Diary of Anna Green Winslow, a Boston School Girl of 1771

In previous posts, I wrote about my absolute joy in reading Extracts from Adam’s Diary and Eve’s Diary.  Reading (and even re-reading) some parts of these made me laugh almost to exhaustion. Other parts were serious and surprisingly tender compared to the other books I’ve read by Mark Twain.

At Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org) I also found Diary of Anna Green Winslow, a Boston School Girl of 1771. It was written by a 12-year-old girl, and published in 1894. The editor, Alice Morse Earle, included an in-depth family history.

Miniature of Colonial Diarist Anna Green Winslow

Quite the Lineage!

Anna was born in 1759 in Nova Scotia, Canada.  Her family did not feel that Halifax could provide the society or the schooling that would “finish” their daughter. So they sent 10-year-old Anna to America to live with Judge Winslow’s older sister, Aunt Sarah Deming, and her husband, in Boston. 

Miss Winslow traveled in high social circles and had quite the lineage! On her mother’s side, she was descended from a Puritan, Percival Green, who sailed from London, England, in 1635.  On her father’s side, Anna’s great-great-great grandfather was the older brother of Pilgrim Edward Winslow, who arrived on the Mayflower as did Anna’s great-great-great grandmother, Mary Chilton.

Anna’s interests and daily life

Anna is clearly fascinated with people, and details visits and conversations with the many people she interacts with.  She writes about fashions, the weather (waist-high snow!), her sewing skills and various domestic duties, and her attempts to improve her writing skills.  She records the many visits she makes to help and encourage friends and relatives who are ill.  Anna mentions her spiritual progress in strengthening her relationship with God, and writes many notes about Biblical scriptures she reads and sermons she hears.

Diary Anna Winslow

1771 not so different from 2016?

I find it fascinating to compare people from different eras, and noticed an obvious contrast in Anna’s memoirs between the orderliness and apparent serenity of their lives, and our disjointed, hurried lives of today.

Parents and society required children and teens to work more in 1771.  A sense of duty and responsibility to family and society was more internalized and self-motivated in children then, compared to now. Family members seemed more engaged with each other then–especially the females and children who spent so much time in the home together.  Yet I am surprised that there was so much emphasis on proper etiquette and connections that families would actually send a 12-year-old girl away to be trained and refined!

Twelve-year-old Anna rarely talks about her friends.  By contrast, for many youth in 2016, friends seem to have taken the place—or a higher priority—over family relationships. I think our children today devote more time on physical fitness, entertainment, pleasure, and buying “toys” than in Anna’s time, partly because our automated society gives us more free time and money.  But it’s also partly because we as adults encourage children to have fun.

However, having said all that, I don’t think that pre-teens are that different now than they were then in 1770’s Boston, when it comes to what is truly important to them.  Children value that family closeness no matter what century they live in. And they all have hopes and dreams to be a valuable member of society, be accepted by their peers, enjoy particular hobbies, be healthy, and many still reach for a connection with the divine.

“Mom, there’s no way I’m wearing that!”

Anna Green Winslow's diary entry in handwriting

Anna Green Winslow’s diary entry in handwriting

In this handwritten letter, Anna seems annoyed that her mother doesn’t let her wear the latest fashions, something that annoys plenty of Anna’s 2016 counterparts as well!  She says that her hat makes her look like a “street seller”:

“Dear mamma, you don’t know the fation [fashion] here—I beg to look like other folk…”

She closes this journal entry (which is also a letter to her mother) affectionately:

“…with duty, love and compliments as due, particularly to my dear little brother (I long to see him)…Your ever dutiful daughter…”

 

Any thoughts?  Do leave a comment!

Up next is a diary reluctantly written by a boy in rural America in the 1860’s.

 

You can read buy Anna’s diary at Amazon, and read it at  https://archive.org/stream/diaryofannagreen00wins#page/72/mode/2up .

Project Gutenberg is also a tremendous resource.  Below are the links of these three diaries, and there are many more diaries there!  I hope you will find something you enjoy there.

Diary of Anna Green Winslow  http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20765

Eve’s Diary by Mark Twain   http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/8525

Extracts from Adam’s Diary by Mark Twain   http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1892

 

Photo credits:

Miniature of Colonial Diarist Anna Green Winslow and Anna Green Winslow’s diary entry in handwriting from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anna_Green_Winslow.gif

Book covers from LibraryThing.com

Diaries from Hundreds—even Thousands—of Years Ago

I love diaries, and have written in various forms of journals since I was about 10 years old.  I enjoy reading them almost as much as writing them, and find reliving first hand experiences (yes, even my own) fascinating, educational and often humorous and inspiring.

 

Journals and Diaries

At Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org) I found many diaries available to read, listen to and download, and added a few to my Kindle.  The first ones I read were Mark Twain’s books, which are supposedly diaries written by Adam and Eve.

The author imagines this first couple as being rather tentative about each other! I tried to select a few extra-special parts, but there are too many, so here are a few paragraphs from the beginning of the book entitled Extracts from Adam’s Diary, starting with Twain’s note:

* * * * * * * * * * *

Extracts from Adam's Diary[NOTE.– I translated a portion of this diary some years ago… Since then I have deciphered some more of Adam’s hieroglyphics, and think he has now become sufficiently important as a public character to justify this publication. – – M. T.]

Monday
This new creature with the long hair is a good deal in the way It is always hanging around and following me about. I don’t like this; I am not used to company. I wish it would stay with the other animals….

Tuesday
Been examining the great waterfall. It is the finest thing on the estate, I think. The new creature calls it Niagara Falls–why, I am sure I do not know. Says it looks like Niagara Falls…. I get no chance to name anything myself. The new creature names everything that comes along, before I can get in a protest. And always that same pretext is offered–it looks like the thing. There is the dodo, for instance. Says the moment one looks at it one sees at a glance that it “looks like a dodo”. It will have to keep that name no doubt. It worries me to fret about it, and it does no good anyway.  Dodo! It looks no more like a Dodo than I do.

1280px-Thomas_Cole_The_Garden_of_Eden_detail_Amon_Carter_Museum

Wednesday
Built me a shelter against the rain, but could not have it to myself in peace. The new creature intruded. When I try to put it out, it shed water out of the holes it looks with, and wiped it away with the back of its paws, and made a noise such as some of the other animals make when they are in distress. I wish it would not talk, it is always talking… And this new sound is so close to me; it is right at my shoulder, right at my ear, first on one side and then on the other, and I am used only to sounds that are more or less distant from me…

Sunday
This morning found the new creature trying to clod apples out of that forbidden tree.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Adam and Eve’s first child is named Cain. When Eve “finds” Cain, Adam can not figure out what kind of animal it is or where she found it.  At first Adam thinks Cain is a fish, a kangaroo, or a bear. Eventually he figures out it is a human, like himself.

I love how they talk about God as a beloved family member.  Eventually, despite his initial deep annoyance with Eve, Adam finds himself in love with her.

Mark Twain
Mark Twain

This 104-page book is well worth checking out, and I hope you will get as many laughs as I did!  It’s available as an ebook and audio book at Project Gutenberg, and in print form at Amazon and other online bookstores.

If you do read it, I’d love to hear your reactions.  You can leave a comment below in the “Leave a Reply” box.  I’ll look at Eve’s Diary in my next post!

 

ebook:  Extracts from Adam’s Diary by Mark Twain   http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1892

audio book http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/?query=adam+s+diary

Garden of Eden  Thomas Cole [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_Cole_The_Garden_of_Eden_Amon_Carter_Museum.jpg