Cyndi Lauper has never shied away from speaking truth to power and fighting for what she believes in, so she was proud when she discovered one of her ancestors was a bona fide rebel during an episode of “Finding Your Roots.”
The singer, 69, enlisted the help of PBS show host Henry Louis Gates Jr. to trace her family’s ancestry.
In the episode, Lauper learns that her 7th great-grandfather, Christen Lauper, was involved in a peasant revolution in the 1600s. “Christen Lauper was no ordinary farmer,” says host Gates. “He was involved in a seminal event in the history of his country.”
Gates explains that Switzerland’s troubled economy in the early 1600s drove grain prices down. Instead of helping farmers pay off their debts, the government devalued its currency, which also drastically affected the value of the farmers’ financial savings.
Determined to fight back and take control of their future, the peasants staged a revolt and Christen was listed as one of the rebels in the Swiss National Archives.
The farmer was a “general agitator” and “rebel,” Gates explains.
“That’s great,” says the singer when she hears the news.
The move was the first time Swiss authorities had faced concerted action by farmers, Gates says. Soon the farmers concluded treaties with the Swiss authorities. However, the government double-crossed the rebels and resumed the war.
“The farmers were crushed, putting Christen in great danger,” says Gates.
The government executed more than 40 of the peasant leaders and punished others. Christen was fined approximately 70 days’ wages, which was a major financial blow. He was lucky not to be killed.
“Your ancestor took enormous risks to create a better life for himself and his fellow citizens and he paid the price for it,” says Gates.
To this day there are monuments in Switzerland commemorating the cause of the rebels.
Lauper was touched when she learned of her connection to the Revolution. “I am proud to be a descendant of Christen Lauper and that he was a revolutionary and that he worked locally, from state to state, to get the people together and organized. I think that’s fantastic,’ she says.
The ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ singer also couldn’t help but compare her own rebellious attitude to that of her ancestor.
“I know I’m always fighting the man. Now I know where it comes from,” she says.
During her session with Gates, Lauper also learns about the first member of her Sicilian family to come to America: Gaetana Gallo. In 1909 she traveled from Palermo to New York City and paid her relatives to join her.
Lauper, who grew up with Gallo, took a moment to thank her for everything she did to help her family settle in New York.
“She made it possible for me to be born here,” she says.
While talking about her family’s history, Lauper gives credit to her own late mother, Catrine Dominique, who she says boosted her confidence and enabled her to dream big.
“My mom sat us down early and let us talk to her. She would say, ‘What do you think of this? And what do you think of that?’ And she talked to us like we were adults,” she explains.
This approach, according to Lauper, was a departure from what Catrine and her female ancestors experienced at the hands of their male relatives in Italy and the US.
“They would definitely hold women back. So basically, upward education and dreams, don’t really happen because you’re the free domestic worker. Even in America, they did that kind of thing with my aunt(s) with my mom. And honestly, that’s why came I go out with boxing gloves,” she says.
After all these years of standing up for herself and “fighting man,” Lauper is happy to know who her ancestors were and how their actions helped shape the life she leads today.
“I just wanted to know who I was because I started getting a lot of questions,” she says.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com
- 🌱 Savannah Black Heritage Festival + Yamacraw Village Preservation
- Glass Onion Nails It: Policy makers should check receipts on the hydrogen hype
- The Great Debate: Can You Over-Improve a Home?
- @.pedobear Responder a @sinnombre_xd123 #paint3D #TBOI #weafome ♬ Pixel Pig – Di…
- Houston City Council votes on housing funding to help youth transition from foster care – Houston Public Media