23 Jan Thursday. Went again to Elisa Quinns this
morning to get another dolls dress cut & staid untill
about noon to work on it & left it to be finished. This
afternoon have been to Mr Whitwells to the sewing
circle. There were but few members present a part over
there yesterday We carried a piece of striped shirting
and I cut out a part of it. Abby came to pass the
afternoon but did not stop. The boys all went to Canton
for an assembly. Very pleasant
Evelina, and probably her sisters-in-law, made their way to the Whitwells’ home today for the monthly meeting of the Sewing Circle. The gathering was smaller than usual, as some members had attended the original meeting, held the day before, despite the snow storm.
The Sewing Circle was a regular meeting of about twenty women from the congregation of the Unitarian Church. Led by Reverend Whitwell, it moved each month from house to house, giving each member a chance to host the event. The program itself consisted of sewing, each woman bringing her own work, or helping a friend with a project, or perhaps sewing together in concert for a purpose; Evelina is unclear on this. Mr. Whitwell probably opened the meeting with a prayer, and may even have read to the women as they worked or rendered his thoughts on topics either scriptural or secular. The meeting may have been less formal than that, but the minister’s presence made it a sanctioned event. Ordinarily, women didn’t gather regularly outside their homes for recreation. No book clubs!
In fact, Easton’s sewing circle was an iteration of a female benevolent society, such as ladies in towns and cities in many parts of the country were forming in the first fifty years of the 19th century. The purposes of the societies varied. Some, like the Fragment Society in Boston (which formed in 1812 and is still active today) provided clothing and bedding for poor women and children. Some, like the Worcester Anti-Slavery Sewing Circle, were abolitionist, while others focused on missionary work, or simply helped raise money for their local parish. And though their purposes were quite specific, the consequences of the sewing circles were broader than their participants imagined. These gatherings were a tiny but important early step toward allowing women to contribute to society outside their own homes.
By the time the Ames women returned home from their meeting, Evelina’s boys were on their way to Canton to another assembly. Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) (even with his chillblains) and Frank Morton rarely missed an opportunity to go to a dance or a “sing” or a party. They were lively young men. All in all, a sociable day for the Ames family.