It is almost like reading Jane Austen, but it dates from about 30 years earlier. That is what I like best about one of our latest additions to the collections. Hannah Hadassah Hickok was born in South Britain, Connecticut ,in 1767. Her diary No. 2, (I wish we had No. 1) which dates from February 19, 1784-June 8, 1786, provides insight into the life of a very intelligent young lady who often considered herself above her peers. For example, on February 20, 1784, she wrote:
To-day rose at ten went to cleaning rooms till noon, when I went to spinning. Gibbs has been here, we have had some dispute, he is a vexation & I dislike him too much to write about him. I have mov’d my study today”.
Gibbs continued as a vexation until Hannah “escaped” to Vermont to begin teaching school. She spent a lot of time in her study when she was not helping with household chores or spinning.
In May 1784 Hannah expressed her opinion about a young lady that she felt was leading a man on:
Bella tells me that Polly C–s has made O—e think she will have him, and now turns him off with disdain which occasions his soberness – But I hope he has pride for I believe Miss C—s is deceitful as is her sister and Bella says they have by their art, made interest by O—ne, who has sent them great numbers of books and costly presents – This I believe is true and they ridicule him to the last degree for it which in my opinion they are in the fault for doing.
Finally, here is her assessment of two girls not much younger than herself:
Miss Knowles is young, which excuses her awkward behavior but Miss Mitchell is really a very sensible, learned, instructive and conversable young Lady – She is a year younger than I am, with admirable education for her years and indeed advantages, if I may call the having of teachers advantages, tho she has had time allow’d her – People in general don’t like her, they say she is proud and fond of shewing her learning by continually talking of the learned men, poets, Heroes, Goddesses and Gods in a high stile, for which I like her – indeed she and I are to be very intimate.
Hannah later married Zephaniah Smith, a minister from Glastonbury, Connecticut, and they had five very remarkable daughters. Two of the girls, Julia and Abby are well known locally for challenging the Town of Glastonbury by refusing to pay taxes on the premise that it was taxation without representation. Laurilla was the family artist, and taught both art and French at Emma Willard’s School in Troy, New York. Cyrinthia was a dedicated horticulturist. She patiently kept notes on plants she was growing and experimented with fruit grafts. Hancy, the eldest, worked tirelessly to collect signatures on petitions calling for the end of slavery.
The library holds papers from Julia Smith, so it is fascinating to be able to examine her mother’s mind while she herself was growing up. It helps us understand the daughter in a way we could not before.
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