November 4, 1852

67877_mendclothes_mth

Thursday Nov 4th  I was very busy about house this

forenoon making cake & scalding barbaries

&c &c Miss Alger not very well

Mrs John Howard called here & at Olivers

dined with Mrs Witherell  She is having

Julia cut her a dress I have been mending

some this afternoon but do not sew much

The piano teacher, Miss Alger, was staying with the Ames family, and today she was unwell. Evelina had to cope with this, knowing as she did that her daughter Susan resented, in some degree, the presence of Miss Alger. Was Evelina beginning to resent her as well? Miss Alger had been staying with them for quite a while. But perhaps Evelina was too “busy about house” to allow herself any unkind thoughts. Ever domestic, she baked, cooked and mended for most of the day.

Caroline Howard, a fellow Unitarian and Sewing Circle member, made a social call at the Ames compound, visiting Evelina and Sarah Lothrop Ames, then having midday dinner with Sarah Ames Witherell. Mrs. Howard was planning to have a dress made by Julia Mahoney, the Ames women’s favorite dressmaker. Caroline was the wife of John Howard, a laborer (according to the 1850 census) and appeared to have no children. She would far outlive the ladies she was visiting, not dying until age 95 in 1897. Her life span basically covered the whole of the 19th century. What changes she saw!

November 3, 1852

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Wednesday Nov 3d  The girls took their eigth

lesson this forenoon and I sat with

Susan to see her take hers so that I 

could assist her some if required

We have been to the funeral and 

then Mrs S Ames and self went to the sewing

circle at Mr Clarkes,  Miss Alger took

tea with Witherell.  Lavina Wms called

Susie Ames and Emily Witherell took another piano lesson this morning. Evelina, still determined that her reluctant daughter was going to learn to play the new instrument, “sat with Susan” in the parlor as she had her lesson. Miss Alger, the teacher, had tea with Sarah Witherell later in the day. The two women might have discussed how the girls were faring with their lessons; with Evelina out of the house, it would have been easier to discuss the fact that Emily was the stronger student.

Evelina and Oakes, presumably, and other Ameses attended the funeral of the Swain baby. John H. Swain Jr. had died on Sunday from “Teething,” much to his parents’ sorrow. Today, the sun was out, though the wind blew, as folks gathered around the little grave.

Afterwards, Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, rode to the monthly Sewing Circle at the home of “Mr Clarke.”  He may have been Daniel Clark, a carpenter, whose wife was Elvira Clark and whose daughter, Elizabeth, had played the piano at the meeting house the summer before last. The piano again! Evelina couldn’t get away from other mothers whose daughters did well at the piano. How frustrated she must have felt about her own daughter.

 

September 29, 1852

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Wednesday Sept 29th  Mrs Witherell & Ames came in

& helped me about my baking and this

afternoon I have had the sewing circle  Not

one of the Pools here and had but very few

numbers. about a dozen or fifteen including 

my own family at tea  It is a beautiful moon 

light night and they spent part of the evening

 

With help from her sisters-in-law, Evelina prepared for the arrival of Sewing Circle members. It was a “fair cool day,”* so weather could not deter attendance. In the afternoon, the women came. Well, some came.  “[V]ery few numbers” arrived for the meeting, but at least it wasn’t the zero attendance of her previous gathering. There were enough ladies in the parlor to make the event a success.  Some of the group stayed until after dark, able to find their way home by the light of the moon.

Still, members of the Pool family didn’t show, which vexed Evelina. The Pools were a family she had grown up with in the south-eastern section of town. A Pool daughter, Augusta, had married Evelina’s nephew, Edwin, and now lived nearby. Evelina felt a connection to the family, although it may be that the family did not feel a connection to her. She never mentions Augusta’s mother, Lavarna, for instance, in the roll of ladies who call on her, though she did host the Pool family at tea in January when Augusta and Edwin were married. It’s possible that the Pool women disliked her. Perhaps they were jealous of her social success in marrying Oakes Ames. Your thoughts, readers?

 

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

September 28, 1852

Pillows

Tuesday Sept 28th  Have two girls and yet Im

about house a great deal of my time

I fear I do not manage right  To day

I have sewed but very little have been

preparing for the sewing circle and have

cut out 6 prs of pillow cases & put them

out to whiten and 5 sheets.  This evening

have written to Mr Norris about our piannos

 

Evelina struggled to manage the servant girls. Was it her fault or theirs? Was Evelina too lenient, or demanding, or unappreciative? Were the young women ill trained, or naturally inept, or uncertain about their responsibilities? Evelina was inclined to blame herself.

She needed their help today, too, as she was getting ready to host this month’s meeting of the Unitarian Sewing Circle. Evelina hadn’t held a meeting of the Circle at her house for nineteen months, since her unsuccessful attempt back on February 12, 1851. On that occasion, bad weather and disinclination or indifference on the part of other Circle members had resulted in a no show of anyone except the immediate family. She had given a party that no one came to. She had been mortified, but soon recovered.

Did the memory of that embarrassment surface today as she was cleaned house, prepared food, and cut out pillow cases to be sewn? She doesn’t say. She had moved on, perhaps, and was more interested in thinking about the new pianos to come than revisiting an old grievance.

But would her fellow needlewomen show up tomorrow?

September 8, 1852

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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

 

 

August 4, 1852

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1852

Wedns Aug 4th  Sewing circle met at the other part

of the house  Had an unusually large number

About 30 beside the gentlemen that came

to the second table.  My family all had tea

there  After tea all went into the gardens

and into Olivers to hear Helen play

Horatio and another man came from Salisbury

Sarah Witherell hosted the monthly Sewing Circle, to which people turned out in “an unusually large number.” Everyone would have known about the death of Sarah’s son back in May, and by showing up on this occasion, they likely were paying respect to a woman they probably admired. In her quiet, dignified way, Sarah had done so much for others that others now wanted to do something for her.  They may also have been demonstrating respect for her father, Old Oliver. Sarah was probably grateful for the outpouring and for the hostessing assistance she would have gotten from her visiting cousin, Almira Ames.

Old Oliver may or may not have been on the premises for tea. According to his daily record, on “the 4th Horatio + Mr Morse his traveling agent came here + went away the next day.”* Evelina doesn’t mention Horatio (Sr., probably) but as we know, they weren’t close.

After the busy gathering at Sarah Witherell’s, family and guests toured the gardens – of both houses, presumably – and then moved into the house next door to hear Helen Angier Ames, only daughter of Sarah Lothrop Ames and Oliver Ames Jr., play piano. Perhaps even Old Oliver, Horatio and Mr. Morse were part of the appreciative crowd.

This is the first entry that tells us that Helen Angier Ames played the piano, and it’s significant. Owning a piano or, more likely, a pianoforte was “the ultimate ‘badge of gentility’.”** Because “less than one in a hundred” households in the country owned such an instrument, those that did could be reckoned to be high up on the social scale. Owning a piano distinguished “‘decent people’ from the lower and less distinguished”, according to the standards of the time.

 

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

**Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday LIfe: 1790-1840, New York, 1988, p. 143

 

 

June 2, 1852

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1852

Wednesday June 2d  Lazy this day as usual after being

in Boston   Have been with Mrs S Ames

to the sewing circle at Mr Wm Reeds.  Had

a very pleasant time as we always do there

not very many present. Mrs Patterson here

again to day.  yesterday she staid home to

do her washing  She & Jane have done very

little ironing this afternoon

The intense labor of spring cleaning was over, at least for Evelina.  She was “[l]azy this day” after yesterday’s trip into Boston with her sisters-in-law. Shopping wore her out more than washing windows or scrubbing floors, it would seem. She summoned enough energy to attend the Sewing Circle at Abigail Reed’s, though.

Sarah Witherell didn’t attend the Sewing Circle; she probably wasn’t socializing outside the family yet. So Sarah Ames and Evelina went without her and enjoyed themselves “as we always do.” Back at the house, however, Evelina’s servants didn’t attend to the ironing as Evelina had hoped they would. Evelina wasn’t pleased. When she worked, she worked very hard, and expected others to do the same. She felt that Mrs Patterson and Mrs McHanna should have been able to do more in her absence.

In the other part of the house, to which Sarah Witherell had retreated after yesterday’s outing, Old Oliver was watching the weather.  He noted the welcome arrival of “a little rain […] that wett the ground about an inch deep.”*  The spring had been dry.

 

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection