"I wish you would stop trying to protect me. You are not Mama. You are my sister. Be a good sister and let me solve my own problems."
—Erma Jean's letter to Nellie Lee[5]

Erma Jean Trudeau (née Love; born February 28, 1908) was the sister of William and Nellie Lee Love. Her parents were Freeman and Olive. Erma Jean stopped speaking after seeing her favorite uncle Pace die in 1919. She was brought to Chicago for treatment and her family later moved there permanently.


Early life

Erma Jean was born on February 28, 1908 to Freeman and Olive Love. Her younger sister Nellie Lee was born ten months later on December 28, 1908.[1] She had an older brother William who was five years older. Erma Jean grew up in Bradford Corners, Tennessee.

Moving to Chicago

In February 1919, her favorite uncle Pace was fatally injured. He spoke his dying Erma Jean, which traumatized her and caused her to stop speaking. Her father later took her to Provident Hospital in Chicago where she was diagnosed with hysteria. Freeman later decided to move permanently to Chicago and left Erma Jean in the care of Mother Doris. He arrived in late May with her mother and sister. The whole family then moved into an apartment on State Street.

A month later, Erma Jean and Nellie Lee were curious about their uncle Meese's job since their parents would tell them. They discovered that he owned a supper club. Later that summer, a race riot sparked in Chicago. Erma Jean finally spoke, when her father tried to go outside. She then told everyone about Pace's death. In September, Erma Jean and Nellie Lee began going to school. They were both placed in the third grade. Erma Jean gradually became confident and was later chosen to play the Virgin Mary at the Christmas play.

Later life

Erma Jean spent her summers between school working at the Crisis office After graduating from New York University with a major in English and French, she became an awarding-winning poet and playwright. One of her books about the Red Summer was adapted into a hit play. Erma Jean later moved to Paris, France to take care of her uncle Meese's cabarets, though she kept an apartment in Chicago. She married a French artist, Vincent Trudeau, with whom she had Jeannie and Leigh.

Personality and traits

Erma Jean was insecure about her dark skin, for which she was frequently bullied about during her childhood. Her sister Nellie Lee, who was also her best friend, would always protect Erma Jean in these instances since she would never fight back. Erma Jean was traumatized after seeing uncle Pace die and stopped talking due to "hysteria". In Chicago, she gained confidence in herself and grew to love her dark skin. Erma Jean also had a passion for writing and aspired to become a writer one day.

Family tree

The Love Family Tree
Jasper Love
Lilly Tillman
Till Love
(d. 1926)
Honesta Pace
(d. 1926)
Freeman Love
Olive Love
John Willis Love
Boston Love
Celia Love
Beth Annie Love
Mitchell Love
Pace Love
William Love
(b. 1901)
Erma Jean Love
(b. 1908)
Vincent Trudeau
Nell Love
Robert Jennings
Three sons
Honesta June Love
(b. 1919)
Jeannie Trudeau
Leigh Trudeau

Behind the scenes


Serena Lee as Erma Jean



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