Winifred Conkling learned about Emily and Mary Edmonson and their attempted escape on the Pearl when a statue of the sisters was erected in Alexandria, Virginia, in 2010, at the site of the building that once held the Bruin and Hill slave pen. (The building now houses commercial office space.) Curious, Conkling began to research the story of the girls’ journey to freedom and was thrilled to find extensive primary source materials, including an account written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the bestselling nineteenth century novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the autobiography of Daniel Drayton, one of the captains of the Pearl.
Conkling studied journalism at Northwestern University and received her master of arts in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has written more than thirty nonfiction books for adults, most involving health and consumer topics. Her first book for children, Sylvia & Aki, won the 2012 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Older Readers and the 2012 Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and three children.