March 29, 1852


Moreen Fabric*


March 29 Monday.  Orinthia returned with us from meeting

yesterday  She helped Susan wash the dishes and

I cleaned the sitting room and afterwards sat down

to our sewing  Have new bound my moreen skirt

Orinthia and self went into Edwins this evening

had a pretty lively call making fun of Orinthia’s spelling

Evelina may have “had a pretty lively call making fun of Orinthia’s spelling,” today, but her own orthography was far from perfect. Neither woman, evidently, could have won a spelling bee – and Orinthia was a school teacher!  To be fair, however, spelling in the 19th century was not as standardized as it became later. Spelling has long been a fluid practice, actually, however often periodic efforts were made by different groups and individuals – Teddy Roosevelt among them – to reform and standardize it. So the two women would have had plenty of company with their wayward pens. Just consider the various ways that Old Oliver Ames spelled (or spelt) slate: sleight, slaight and slayt.

Presumably unworried about her own grammatical shortcomings, Evelina pursued her usual agenda for a Monday. She cleaned part of the downstairs while daughter, Susie, washed the breakfast dishes and servant, Jane McHanna, started the weekly laundry and prepared midday dinner. After Evelina had finished dusting, sweeping and tidying, she and guest Orinthia Foss, the poor speller, sat down to “our sewing”.

Evelina was working on a skirt of moreen, a ribbed fabric of cotton or wool that today serves more often for upholstery or curtains. In the 19th century, however, its stiffness lent itself to the voluminous skirts that defined the era. It would have been a thick, tough fabric to work on by hand. But Evelina was nothing if not an excellent needlewoman.

*Image courtesy of


6 thoughts on “March 29, 1852

  1. “Presumably unworried about her own grammatical shortcomings, Evelina pursued her usual agenda for a Monday.” Pesumably, eh? 😉 If I take one model, the number of thoughts that I do NOT relate in my own journal, which is substantially longer than Evalina’s, who can possibly know what they are NOT telling us? Nevertheless, we have to work with what we have.

    • Dwight – Fair question about Evelina’s inner thoughts, which she doesn’t often share with her diary, although the other day she did express concern about her own tendency to procrastinate when it involved an unpleasant chore like mending. You’re right that E. could have worried about her grammar, though I personally think that other areas were of greater concern.
      I believe that E. felt comfortable with her place in North Easton, and knew that she had been fortunate to have landed there, married to Oakes Ames. She never suggests in any way that she’s unhappy with her lot (except when her husband forgets to take her out…) or that she’s unworthy of his regard and her place beside him. They make a strong couple.
      With and among the other women in the Ames compound, however, I think there was competition, and it may be that there E. was forced to confront her country (as oppose to village) upbringing.
      This is a stretch, but I think one reason that E. was particularly comfortable with younger women (Orinthia, Augusta, her various nieces and younger Gilmore relatives) whom she surrounded herself with, is that they looked up to her and made her feel useful. I don’t imagine her sisters-in-law came to her for advice very often (although they did come to her for buttonholes), despite her being the eldest of the three (or four if you count Harriett Mitchell), and married to the eldest son. The family dynamic of the sisters-in-law is most interesting. It may be there that, were we able to dig, we would find any vulnerabilities within Evelina’s sense of self.


  2. It is one thing, not to know how to spell “presumably” and yet another not to type it correctly. 😉

    • Bill – Yes, Evelina did have a sense of humor, I believe. She and Orinthia have been laughing quite a bit lately. Post-fire relief?? Happy to see spring coming? Who knows?

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