June 1, 1851




June 1st Sunday  We have all been to church to day.

The young people went to walk to the hoe shop

& [illegible] before meeting.  Mr Ames Miss Linscot

Orinthia, Susan & self came home at noon.  After

meeting Lavinia came home with us  Oakes A

carried them to a sing to our meeting house

and then O & L home  I feel rather down

hearted to night & have been for two or three days

The young people gathered today for a sing at the meeting house.  Oakes Angier and his brothers, perhaps, accompanied Orinthia, her friend Frances, and Cousin Lavinia to the church for an evening that was probably more lively and joyous than the two sermons they had listened to earlier. They sang and socialized.

Evelina was neither lively nor joyous. She was “down hearted,” and no singing or June sunshine seemed to make it better. Where did her blues come from? Was she upset with Oakes for some reason? Did she reconsider her friendship with Orinthia and find their age difference suddenly unbridgeable? Was she tired from the spring cleaning? She doesn’t mention a particular instance that could have set off a mild depression.

In 1851, Evelina was in her early forties, an age subject to the physical effects of “change of life,” a condition that 19th century women wouldn’t have known much about, much less admitted to if they did. The formal and fastidious norms of the day abhorred words that alluded to specific female conditions. The word “pregnancy,” for instance, was indelicate; if they said anything at all, it was that a woman was “in the family way.” Some described childbirth as “being taken ill.” Menopause, a word that even some 21st century women are reticent to use, was not in Evelina’s vocabulary.

Yet a lack of understanding and the absence of social acceptance couldn’t obviate a real female condition.  Evelina was at a stage in her life when the onset of menopause could begin to influence her mental and physical state. The chemistry of her body could have made her feel down-hearted without her knowing why.

*  “Sadness” evoked by 19th century actress Ellen Terry.  Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron.

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