Friday Feb 6 Jane has baked some mince to day of
meat that was left last week and has done
very well. Cut out a shirt for Oliver to day
and intended to finish it tomorrow but this
afternoon Miss Foss came and Miss Burrell
from W Bridgewater We called at Edwins
this evening commenced raining about five
Domestic tranquility reigned today as Jane McHanna made some fine mincemeat and Evelina cut cloth for a shirt, until interrupted by the arrival of Orinthia Foss and her friend Miss Burrell. For Evelina, chores gave way to social intercourse.
Besides keeping a record of various domestic details such as her sewing, Evelina often lists in her daily diary entries the names of the friends and relatives who come to call – in this case, Orinthia Foss and Miss Burrell. She writes of the women with whom she spends time, in fact, more often than she is apt to describe interactions with her immediate family (unless, of course, her husband forgets to pick her up to go out on a social call.) She includes the names of female friends, including her sisters-in-law, as much if not more often than she mentions the names of her children. Her social life, as in “We called at Edwins this evening,” is terribly important to her. She narrates it to her diary in order to remember it and savor it. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t care about her family; she does. But looking after her almost-grown children is not noteworthy.
Evelina’s diary is simple, even for the nineteenth century, when the “practice” of keeping a diary was “to record personal feelings and explore intellectual growth.”* Eveline doesn’t concern herself with external events the way Mary Chesnut of South Carolina did in her diary of the Civil War, nor does she describe or question the secondary status of women as other Bostonians such as Caroline Healey Dall did in her diary. The intellectual pursuits and considerations of the brilliant Margaret Fuller never interested her – it was beyond her ken. Evelina was literate and engaged in her life, but in a diffident and unsophisticated way. She wrote in a manner that more closely resembled her father-in-law, Old Oliver; her brother-in-law, Oliver Ames, Jr.; and, eventually, her son, Oliver (3). She simply wrote down whom she saw and what she did.
* Steven Stone, Making Sense of Letters and Diaries, http://www.historymatters.gmu.edu
Other resources for information about diaries in the nineteenth century:
Schlesinger Library, Harvard University, http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/ww/diaries.html
2 thoughts on “February 6, 1852”
You had to go and mention Margaret Fuller, eh? 😉 Some of the contrasts to Margaret Fuller are clear. Evelina, while less educated than Margaret, had the wherewithal to get or be gotten by her Alpha male and raise a family with him. Margaret’s life took a much different route. The contrasts are not unlike some of the ones that I thought that I might be making between Thoreau and Old Oliver, except that Oliver traveled by train, somewhat more than Thoreau did (although Thoreau also traveled by train more than one would think), whereas Margaret goes to Europe, marries Ossoli over there, etc. There is so much more to say about both women, but Margaret along with her husband and baby, drowned off Fire Island less than two years before today’s entry, while Evelina experiences her husband’s censure and subsequent demise, twenty years later. Do we have any sense of how Evelina held up during Oakes’s difficulties? I would her expect her to tough it out and move on, but don’t know the stories. Does she ever get to travel?
Just wanted to point out that Evelina was not the only female to keep a diary during those interesting times! Many women, famous and long-since-lost, kept a daily record.
Does Evelina ever get to travel? Good question – she takes two trips in 1852, out of necessity – one to Vermont and one to NYC. After 1852 we have a big gap in the record of her life (at least, until we find those missing diaries from the 1860s). Through a few different sources, we know that Evelina accompanied Oakes to Washington D.C. when he served as a Congressman beginning in 1863. She would have been in Washington during the Civil War and, for instance, would have attended levees at the White House. She would have greeted the Lincolns and chatted with other Congressional wives. In 1870, however, she suffered a stroke that left her partially paralyzed. We know this from the diary of Oliver Ames Jr. Oakes accompanied Evelina home, after which time she lived with her daughter Susan and son-in-law, Henry French, in North Easton. Family lore has it that in 1873, while Oakes was under fire in Congress for his role in the Credit Mobilier affair, she sat at her bedroom window, and watched for the delivery of a telegram about the outcome of the vote to impeach/censure Oakes.
That’s a long answer to your question, but the only traveling that we can confirm after 1852 is Evelina’s stay in Washington.
After Oakes died in May, 1873-, Evelina continued to live with Susie and, according to the sporadic diaries of her son, Oliver (3), she seemed to stay engaged with her children, grandchildren and friends in Easton.