[Southern U.S.]: 1916-1927. Small ledger bound in pebbled leather over card, measuring 7.5 x 4.5 inches. With events taking place across Tennessee, Virginia, Washington DC, North Carolina, and other Southern states, this journal is comprised of 118 handwritten pages unfolding across a decade. The ledger was clearly a plaything of Ethel and her siblings in earlier years, as they have left childish handwriting and notes dated 1911 to the pastedowns and endpapers. However, the main content unfolds from 1916-1927, as Ethel claims the book for her diary and leaves us an account of how a girl moved from her teenage years and into womanhood while the world radically changed around her.
Ethel's tone in her opening entry is a reminder that teenage angst and ennui are not new inventions. "April 25, 1916. I write this on a Wednesday. Nothing happened. Same old thing, school, school, school." Despite feeling the sameness of her days, it doesn't take long for Ethel to open up about the variety of experiences and feelings that really do shape her time. Revivals and Red Cross meetings take up multiple evenings after school; and she loves to read as an escape (novels include escapist and sensational romances like George Barr's Nedra (1905)), though she describes it as "same old life reading." By 1918 she also starts attending Patriotic Meetings as she reports "Germany's advancing," a concise announcement that is surrounded by news of boys she knows joining their companies and a string of weddings in advance. Global realities hit on the same week she begins school again in September, for her observation "first week of school, Don't think the lessons will be very hard" is immediately followed by reports of larger hardships a month later: "All the schools are closed on account of the flu. Several people have died with it. Duey Hines was buried yesterday, she died in Richmond...in a hospital...Marton Sneed was buried yesterday...he died in Charlotte of Flu." Ultimately, the flu grips her in a way the war cannot. "Friday 22 November, 1918 Celebrated Armistice...School was opened after five weeks. We went to school for three weeks then it was closed again. December 3, 1918. Tuesday all five of us down with the flu." Her December 5 entry is a string of named of friends who died of flu or are badly ailing, and she does not write again until the new year.
The entries of 1919 reflect a new level of maturity in Ethel's hand and her voice; as a young woman, she now has more freedom and more mobility, and she seems rejuvenated by drives and visits with friends, new dresses and fashions, picnics, and shows. Several nearby locations have moving picture shows, which seem to replace the Revivals in her heart and her schedule. As she and her friends prepare for commencement in June she reports getting class rings and regalia, and a spate of friends' weddings. And then. "January 6, 1920. School turned out for the flu Tuesday. A good many cases in town. Uncle Tom sick for two weeks. The flu is awfully bad the people are opening an emergency hospital in our Sunday school." Amidst the tragedy and seeking scapegoats, the town erupts in racial violence. "March 8, 1920. Arnold's store burned down...negro boy killed last night." In the years the follow, Ethel reports courtships, getting a job, and becoming a modern working woman. She reflects very little on how she was able to gain this freedom, but clearly enjoys building a life of her own.
A research rich diary with opportunities for studying the transmission of the 1918 flu and its various spikes, the role of troops moving through communities in spreading disease, the historical relationship between pandemic and education, the role of suffrage in expanding women's education, employment, travel opportunities, and genealogy. (Item #4222)