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