[San Francisco]: 1862-1898. Comprised of 114 handwritten ledger pages in a single hand. Black pebbled cloth ledger measuring 10.5 x 8.5 inches with all edges stained red. Small bookseller's ticket of A. Carlisle & Co. San Francisco to the front pastedown, including pencil notation of stock number 36740. An incredibly detailed document with information on an anonymous California woman's activities, from reading to correspondence to household work and paid labor.
Beginning in 1862, the ledger owner records by year Work Done and Letters Answered. By 1869, she creates an additional category Books Read which continues through the end of the notebook. Industrious, curious, and meticulous, the woman clearly takes pride in the amount she accomplishes day by day and year by year, not only to financially support herself, but to maintain her relationships and improve her mind. In the early pages, one can see that the majority of her daily work is related to sewing, embroidering, and other seamstressing -- and that while the earliest projects seem related to her own closet and household, she increasingly begins to create for a clientele of local women (Allie Wyman and the Conchrane sisters, for example, begin to appear with regularity) as well as contributing her work to charities in San Francisco and Sacramento. By the late 1870s, in addition, the woman's work diversifies beyond clothwork to include bookkeeping for an organizaton identified only as L.S.C. Her correspondence is similarly revealing over time. Though she possesses either a clear sense of duty or attachment to her mother, they are far enough apart to write; and over a quarter of the letters in the first year alone are addressed to her. Though the volume of her correspondence increases each year, this trend continues until 1889, when Mother makes its final appearance in her list of Letters Answered. Those columns, as they expand, do reveal a widening community which includes professionals, hospitals, and charitable groups. Perhaps most interesting, though, is that third column that the woman adds after the first few years. Books Read is a section that remains active, regardless of the amount of work or correspondence she conducts annually; and it's a fascinating glimpse into the habits of a woman in the West who is ravenously pursuing and devouring books. In 1869, we learn that she likes to blend the high and low in her personal reading (Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and sensational novels like The Old Mamselle's Secret) while focusing on quite recent, socially conscious works by Dickens and Henry Ward Beecher when she reads aloud with neighbor Mrs. Craven. Again, this balance remains fairly consistent. The lady of the ledger regularly reads aloud -- later including what appear to be her children Neil and Eliza in her notations, especially when reading Shakespeare, Hawthorne, or Dickens -- while her own tastes run the gamut from etiquette manuals to contemporary politics, to tales of arctic exploration. Over time it becomes clear that the highest concentration of books are recently published -- with her reading works like Norwood or Bleak House, for example, within a few years of their release -- and one wonders how long it took for those titles to traverse from New England to libraries and shops on the West coast. Whoever the unnamed record keeper was, she clearly took pride in pushing herself to read, write, and create more in each passing year.
In all, a fascinating and research rich document, providing scholars with information on reading habits, book accessibility, women's labor, community engagement and correspondence on the West coast. (Item #2692)