Brimfield, MA: 1848. Columbian Writing Book #7 Designed for Use in Schools. Blue stitched paper wraps with flag and manicule motifs to front cover and general directions for proper handwriting on rear cover. Completely filled and comprised of 20 densely written manuscript pages in ink and pencil, created by Ada N. Kenney of Brimfield, Mass, who leaves her ownership information in pencil on the front wrap. A lovely and fascinating historical document tracing both the method by which a young woman developed her hand as well as how such lessons served the additional purpose of indoctrinating her into socially-appropriate femininity.
Ada Kenney's copybook contains a neat and precise hand throughout, which suggests that she was educated and belonged to the rising middle class. Meticulous and organized, Ada breaks her book into two clear sections. The first 9 pages contain precisely copied and repeated sentences such as "Assiduity in labor produces fame and fortune," "Cherish sentiments of charity towards all men," "Discretion of speech is superior to eloquence," and "Immodest words are in all cases indefensible." As the lines get repeated 19 times each in the alphabetical order dictated by the first word, it is clear that Ada is being trained in an elegant cursive. Yet the content of the lines and their repetition also serve as lessons to her about the value of female silence, virtue, and chastity. By the second half of the book, Ada commits another 9 pages to carefully copying out poetry; and here, her choices push up against the demure repetitions of the previous pages. "Long Fanny Gray," "The Troubedour" [Gaily the Troubadour Touched his Guitar], and "Highland Mary" are each ballads of romance and flirtation, love and loss. These selections suggest a burgeoning interest in courtship and men, as well as women's expressions of desire and jealousy. By the final 2 pages, Ada shifts into much less organized quotations, jotting down random lines of poetry in French and English, alongside several names of friends and relatives.
A fascinating and valuable historical document with research potential including but not limited to paleography, education theory and practice, gender studies, literature and poetry, and the transmission of folk tales and folk music. (Item #2532)