Pair of diaries documenting two important years in the life of a young woman
Madison, Maine: 1909, 1919.
Madison, Maine: 1909, 1919. Pair of diaries, totaling 752 pages in a single hand, both from Madison, Maine resident and teacher Ruth Marden.
Standard Diary and Daily Reminder (1909):
First diary comprised of 371 pages in a single hand, with the ownership signature of Ruth Marden to header of title page. In addition to 365 detailed entries for the year, she includes an additional 6 pages of gifts recorded, addresses, and birthdays to the rear. Red cloth with gilt to spine and front board; all edges gilt. 1909-1910 calendar endpapers. Measuring 4.5 x 5.75 inches. Documenting her domestic and family life in her eighteenth year, with information on her education and entry into a teaching career.
Lest We Forget: Being a Book for Ladies' Use (1919)
Second diary comprised of 381 pages in Ruth's more mature hand, documenting the year leading up to suffrage. In addition to densely packing all 365 entries for the year 1919, she keeps an additional 16 pages listing gifts, expenses, visits, addresses, pamphlets distributed, and letters written or received. Green brocade with gilt to front board and all edges gilt; 1919-1920 calendar endpapers. Measures 4 x 4.75 inches. An incredibly rich and in-depth look at all aspects of a young woman's life as she and her peers enter a new era of women's rights.
Ruth Marden's diaries unfold first when she is age 18 and later when she is age 28, providing researchers a unique opportunity to study the changes not only in American society across a decade, but also how they specifically affect one young woman and her family. In the earlier diary, readers witness Ruth balance school and family. She lives at home with her parents and siblings, often taking on caretaking for the toddler Esther and assisting their hired girl Lulu in domestic chores. Meanwhile, she also attends school, takes music lessons, and opts to continue her education to become a teacher. Across this year, Ruth's eyes are increasingly opened to the dangers and unfairness of the world -- from Lulu getting pregnant and needing someone to "stand up" for her, to witnessing minstrel shows, to seeing her parents resist the local school's corporal punishment practices, to Esther's contracting of diptheria and consequent quarantine and illness. Part of what appears to be an active and activist family, she also discusses becoming a member and participating in the Order of the Eastern Star, a women's philanthropic group linked to the Masons.
By the second diary, Ruth is a working woman who remains philanthropically engaged. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she continues work with the Eastern Star as well as managing the family's domestic life. It a balance that seems harder to manage, and throughout she works to maintain patience with her lot. Though she still lives at home, the family itself has undergone major changes. Her brothers have married and set up their own homes. Esther is a young teenager coming of age. And the world around them is reeling from the aftermath of the First World War. Her best friend Clara contracts what appears to be the 1918 flu, and she documents not only the care she extends, but also her personal fears about loss. She is struck by this again, when Esther gets appendicitis and must go through an emergency operation. As readers watch Ruth engage with many of the same people as she did in 1909, they are also introduced to a wider, even richer community of teachers and friends with whom Ruth engages in her adulthood, who push her to consider new ideas about life and her place in the world. As 1919 ends, Ruth reflects on struggle and success: "We cannot expect to succeed in all things, for it is not always success that makes a noble character. Failure is something that must come to all....I sometimes wonder if I shall ever succeed. I cannot tell. I shall keep on trying. I wish I could be good like some I know who never seem to do wrong."
An exceptionally rich set of documents, containing details about cuisine (both domestic and public), teacher training and the daily life of female teachers, familial and community relationships in the rural Northeast, religion, politics, the spread and treatment of disease, the role of female friendships, the links between education and liberal politics, the expansion of women's mobility and travel, women's fashion and gift giving, and women's reading and activism. (Item #3958)