The sound of nineteenth-century women, once thought lost to us, is alive because ordinary women like Emily Hawley Gillespie gave voice to their thoughts in diaries. This condensed version of the 2,500-page journals of Emily Gillespie, faithfully written from 1858 to 1888, is a detailed account of rural Iowa life. More than this, it contains the reflections of a woman who dreamed of being a painter and writer and instead became a wife and a mother, a woman whose radical convictions were recorded in her diary, while publicly she conformed to the prescribed life of a Victorian pioneer woman. Through Emily's journals, readers are offered immediate and unmodified contact with settlers in Iowa one hundred years ago. A wealth of facts are includedOCowhat produce she harvested and preserved from her garden, how her husband tended his fields and what he raised, the challenges and rewards of family life.Judy Lensink's skillful analysis shows the larger patterns in Emily Gillespie's life and provides keys that unlock the diary's secrets. Emily's life is revealed as a youth full of promise fading into middle and declining years of lost dreams and eventual tragedy, which caused her to write, I have written "many" things in my journal, but the worst is a secret to be burried when I shall cease to be."
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A pioneer in rural Iowa, Gillespie kept a journal for 30 years, and excerpts here form an absorbing drama. An independent-minded 20-year-old when she begins her diary, she is besieged by suitors--all of whom she coolly evaluates and rejects, although a woman of her age was then considered more than ripe for marriage. Gillespie waits four more years, marrying only when she falls in love. She writes of finding great happiness with her two children and her "very kind" husband, and hard work does not prevent her from reading Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and advocating women's suffrage. Gradually her contentment with her husband erodes as she withdraws sexually and he becomes frighteningly hostile, and the rigors of her existence foment an illness from which she never recovers. The secret referred to in the title is deliberately buried with her; she confides only that she has one. Extensive editorial commentary places Gillespie's life into historical context. Lensink teaches literature at the University of Arizona. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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