1917. Original manuscript. Original Boards. Contains 120pp full of entries, closely written in a neat hand. Entries date from 25 March 1917 to 30 June 1919 on lined paper, bound in light boards with "Compositions" on the cover, along with the diarist's name and street address in Ashland. Text block is loose from binding. 8.25" x 6.75" Good. Item #040235
This diary gives an up close-and-personal picture of a typical Midwestern woman’s daily life during the years just before, during, and after America’s entry into World War I. The war, however, with a few exceptions (see below), takes a back seat to Mrs. Leidigh’s activities involving her home, her church, and her community. Each day’s entry starts with a brief weather report, then a rundown of her own day’s doings and those of her husband, “C.D.”, her “Ma”, who apparently lives with the couple, her son Alvin, and assorted relatives who live nearby, including “Mother Leidigh”, the writer’s brother George and his wife Olive, along with “Grandma Hild” and assorted members of the Shriver family. She also assiduously records local deaths, funerals, illnesses, births and weddings. All in all, she presents a very complete picture of small town American life in the Midwest 100 years ago. ~~ Mrs. Leidigh’s main activities center on the domestic: baking bread (and cakes and pies), cooking dinners, cleaning, canning, doing laundry, laying carpets, washing curtains, ironing, wallpapering rooms, grinding “1 gal. of hamburg”, sewing clothes, knitting, crocheting, etc. In February, 1918, she notes that the “Singer sewing man brought machine and [was] showing how to run it…bought machine. Trade our old one in $68.00.” She and “Ma” also are very busy almost every day with “calls”, either paying them or receiving them, and she lists all the local people with whom they interact. There are sometimes 5 or 6 calls in the course of a day, although in November, 1917, “Mrs. Shafer and I made 16 calls in south-east part of town. Ma made 10 calls….” Callers often stay for dinner at Mrs. Leidigh’s home. She also seems to take in washing and do ironing for various townspeople. It is unclear whether this is charity work or paid labor, since once, when she herself is ill, she notes that “Mary did Mrs. Ralston’s washing for me.” ~~ Her other preoccupation is her local church. She and her family go to church twice on Sundays (morning and evening), go to prayer meetings on Wednesdays, and on the other days are usually involved in various church board meetings, Bible study classes, “C.W.B.M.” meetings, church executive committee meetings, Missionary Aid meetings, C.E. “socials”, Aid Circle meetings, Sunday school activities, Missionary Band practices, etc, in addition to Mrs. L’s regular bouts of cooking and baking for various church affairs (picnics, suppers, etc.) In a rare example of her use of underlining for emphasis, she records that “Alvin was baptized afternoon” (April, 1919). The family also attends Chautauqua meetings in August 1918. In April of 1919, they attend each day of an 8-day prayer meeting extravaganza, which includes the “Blind Trio singing”. During the course of this event, they host “two of the Blind Boys here for dinner and supper.” ~~ Her husband, C.D. (sometimes accompanied by Alvin), attends frequent church choir practice sessions, and seems to be an in-demand musician for other musical groups besides the choir, including the missionary band, drum corps, local Lodge orchestra, etc. He also attends GAR activities (encampments, “entertainments," suppers, etc.) and Lodge meetings. His business is unspecified, but in February, 1919, Mrs. L notes that CD “quit working at Ashland Products Co”. Three days later, he “began work at Myres shop” [a job he will quit two months later]. The next day, his “job at Gilberts’ began.” The Leidighs do manage to own an automobile. ~~ Mrs. L. sometimes reports local news, including: the burning of 14 buildings in nearby Savannah, possibly from a lightning strike (April, 1918); visitors coming to town overnight because “they’re attending the trial of Shorty Grant Liston”; a rain of “hailstones large as walnuts”; the fact that “the house is being fumigated for infantile paralysis in Romolo family” (Jan. 1918); and the death of Mr. Gardner, who dies in Feb. 1918 after he “fell and broke his arm, had to amputate it, took lockjaw, only sick a week.” In July 1918, she notes that it was “the hottest day for a long time. Lots of deaths in city.” This last entry probably relates to the massive influenza epidemic of the time, since church is closed “on account of Epidemic” in October, and school is cancelled in December for the same reason. She meticulously names the locals who had the flu, those who have the flu, and those who have already died from it. ~~ World War I is mentioned infrequently in Mrs. Leidigh's diary, but she does sometimes meet with other women to “sew for Belgian women”, and she and husband CD hear lectures on France by a YMCA worker at the church, and by George Wood Anderson at the Opera House. She notes that “Van Robertson came home on furlough and was at church” (August, 1918), and that at about the same time, “no cars used all day. Wanted to conserve gasoline.” In May, 1918, she writes that “Soldier boys left for Camp Taylor, KY,” and that she and CD and Alvin went to the depot to see them off. In September, “Alvin drove to see Co. E start away.” On November11, she writes: “War closed. Kaiser surrendered. Big jolification [sic] forenoon and evening.” In January, 1919, CD spends two days “canvassing for Armenia and Syria relief fund.”.