny and Camellia says he must be in jail and Queenie must be dead. Rill yells at her and the two get in a fight. Camellia... (full context)
Chapter 15
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...newborn named Shad Arthur Foss who was surrendered by his unwed parents—B. A. Foss and Mary Anne Anthony —at birth and given to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. Avery is confused because she... (full context)
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...and she asks if he has files for May Crandall or someone named Fern or Queenie. Trent says he doesn’t know and that his grandfather only kept files for people who... (full context)
Chapter 16
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...and the others. Silas has been watching the house waiting to see them. Silas says Queenie and Briny are back at the Arcadia and strokes Rill’s hair while she cries and... (full context)
Chapter 18
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...can to meet Silas at the fence. On the way, she worries that Briny and Queenie won’t want her when they find out she lost her four siblings. When Silas sees... (full context)
Chapter 19
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
...tells her that Judy didn’t remember May’s name but could remember there was someone named Queenie. May is unsettled by this and acknowledges that it must be difficult for Avery. Avery... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...May shares her story with Trent and Avery, starting with the names of her parents (Queenie and Briny) and her siblings (Camellia, Lark, Fern, and Gabion). Avery is mesmerized by the... (full context)
Chapter 22
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...wants to go to bed so early and her concern makes Rill wish Victoria were Queenie. Rill gets to her room early in the night, but has to wait for Fern. (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...the water after sleeping on the shore, Arney gets mad, but Rill assures her that Queenie will make them dozens of cookies. Rill tells herself over and over that once they... (full context)
Chapter 23
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
...she knew one day someone would come to ask. She says the crucifix belonged to Queenie and the papers contain the beginning of Judy’s memoir. The woman explains that secrets aren’t... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...buy a replacement from a woman in Memphis. The replacement, as it turns out, is Queenie’s newborn daughter—the one Queenie believed was stillborn—who grows up to be Judy Stafford. Avery cries... (full context)
Chapter 24
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Rill has a dream that she, Lark, Fern, Gabion, Camellia, Queenie, Zede, and Silas are all together on the shanty boat heading down the river. When... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...to tell him that Zede is leaving soon, but Briny says he won’t leave without Queenie, grabs his empty whisky bottle, and leaves. Rill thinks about how she thought finding the... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...flying into the water. She swims back in time to grab Fern, a picture of Queenie and Briny, and Queenie’s crucifix before the boat sinks. (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...Rill’s leg and says she wants her mommy, and Rill knows she’s not talking about Queenie. Rill tells Silas they have to get away before the men take Rill and Fern... (full context)
Chapter 25
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...the four lived very happily together, although it was never quite the same as with Queenie and Briny. (full context)