Tues Nov 11th Jane and Bridget washed this morning and I have
cleaned the front chamber closet and put things in
order in the chamber and worked about house untill about
four and went to tea in Olivers Mr & Mrs Swain and
Mrs Meader (Mrs Swains brothers wife) were there
Father & Sarah and her children dined there They
had ducks for dinner
Post-election political discussions were no doubt rebounding in print news across the nation but in North Easton, Massachusetts, at the Ames compound, domestic concerns held sway. There was washing, cleaning and tidying up to be done. Laundry day had been postponed from its usual Monday slot; perhaps Evelina had waited for Jane McHanna to return from Mansfield. Evelina didn’t like doing laundry at all.
Today was Helen Angier Ames’s fifteenth birthday. The only daughter of Sarah Lothrop Ames and Oliver Ames, Jr., she was at school in Boston, so not able to celebrate at home. Neither was her brother Fred at table, for he was at Harvard. Perhaps the roast duck that Sarah and Oliver served to their dinner guests was in Helen’s honor, in absentia.
Helen Ames never married, choosing instead – or learning to accept – spinsterhood in North Easton and Boston. She had a small social life with friends and family and when the railroads became more established, she traveled with her parents and cousins to places like Niagara Falls, Detroit, and points west. She played piano very well, occasionally playing the reed organ at the Unitarian church, where she was “acknowledged to be the best performer.”** Her uncle, Cyrus Lothrop, named one of his sailing vessels after her: the Schooner Helen A. Ames.
As a teenager, Helen enjoyed the company of Evelina’s niece, Lavinia Gilmore, another young woman from Easton who would never marry. Helen also was in school with a friend from Bridgewater named Catherine Hobart, the youngest daughter of a family well known to the Ameses. Catherine, or Cate, would one day become her cousin Oakes Angier’s wife.
Helen’s father died in 1877, her mother not until 1894. In 1882, at the age of 46, she herself “died suddenly in the prime of a life of thoughtful and generous service, deeply honored, loved, and lamented.”* Her brother, Fred, commissioned John LaFarge to create a stained-glass window, the Angel of Help, for Unity Church in memory of a sister he had loved.
*William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, pp. 411-412
**Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts, privately printed, 1937, p. 130