Feb 12th This was the day for the sewing circle & what a crowded
house! Not one here except Mr Whitwell and our own
families Father Ames came in to tea & Sarah W
George, Emily & Oliver & wife Poldens boy was buried
to day Isabell & Ann went to the funeral & took tea
with Jane after they came back. I prepared enough
for 40 and think it is very provoking to have none
of the members It is a delightful day. Letter from Miss Foss
No one came to Evelina’s party.
“Very provoking,” indeed. Mortifying, even, that not a single member of the Sewing Circle attended today’s meeting, unless you count Reverend Whitwell. All the preparations, the baking, the cleaning, the spools of thread from Boston, all in vain.
Evelina took the rejection with a lacing of humor: “What a crowded house!” Although disappointed and upset, she must have been grateful for the way the Ames clan filed in to partake of the feast. From Old Oliver (who almost never came to tea) and all three Witherells to Oliver Jr and Sarah Lothrop Ames to her own children and husband, presumably, the family closed ranks around her and filled her parlor with warm bodies. Even the Irish servant girls on their way home from a wake partook of the spread of food – in the kitchen with Jane McHanna, of course.
So what happened? Evelina said the day was delightful but her father-in-law, a dependable chronicler of the daily weather, described “the going” that day as “rough + bad” even though the weather itself was “fair”. After days of terrible weather that had swung from rain to ice and back again, some of the absentee members probably couldn’t drive their wagons out of their own yards. Bad roads might account for some, if not all, of the truancy.
Nevertheless, the incident raises questions about Evelina’s popularity and social standing. She was married to one of the most important men in town, and she and Oakes enjoyed the friendship of many. Is it possible that some of the women in the Unitarian Circle resented her, or felt themselves superior to her? Where were the women she had grown up with? Were they jealous of her? Did she fail socially in comparison to her sisters-in-law, each whom had a more refined upbringing? Sarah Ames and Sarah Witherell never failed to attract a lively turnout for their Sewing Circles.
All these possibilities must have swirled in her mind. The true test would come when the Sewing Circle met again at Evelina’s, many months from this day, this awkward day that Evelina surely hoped to forget.