Wednesday May 14 Susans birth day and she has had a little
party. Julia has been here to work on Orinthias
dresses. Ellen Howard called this evening
came from Jasons. Mrs Holmes called a
few moments this morning. I have swept
and dusted the front chamber and taken the
carpet from the stairs and painted them It
has been a confused day. Pleasant this afternoon
Augustus gone to Boston
Another interruptious day, filled by “confused” and overlapping events: Susie Ames’s birthday party, Julia Mahoney’s work on dresses for Orinthia Foss, calls from Ellen Howard and Harriet Holmes, the usual choring in the downstairs rooms, not to mention Evelina’s removing the carpet from the stairs and painting the treads. What commotion.
Susan Eveline Ames, the only daughter and youngest child of Evelina and Oakes Ames, turned nine years old today and was treated to a little party. Did she have friends over or was the party strictly en famille? Did she have cake? Ginger snaps? Presents? What was a nine-year-old’s birthday party like in 1851?
Born in 1842, Susie Ames came along several years after all her big brothers were born. From the beginning, she was raised differently from them. While they were slated to work, earn and provide, her education and training were oriented toward a future of domestic responsibilities. Like most girls of the time, she was brought up assuming that she would marry and raise a family. If she failed to marry, she would have to make her way as a spinster aunt living with one or more of her brothers, or become a schoolteacher like Orinthia Foss. Which route was hers? Marriage.
On January 1, 1861, Susan married Henry W. French, a wool merchant. She was 18 years old; he was 27. For many years, the couple lived in the Ames house with her parents, and possibly looked after the house during the periods when congressman Oakes and Evelina were in Washington. For a time, Susan and Henry lived in their own home on Main Street, on the site where the Oakes Ames Memorial Hall came to be built circa 1880.
As Evelina moved into widowhood and grappled with illness and age, Susan looked after her. She and Henry never had any children, so the particulars of her story weren’t passed on to interested offspring. She only comes to life in her mother and brother Oliver’s journals.