1928. Original manuscript. The 1,732 entries in this group are clearly and neatly written in pencil within a five-year diary bound in flexible red leather. Entries begin on 22 March, 1928, and end on 31 December 1932. Mrs. Whittier [1887-1970] lives in a large 19th-century farmhouse with barn at 933 Great Pond Road, Essex County, North Andover, Massachusetts), with her husband Fred and daughter Ruth, who turns 2 in July, 1928. Edith is one of at least 9 children parented by British-born William and Charlotte Knowles. This five-year diary documents her very active community life and family life during the years just preceding the Great Depression and during the first years of that economic calamity. National and local events both play roles in her entries throughout the diaries. Very Good. Item #041445
Edith’s life, ironically, does not seem to be much affected by her times although she is aware of events. She is often engaged in projects including quilt-making, hooking rugs, general sewing, and even embroidery, sometimes in company of other women. The family regularly attends Grange meetings, and Edith notes when Fred performs “haying” chores. Fred, Edith and other family members are able to go on frequent overnight, three-night, and even week-long vacation trips. Husband Fred owns both a car and a truck. The family grows plentiful vegetables and berries (enough to keep Edith and other family women canning and preserving strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, pears, beans, corn, and tomatoes for days on end), They also raise turkeys and chickens. Edith notes poultry hatchings, 12 hen deaths caused by a mink, etc. ~ Her days are very full with details of local life, including weddings, funerals, illnesses (including a flu epidemic in 1929 and another dangerous period in June, 1930), car accidents, a local suicide, widespread fires (spring, 1930), a local boy being held up and shot at by a passing motorist (April, 1929), and even the murder of a woman by a high school boy (March, 1931). Included are special local events such as: the June, 1929, opening of the Aviation Field, complete with parachute drops; the 1930 flight of 87 Army planes over the city of Lawrence; various Fairs (particularly the annual Topsfield one), the Boston Flower Show, and parades; a sighting of the “LA dirigible overhead” (1929); &c. Edith went to Springfield in March, 1929 and “saw the talking movies for the first time.” After that, she mentions seeing “Rio Rita,” “Gold Diggers.” etc. and goes to the movies fairly often. Depression-related topics include a “run on banks today. L[awrence] Trust Co. closed” (Dec. 15, 1931), and Edith’s May, 1932 “memoranda” entry: “Cost of living very cheap in these days of Depression. Can buy a dress for 50 cts or $1. Lard 5 cts…butter and eggs quite cheap....” ~ On the national scene, Edith notes elections and their run-ups, starting in November, 1929 when “everyone [is] anxious about Election.” and November 6th is “quite an exciting day. Folk went to the Grange…listened in for returns….Hoover elected.” October, 1930, she notes, was “a great time for political rallies, etc. Country stirred over the 18th Amendment.” In November, 1932, she writes: “Election Day. Everybody anxious for the outcome…Roosevelt has highest votes.” She also writes several entries in March, 1932, concerning the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. ~ Edith's own life is occupied with running her household, visiting friends and siblings, and mothering Ruth. She also gives regular piano lessons—sometimes as many as 5 a day—to local children, and presents periodic recitals by students. She plays the organ and piano at church and at Grange functions, including full-scale “operettas” (though for one of these productions she “sings behind the stage”). In November, 1932, she becomes the official organist for the North Church. Card-playing is another integral part of Edith's life. She and Fred and her various friends and siblings often meet for an evening of bridge, whist, “Russian Bank”, “63”. They are members of a Bridge Club that takes day trips as well as playing the game. Other nearby Granges —Bedford, Pomona, Bradford, West Newbury, as well as the local one—are sources of entertainment, presenting shows, dinners, and concerts along with regular meetings. The Whittiers are also members of the Junior Order (Fred), the Charitable Society and its sewing circle (Edith), various “Degrees (1st, 2nd, etc.—Grange-related), the Men’s Club, etc. They spend a lot of time going for “rides” and to various beaches, including Plum Island, where they rent a cottage for a week, as well as Marblehead, Salisbury, etc. Edith also “goes shopping” regularly in Boston, Springfield, Lawrence, and other towns. The Great Depression does not seem to have stopped the purchase of silk underwear, dresses—and a new car for Fred in October, 1931. ~ The Whittiers seem to live a communal life, spending almost every day and night with friends or family members, even vacationing in packs of up to 10. Relatives include Dad, mother (not mentioned often—Edith’s mother-in-law?), Aunt Mattie and Aunt Angie (who dies in 1932), brothers George (Sadie), John (Blanch), sisters Clara and Annie Bell (Roy), and more. Angie and Harlow are the couple they’re closest to, while Sid and Adah are frequent bridge partners, and several other people (including three named Grace) are also regularly mentioned. Towns they frequent for shopping, meetings, church gatherings, Grange events, etc., include Lawrence, Andover, West Bedford, Boxford, Lowell, Springfield, Salem, Haverhill, and Bradford. Their family vacations often involve cabins in the mountains (mostly New Hampshire) as well as the seashore. ~ By mid-1932, Edith’s chipper mood seems to flag, perhaps as the Depression wears on. Despite several short vacations taken that summer, she finds herself “unhappy all day...Just misunderstood” (August 28). The next day, she has “terrible heart-ache and tired mentally and physically....” While she mentions family illnesses, and her own, throughout the diaries, this is the only mention of her upset emotional state.