First Diaries Donated to the Diary Archive

It is with great joy and sadness that I announce the very first diary that I will put in the diary archive.    The diary measures 3 by 5 inches and the date is 1873.  This diary was written by Mrs. Glode Duggar Chubb (Pamelia Pattison Chubb) of Wayne Michigan, who was my great-great grandmother.    She was 65 when she wrote this.

It would seem there is not much in this diary as each entry is 10 to 25 words long.  Yet it is astonishing how one can get a glimpse of daily life from just that.    Typical of diaries of this age, there is little emotion revealed.  It records the weather, everyday tasks, visits to and from neighbors which were daily occurrences, sickness and death, remedies (“beladonny for scarlette fever”) and the occasional excitement like “depredations” against temperance workers’ homes and a bit about grave robbers.

This treasure has come into my possession because of my mother’s recent death at 95-1/2.  Due to the frustrating lack of communication with her medical providers the family hastily flew to Florida as we could tell she was failing even as they were telling us they expected a return to her former independent living.  My respect for the medical community has reached zero this year. They have a severe lack of  social skills and empathy, not to mention diagnostic skills – even with all their fancy testing.

She died the day after my arrival as I was sitting with her.  That is a profound experience and I am still processing all of the emotions.  All of my thoughts and feelings about death and personal experiences with it are swirling about in my mind.   I wear my emotions on my sleeve.  When your parents die you become an orphan and that takes an adjustment in perspective.

My mother left behind a dozen journals and travel diaries as well as expense accounts,  which will also go into the archive.   I never realized she wrote everything down.   My mother may have been a genius.  Many very bright people, such as Thomas Jefferson,  tend to keep fastidious records.  Apparently she also kept every card anyone ever sent her.  (Note to self: throw out those cards now.)

I have begun reading my mother’s journals.  I am reading in 1939.  She is 24 years old and a young substitute teacher in the Detroit schools.   She taught English, Latin, geometry and algebra at that time.  She writes more than my great-great grandmother, but still few feelings are revealed.  She records when she gets up and goes to bed, meals, what she does all day (teaching, housework, dishes, visiting, shopping, events she attends, playing ping pong and beating all the men, etc.)  She drives, which surprises me.  She mentions seeing certain men that she is interested in.

May 5, 1939: “Parked near his house and talked till 1:10. Fortune teller’s prophecy mostly hospital-marriage.  I think I can love Sid.”   What a thrill.  I know the end of this story.  She married Sid Manuel and they celebrated 60 years of marriage.  They had three children and I am one of them.


3 Responses to “First Diaries Donated to the Diary Archive”

  1. Barbara McDowell Whitt Says:

    You have my condolences as you adjust to life without your mother’s earthly presence. How nice that your great-great grandmother’s diary will be the first one in the National Diary Archive. Will one of your mother’s journals be the next one?


  2. Barbara McDowell Whitt Says:

    Cynthia, I just looked at your post again and realize now that you have said that your mother’s journals and diaries will also go into the archive. That is wonderful.


  3. Heidi MacDonald Says:

    Cynthia, I’m very sorry to hear of your mother’s death. I was also with my mother when she died and it was a life-altering experience. It seems fitting that the first contributions come from your family. Their writing will be the cornerstone of the archive.

    This time of year can be hard on those of us who have lost loved ones. I’m thinking of you and hope you draw strength from the time you shared with your mom.


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