September 8, 1852



Wednesday Sept 8th  Was baking and at work

about house all the forenoon and this afternoon

have been to Olivers to the sewing Circle  Had

a pretty full meeting  Mrs Buck & Sarah were there

and worked on Mr Ames shirts  After tea we

all went into the gardens  Mother came from

there to night and will stop a few days here

It was time for Sewing Circle again.  The ladies of the Unitarian Church and their pastor, William Whitwell, met right next door at the home of Sarah Lothrop Ames and Oliver Ames Jr. They sewed, socialized and probably listened to a few words from Mr. Whitwell. Evelina was pleased to get some help making shirts for her husband.  The women all had tea and then walked about the garden, which must have been in its last foliage. Old Mrs. Gilmore, who probably had been brought to the meeting by her daughter-in-law, Henrietta, stayed over to spend a few days with her daughter.

Also on this date, another gathering of mostly women took place in Syracuse, New York. Led by suffragist Lucretia Mott, the Third National Women’s Rights Convention ran for three days and was certainly a headier, more disruptive kind of meeting than the one that Evelina attended. Mrs. Mott kept order well, although “at one point she felt it necessary to silence a minister who offended the assembly by using biblical references to keep women subordinate to men.” Many suffragists spoke, including Ernestine Rose, who responded to the offending minister with a reminder that ” the Bible should not be used as the authority for settling a dispute, especially as it contained much contradiction regarding women.” *

Two particularly noteworthy incidents happened at this annual gathering. Lucy Stone wore a pair of Turkish trousers, better known at “Bloomers, ” and the attendees were treated to the first public speech of a newcomer to the cause of suffrage: Susan B. Anthony.  Did Evelina read about any of this in the papers? Was she scornful or curious or disinterested? At no point in her diary does she comment on the nascent suffrage movement.


*National Women’s Rights Convention, Wikipedia, accessed Sept. 7, 2015



October 15, 1851


Wednesday Oct 15.  Julia has been here again to day and fitted

the waist to Susans dress and got my dress so

that I can finish it  Have been to the sewing

Circle to Mrs Elijah Howards.  Lavinia came

home with us and went back with Oakes A.

and Frank to spend the evening   Mrs J Willis

buried in the new cemetery funeral in the 

meeting house  I did not attend it


In Worcester today, some fifty miles north and west of Easton, the National Women’s Rights Convention opened in the same Brinley Hall that it had been held in the previous year. A roster of high profile figures, including Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott and Pauline Kellogg Wright Davis, oversaw the two-day event which covered such topics as suffrage, equal pay and marriage reform. Guest speakers included abolitionists Wendell Phillips and Lloyd Garrison, and feminist Ernestine Rose, who spoke passionately against the secondary legal and emotional status of married women:

“At marriage she loses her entire identity, and her being is said to have become merged in her husband. Has nature thus merged it? Has she ceased to exist and feel pleasure and pain? When she violates the laws of her being, does her husband pay the penalty? When she breaks the moral law does he suffer the punishment? When he satisfies his wants, is it enough to satisfy her nature?…What an inconsistency that from the moment she enters the compact in which she assumes the high responsibility of wife and mother, she ceases legally to exist and becomes a purely submissive being. Blind submission in women is considered a virtue, while submission to wrong is itself wrong, and resistance to wrong is virtue alike in women as in man.”*

Was Evelina aware of this potent gathering in Worcester? Did she have any interest in the issues being debated? Did she ever resent her secondary legal status, or wish to vote? At no point in her diary did she write about women’s rights; she made no mention of the convention. She was not a feminist and yet, by participating in the monthly Sewing Circle, which she did today, she and others inadvertently proved the point that women could meet independent of men and, on their own accord, do work that addressed existing social concerns. In her generation, she was doing something her mother never would have done. In a modest way, she helped strike a path for women to move outside their strict, domestic realm. As modern historian Carolyn Lawes has stated, “Through the sewing circle women laid claim to the right to participate in the political and social development of the community, the nation, and the world.” **

Meanwhile, far from the foment in Worcester, Old Oliver “finisht the dam to day at the great pond.”


Brandeis University. Women’s Studies Research Center.Ernestine Rose’s speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts in October 15, 1851. Retrieved on April 1, 2009. 

**Carolyn Lawes, Women and Reform in a New England Community 1815 – 1860, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1999