The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
Historical Manuscripts Home
Alphabetical List of All Collections | Collections Listed By Subject


Manuscript Collection

Collection Title: Mrs. W.'s 1901 Diary

Collection Number: M355

Dates: April 1 - August 28, 1901

Volume: 1 item

Provenance: Separated from the Papers of Dale Sallis Fleming

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by
The Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States
Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Very little biographical or historical information is available regarding the author of this diary, who refers to her husband as "Mr. W.", and occasionally, as "My Old Man." She and Mr. W. were married on April 28, 1896, and left Memphis, Tennessee on April 30, 1896, en route to their new home in White County, Arkansas. Their home was apparently in a rural or semi- rural setting, just a short ride by buggy or on horseback, from the towns of West Point, Searcy, Kensett and Griffithville. Other towns mentioned are New Hope, Little Rock, Higginson and Des Arc.

On three occasions, the writer indicates that her given name may have been Laura. A sister, Emma (Em), is the only relative the writer mentions by name. Indications are that Emma may have lived in Jackson (either Mississippi or Tennessee).

Source: Contents of the Collection

Scope and Content:

Mrs. W.'s diary paints a vivid portrait of the daily life of a middle class homemaker in 1901, and constitutes a daily account of the author's activities from April 1 - August 7, 1901. It then skips to the final entry on August 28, which ends in the middle of a sentence. Several philosophical sayings are recorded in the back of the diary, which is written in a meteorological register book, measuring approximately nine inches by fifteen inches. A bookkeeping section follows the sayings, which apparently records the sale of grocery items, housewares, and farm materials. It is possible that Mr. W. operated a mercantile business, and several entries in the diary indicate that he sometimes purchased items for neighbors on his frequent trips to the nearby town of Searcy.

Glimpses of the author's personality emerge, as she reflects on her wedding and discusses friends and neighbors, meal preparation, housework, sewing, milking cows, trips to the dentist, playing croquet, and visits to neighboring towns. In one entry, she gives detailed instructions for "sweetening" lard that is about to "go bad." Of particular interest is her interaction with other individuals, the most prominent of which are her neighbors, Joe and Aphra and their children, Aunt Bet (who lives with Joe and Aphra), and a young girl named Venie, who is apparently employed as household help.

The writer is obviously educated, and occasionally waxes somewhat poetic in her musings. Her writing style is unique, in that the diary is replete with abbreviations. The names of towns and individuals, items of food, and the time of day are all abbreviated -- some in unusual ways.

A typescript of the diary has been created for the convenience of researchers.


Created by: Yvonne Arnold
Prepared and maintained by
The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries Special Collections
http://www.lib.usm.edu/spcol/index.php
118 College Drive #5148   Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5148

Please send comments or questions to Ask-a-Librarian
Revised: December 17, 2004