Daily diary of a 16 year old girl, documenting her rural life and eventual enrollment at the prestigious Morgan School of Connecticut
by [Women's Education] Wilcox, Nellie
Connecticut: January 1-December 31, 1874. Black cloth-and-card bound wallet diary comprised of 281 handwritten pages documenting the life and education of 16 year old Nellie Wilcox, who transitions from life on her family's farm and into attendance at the prestigious Morgan School still in operation today. An exceptional glimpse into how formal education changes the life of a young American woman and her family.Given to Nellie as a gift from her cousin Ida, who inscribes the front free endpaper with a pair of friendship poems, the diary is a detailed account that begins on January 1, 1874 with Nellie's comment that "I neglected to keep my diary last year, and it seemed so lonesome that I am going to try and do better this year." In her daily entries throughout the spring, Nellie consistently reports on which of the children in the family were allowed to attend the local country school for the day, and which were kept home due to sickness or chores on the farm. Several times in January and March she notes that "the boys have been to school but I have not," despite her interest in studying. She additionally reports on visitors to the family, household tasks such as cooking and sewing, on her father's tobacco harvest, and on an outbreak of measles in the community. Even at this stage, she is observant of local politics, commenting in March on a small scandal that leads to her pastor's resignation and in April on the elections: "The democrats have gained a complete victory this spring, elected to the state ticket, and seventeen senators out of twenty one." By the end of the term, Nellie and her cousin Ida have earned positions at the Morgan School, where they will attend classes and live in a ladies' boarding house. This marks a major shift in Nellie's writing, as her entries now document the essays she composes, the exams she takes, and the lessons she learns. She writes as classes begin in the fall, "I have not written one word in my diary this vacation; when Mother saw it she said never mind, but keep it up while you are at Clinton." What the entries from here on show is a woman growing in intelligence and sophistication, who excels socially and academically. Nellie writes about courses in Latin, rhetoric, algebra, and music; she discusses meetings she attends; she documents the emotional hardships and depression of some of the girls around her; she expresses concern over her changing religious views; and she reveals her own developing taste in literature ("I have been reading Jane Eyre, one of Charlotte Bronte's books which was taken from the Morgan library. I have not finished it yet but think it is splendid."). The diary concludes with Nellie's monthly accounts, which show her expenses for boarding, clothes, and tutoring while away from home. An important historical case study of a young woman's growth as she gains access to education. (Item #2024).
(Inventory #: 2024)
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