The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, April 1918

Today we return to the 1918 diary of Newton teenager Barbara Hillard Smith. You may read our introduction to the diary, and Barbara’s January, February, and March entries, here:

January | February | March | April

May | June | July | August

September | October | November | December

 

As regular readers of the Beehive know, we are following Barbara throughout 1918 with monthly blog posts that present Barbara’s daily life -- going to school, seeing friends, playing basketball, and caring for family members -- in the words she wrote a century ago. Here is Barbara’s April, day by day.

 

* * *

MON. 1                       APRIL

School. Mrs. Reeds. Muriel’s. Mrs. Reeds.

TUES. 2

Mother went to New York. Muriel’s. Mrs. Reed.

WED. 3

Mrs. Reed’s. Dance at Spud’s. Night at Pegs.

THUR. 4

Mrs. Reed’s all day. Red Cross Rally. Muriel Over Night. Hurt Knee

FRI. 5

Liberty Loan parade. In Town. Addressed cards for Dr. Godfrey

SAT. 6

Mother came home

SUN. 7

Sunday School. Studied.

MON. 8

School. Mrs. Reed’s

TUES. 9

School.

WED. 10

School. Rehearsed for Dancing.

THUR. 11

School. Knee hurt so came home at end of third. Mrs. Reeds

FRI. 12

School. Rehearsal for Camp Fire. Snow. Practice Kitchen for dinner

SAT. 13

Mrs. Reeds. Camp Reunion. “Pete” for week-end

SUN. 14

Church. Sunday School. Lasell Vespers

[Editor’s Note: Private college in Newton, est 1851, at this point would have been Lasell Seminary for Young Women]

MON. 15

School. In town. To lawyer. Awful Cold.

TUES. 16

Mrs. Reeds. Mrs. Bigelow here.

WED. 17

School. Rehearsal for dancing. Mrs. Reed’s

THUR. 18

School. Mrs. Reed’s. Surgical Dressings. Pegs over night

FRI. 19

Worked on Costume. Rehearsal for pageant. Missed Cousin Bert

SAT. 20

Mrs Redmond’s girls here. (Awful) ([fony]) Pageant Feast behind the scenes.

SUN. 21

Sick? Sunday School.

MON. 22

School. Rehearsed dance. Tennis.

TUES. 23

School. Took care of sonny.

WED. 24

School. Rehearsed for meet

THUR. 25

School. Took care of sonny.

FRI. 26

School. Gym. Meet. Tennis

SAT. 27

Washed my hair. Took care of sonny. Swimming

SUN. 28

Sunday School. Everyone Blue. Wendell showed me about the bugle

MON. 29

Headache? In town. Got material for skirt + dress

TUES. 30

School. Took care of the baby. Clark Reed wounded.

* * *

If you are interested in viewing the diary in person in our library or have other questions about the collection, please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

 

 *Please note that the diary transcription is a rough-and-ready version, not an authoritative transcript. Researchers wishing to use the diary in the course of their own work should verify the version found here with the manuscript original. The catalog record for the Barbara Hillard Smith collection may be found here.

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Monday, 23 April, 2018, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

As preparations for our upcoming exhibit continue, it is a pretty quiet week at the Society as far as programs go. Here is what we have on tap:

- Tuesday, 24 April, 5:15PM : The seminar this week is "Creepy Crawling in Los Angeles: The Manson Family and Cultural Mixing as Apocalypse." In this paper, Jeffrey Melnick of UMass-Boston explores the cultural fluidity that allowed Los Angeles's hip aristocracy to mingle with marginal figures like Charles Manson, but also the backlash which turned the Manson Family into a warning for the dangers of migration and the promiscuous cultural mixing that could follow. Gretchen Heefner of Northeastern University provides comment. This seminar is part of the Modern American Society and Culture series.

Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers. To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

- Wednesday, 25 April, 6:00PM : Join us for the second installment of an ongoing series of programs relating to land use in Massachusetts over the years. This Land is Your Land: Public Land looks at large-scale preservation of open space by government entities, like the Boston Public Garden, the Emerald Necklace, a network of state forests, and more, that were all significant contributions to keeping open land available to the public. Were these projects pioneering? Have they shaped national discussions? Are similar projects possible today? This talk is a conversation with Ethan Carr, UMass Amherst; Alan Banks, National Parks Service; Sean Fisher and Karl Haglund, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation; moderated by Keith Morgan.

The program is open to the public and registration is requried with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders). A pre-talk reception will start at 5:30PM, followed by the speaking program at 6:00PM.

MHS is proud to partner with the Trustees of Reservations, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Mount Auburn Cemetery, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, and the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center to plan this programming. This program is supported by the Barr Foundation.

 

There are no public building tours during the month of April.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 22 April, 2018, 12:00 AM

Charles Cornish Pearson and the Great War, Part V

This is the fifth post in a series about the wartime experience of Charles Cornish Pearson. Go back and read Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV for the full story.

 

Today we return to the letters of Sgt. Charles Cornish Pearson of the 101st Machine Gun Battalion, serving in France during World War I. By the early summer of 1918, Charles had been serving for a year, and he wrote more often about specific things at home that he missed. His letters are peppered with wistful reminiscences of family vacations and home-cooked food. He longed to spend an evening just listening to records or taking in a movie (though war movies had lost their appeal, he said). He also missed his young nieces and nephews. In early June, he wrote to his sister-in-law:

Glad to hear the “kiddies” are well. My how I would like to see them. Believe me I think of them often, especially when I run across French youngsters. It is quite a common occurence when in a town for a couple of the youngsters to run up to you, & grab hold of your hand & walk along with you, & you know that cann’t help but make you think of the little ones at home & wonder how they are.

 

 

The month of June was fortunately short on “hair raising experiences.” As always, Charles reassured his family that he felt well and optimistic about his chances of survival. He lovingly scolded his mother for worrying, telling her, “They haven’t got me yet.” To his brother Bill he wrote, “I am a great little shell dodger […] but when they come down OH MY, what a sensation, makes you long for home & a little peaceful scenery.” However, while no fan of the military life, he wondered if he’d be able to adjust after the war.

Haven’t sat down to a table to a meal for so long that I am afraid I wouldn’t know how to act. […] Fear greatly that I will get so accustomed to this life that when I get back in the states, I will have to build me a dugout in the backyard to live in, won’t be able to live in a steam heated apartment. Will be kind of tough on my wife.

 

At the end of the month, the 101st Machine Gun Battalion was on the move again. Of course, Charles was circumspect about his location, so I consulted Philip S. Wainwright’s History of the 101st to fill in the details. Wainwright describes several stops on the way to the battalion’s final destination in the woods near Montreuil-aux-Lions. This was an active sector.

Charles wrote to his parents from this position on 15 July 1918. It would be almost two weeks before he wrote another letter to anyone—an unusually long gap in his correspondence. What happened during that gap? The Battle of Château-Thierry.

Wainwright’s history contains a detailed description of the fighting at Château-Thierry, including troop movements, strategy, etc., as well as the battalion’s pursuit of the retreating German army to Trugny. But Charles was taciturn. In a brief and apologetic letter dated 28 July, his first after the battle, he explained to his parents that he didn’t “feel much in the mood for going into details […] One sure does lead a pace when things are breaking the way they have and you often wonder how you keep going.” He was clearly shaken.

Charles opened up about the battle a few days later, in a series of longer letters to his family. His account is harrowing. There were no trenches, dugouts, or sheltered emplacements in this sector, so the troops’ position was unprotected except for a few sparse patches of woods and hastily dug holes. The men of the 101st were forced to haul their heavy machine guns, sometimes by hand, back and forth over many kilometers of damaged roads. Rations were small to nonexistent. To top it all off, the fighting took place during a heavy thunderstorm. As Charles wrote to his brother Bill on 4 August:

Would like to relate to you all my experiences of the past month but […] certain of them are not pleasant ones and the less said about them the better.

Sure have had my belly full of war the past month & suppose have come as near to being killed as I ever will be until my time comes. One gets to be a fatalist over here (except when one is dodging shells) as often times one gets the hardest knock when things are seemingly most peaceful.

 

The details of Charles’ account are confirmed by Wainwright, who states that “more was learned in the short time between the 18th and 26th than could possibly have been taught by years of maneuvers” (p. 43). Wainwright’s book also helped me to identify one of the photographs that came to the MHS with Charles’ papers. Below is an image of the graves of William Alfred Bruton, Paul Watson Butler, and Andrew Smith (a.k.a. “Duke”) Wellington. The three men were killed by shell fire on 25 July 1918 and buried in La Fère Woods. All were members of Charles’ company.

 

Beginning on 2 August, the men of the 101st were billeted in the peaceful town of Courteron and enjoyed ten well-deserved days of rest. They swam in the Marne River and caught up on their letters home. Officers and non-commissioned officers, including Charles, were granted a 48-hour leave to see the sights in Paris.

Join me in a few weeks for Part VI!

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 20 April, 2018, 12:08 PM

This Week @ MHS

The Society is CLOSED on Monday, 16 April, for Patiots' Day/Marathon Monday. Enjoy the race!

After the holiday we get right back into the public events here at the MHS. Here are the details:

- Tuesday, 17 April, 5:30PM : This week's seminar, part of the History of Women and Gender series, is "Women, Gender, and Sexuality in the High School U. S. History Curriculum: A Conversation." This panel discussion, featuring university faculty, secondary educators, and activist curriculum specialists, aims to seed an ongoing discussion between high school and post-secondary instructors of American history about gendering the U.S. History curriculum. What topics in women’s and gender history and in the history of sexuality get covered when, where, and how? How can college- and university-based scholars do more to connect their work with high school classrooms? How are secondary educators—and their students—advancing and reshaping the field? This program takes place at the Fay House, Radcliffe Institute, in Cambridge.

Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers. To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

- Tuesday, 17 April, 6:00PM : What fuels a family’s compulsion for philanthropy? Charitable giving is an intrinsic part of our culture and its story can be told through a colorful, multifaceted family whose actions mirror America’s attitudes towards giving. Between 1638 and today, the Browns of Rhode Island have provided community leaders, endowed academic institutions, and transformed communities through art and architecture. However, they also have wrestled with society’s toughest issues slavery, immigration, child labor, inequality and with their own internal tensions. Sylvia Brown, of the family’s 11th generation, and Edward Widmer will explore this story in "Grappling with Legacy."

This program is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members and Fellows or EBT cardholders). Pre-talk reception starts at 5:30PM, followed by the conversation at 6:00PM.

- Thursday, 19 April, 6:00PM : What would the week be without some talk of the first shots of the American Revolution? "Lexington & Concord: The Battle Heard Round the World" is an author talk with George C. Daughan who will discuss his recent book by the same name on the anniversary of those pivotal events. The mounting political tensions that ignited the battles of Lexington and Concord are critical to the narrative of the American Revolution. However, the economic forces that propelled these iconic battles are another vital part of this history. When Benjamin Franklin wrote home describing the living conditions in Britain and Ireland, his country men were appalled. Could the Crown’s motive be to reduce the prosperous American colonies to such serfdom? This threat inspired the vast turnout of Patriot militiamen that so shocked the British and led the colonists to victory in the first armed conflictsof the War of Independence.

This talk is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members and Fellows or EBT cardholders). Pre-talk reception starts at 5:30PM, followed by the conversation at 6:00PM.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 15 April, 2018, 12:00 AM

“Vast awful & never ending Eternity”: Personal Accounts of Mourning

I recently came across the Elizabeth Craft White diary, written in 1770 when the death of her husband left her distraught. “Life seems a burden to me since Death, Cruel, & unrelenting Death- has snacht from me the Partner of my heart: O fated Death how could you come, tho he called for thee why did you not pass by him, turn from him & flee away.” Elizabeth White’s diary lasted from December 26, 1770 until its sudden end on January 23, 1771. Throughout its passages, she questions the fate of her husband’s soul and laments over the ultimate fate of her own soul. The entries read more of a reflection of her own spiritual awareness as she makes it clear that she has accepted death’s presence and hopes that her daughter would be properly guided into heaven.

“Jan ye 10th 1771” 

 

The diary is heartbreaking, but Elizabeth White’s thoughts were not uncommon during a period in which mourning became intertwined with religious culture. In early Massachusetts, it wasn’t uncommon for people to use the death of a loved one as a time to reflect upon their own souls and ask God to forgive their sins, faced with the reality that their own end could be near. Ministers often encouraged their parishioners to keep diaries to embellish their faith in Heaven, viewing this as another way to become closer to God and to understand what death meant. Sermons often revolved around the topic of dying, such as Timothy Edwards’ All the living must surely die, and go to judgement.

Man is born to trouble as the Sparks fly upward tears sorrow & Death is the Portion of every person that is Born into the world. I have been born, most certainly & it is as certain that I must die & I know not how soon. Die I must! & die I shall! (Elizabeth White, January 18, 1771).

While Elizabeth White would live another 60 years, her words reflected those of many others who faced the prospect of death. While writing a diary was certainly a way to privately grieve and bring routine back into one’s life, the sentimentality can be found in countless other accounts. Public displays of mourning were common through sermons and poetry, much of which told personal stories to illustrate the importance of accepting our demise. In an undated poem titled A few lines to a Friend: Mourning the loss of a Beloved Wife, the author clearly states the purpose of a loved one’s death is to remember our own mortality.  

A few lines to a Friend: Mourning the loss of a Beloved WIFE,” n.d.

 

“O may we all now heart his call,

Prepare for Death I say,

That we may stand, at Christ’s Right-hand

In the great Judgement Day.

 

And hear Christ say to us that day,

Come enter into Reît,

Then we shall go, to see and know,

And be forever Blest.”

 

Such expressions were also common in letters of correspondence. In a Letter from William and Mary Pepperrell to their children, the Pepperrell’s express a similar sentiment at the death of their son.

Your kind & symathiseing Letter of this day we received for wich are oblig’d to you and as you justly observe that if this Great affliction may be wich we have meet with in ye Death of our Dear Son may be sancthifyed so as to warn our hearts from our Earthly Enjoyments & to set them more & more upon our Great Creator […]

 

As the living hoped to reflect upon death, there was also importance placed upon a person’s final words. Tracts were commonly produced to teach people of the importance of dying properly and to share examples of good Christians, such as The Triumphant Christian: or The dying words and extraordinary behavior of a gentleman. Rev. Mr. Clarke later wrote in 1756 The real Christians hope in death, or, An account of the edifying behavior of several persons of piety in their last moments. The resting words of young children and women were of particular interest and were commonly published for the public to learn from. This model became embedded in New England culture. Dying words reflected one’s entire life. To speak such proper final words meant that one had led a pious life and was ready to accept their fate. It meant they would make amends with any sin they had caused and reassured those close by that they were off to heaven.

Mourning Picture, ca. 1810. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

 

To die quietly or without any resting words often caused distress to the living. Oftentimes, many would suspect that silence meant the person led a sinful life and that their fate was eternity in Hell. Elizabeth White’s husband died quietly after succumbing to fever, leaving her to question his fate.

When I think of home it seems to hurt me, once I had a home but now I have none. O that it was with me as in time past- But alas I shall never see a good day, more in the Land of the Living, once I was a girl then was I happy; once I was a married woman & was very happy till it Pleased the Lord to visit the pasture of my joys & cares, with a violent likeness that; deprived him of his senses so that he was never himself not long together to his dying day- now alas he is gone from whence he will never return, even to the Land of darkness, & ye shadow of death: a Land of darkness, as darkness itself & of ye shadow of death without any order- if he had died upon a sick bed, I should have some Peace concerning him: but now I have none- he is gone, I know not how it is with him […]

 

Such a prescribed mentality towards death is found across hundreds of letters and diaries, but they certainly don’t discredit the sentimentality of the writer’s feelings. It is simply part of human nature to cope with tragedy. In a society where religion played a vital role in everyday life, it is not at all surprising that death became a lesson to remind oneself of their ultimate ending.

 

To see what other related materials are held are at the Society, try searching our online catalog, ABIGAIL, then consider Visiting the Library.

 


Sources:

Seeman, Eric R. “’She died like good old Jacob’: deathbed scenes and inversions of power in New England, 1675-1775.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, v. 104 (1994), p. 285-314.

Vinovskis, Maris. Angels’ heads and weeping willows: death in early America.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, v. 86, pt. 2 (1977), p. 273-302.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 13 April, 2018, 12:00 AM

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