Edith had a very practical and spare
style with which she described the daily events of her life. Her
narrative is more of a chronicle than a journal; it is not as reflective
as the modern reader might expect. The entries vary in structure,
based on the subject. They also fluctuate with Edith's level of
health and energy. The reader may have many questions with regard
to what she chose to include. Her entries reflected her productivity,
but often left out much reflection on the process of her production.
She recorded visits and calls from friends and neighbors, but only occasionally
listed the content of conversations. By observing closely what she
wrote, however, one begins to see Edith's unspoken standards of duty, loyalty
and compassion. One sees in her entries a woman with a great sense
of determination and practicality, yet one who remains flexible in the
midst of the climate of uncertainty during the war. One sees in the
diary her willingness to assist her needy loved ones and neighbors as the
war brought about daily changes.
Edith's determination and compassion
are present in the following quotation. She recorded Mena's emotional
reaction to the personal circumstances of the war, reflected on how it
mirrored her own, and expressed a practical solution: "It is hard for her
to bear Louis [R.] going away. She has to make herself keep going
and try to bear it as carmly [sic] as she can. And it is the same
with me." Edith's duty and loyalty were revealed when Mena
asked her to take care of the Robbins farm; Mena while wanted to accompany
Maurice on his sales route and take a short holiday trip: "I told her to
plan to go for I would do the cooking for the Church supper that she was
supposed to do, and we could manage with the chores, Ect."
Edith also showed her compassion in her prayers for her grandson's safety:
"Am thinking of Louis [R.] good a deal of the time. We wonder where
his destination will be and pray that he will be kept safe and will return
to us whole in body and mind."
Edith's flexibility was expressed
in her innovative techniques for accomplishing tasks: "I have done some
mending and washing for Agnes and am sending it by mail. She expects
to have to go to Philadelphia Wed. for a week and may be longer."
Her sense of practicality appeared in her reflection on the repairs to
the Masse's barn: "They finished the barn roof to night. Cost $166.40.
More than we expected but it will last a good deal longer than Louis [Z.]
or I will."
Edith took single-year diaries and
made three-year diaries out of them. She divided each page into three
sections and wrote one entry in the small space allotted for that day.
She could then see three tiny entries on each page, one for each day of
three consecutive years. Her technique reflects the utilitarian and
pragmatic nature of her work and her frugality; she did not want to "waste"
any of the diary's pages. It was important that she could see her
production over three years. Edith's practice of recording her daily
productivity reveals how seriously she took her job of "housewife."
Edith could later assess the records she kept of her job of managing the
farm and the household from year to year, in fact, she could observe three
years at once, just as the manager of a small business would keep records
for later assessment.
Edith's life, as depicted in the
diary, is a daily combination of events. These range from the world
events she heard from family, on the radio, or read in letters from relatives
and friends, to local happenings in her town. Within her lists of
what she accomplished, she noted what Louis Z. was doing, and one can see
the divisions in their work, as well as where the jobs required both of
their sets of skills to complete. She mentioned who "called," either
by phone or in person, and where she traveled, on errands, or when rationing
was over, on Sunday drives.
Edith's diary was written for herself
and is full of loose grammar, meant to save time and space in the physical
diary. The brevity of her entries reminds the reader of the narrative
forms in the Bible, which are also spare, and short on descriptive detail.
Her language often reflected her speech patterns, and she used the common
idioms of her region and time. For example, in her record of the
family and friends who kept in touch, the reader will note that she used
the term "called" to indicate a visit in someone's home. If she noted
a telephone conversation, she mentioned the phone. Also, the terms
"supper" and "dinner" are not interchangeable. "Dinner" means the
midday meal, and "supper" indicates the evening meal. The distinction
between these two terms reflects the practice of eating a large meal at
the middle of the day, a common practice among farmers. A gathering
of relatives on Sunday, the traditional Christian "day of rest" was organized
around a shared meal. When Edith used the term "Sunday dinner," she
referred to a large meal between the usual lunch time and supper time and
to the traditional social gathering.
Edith spelled contractions by constructing
the whole word and adding the "'nt" at the end. She also splits many
compound words in the middle, and wrote them as separate words, such as
"grand son," and "to day." These two practices reflect the
rhythm of her speech. Her speech pattern can be identified as non-rhotic,
meaning she does not pronounce the /r/ where it follows a vowel in words
like "car" or "cart." There are only a few areas in the world
where non-rhotic dialect is prevalent: in parts of Great Britain, in the
Northeast United States and in the Southern United States. Maine
dialect is often spoken slowly and has been influenced by French Canadian
Edith wrote the diary to herself
and sometimes misspelled words. Her spelling of words which were
unfamiliar to her is phonetic and reflects her speech pattern, shown in
her choice of spelling.
The following is a selection of
common idioms which Edith used. Going "up (Skowhegan) way" means
going to another town to the north. A "mess of peas" means a large
bunch. When she says she "feel(s) rather mean to day," she means
that her physical health was poor and was making her uncomfortable.
A "slick and a promise" equals too quick a clean-up job. Edith used
creative ways to describe her activities. In the winter time, when
she and Louis Z. were less active outside, she said they would "hive up"
for the cold months. When she did a variety of small jobs, rather
than list them she said she had "chored around."
Lengthy descriptions of any topic
are missing, except an occasional paragraph about nature. These seem
to match Edith's feelings and direct the reader's attention to patterns
of rural living which are closely tied to the seasons. An example
of her description would be this passage: "This is a lovely Oct. morning.
Sun glistening on water & trees. bright in autumn colors..."
Edith sometimes opened her entries with a brief natural description like
the one above, but only used it to set the scene. She moved quickly
from her description to record her activities and those of her family.
The War in Daily
Friday, May 1, 1942
From 1942 to 1945, when Edith
kept this segment of her diary, the United States was at war with Germany
and Japan. Many aspects of life were altered by the events taking
place in the world political scene and daily life changed as the United
States economy was focused upon production for the armed services.
The war entered the home through direct economic changes and radio broadcasts
which affected American's daily lives. The war brought changes to
the farming town of Vassalboro, but these were different than the changes
which occurred in larger urban areas. In Maine's port towns
of Bath and South Portland, jobs were created by the arms industry.
The ship yards at Bath supplied the US. navy with destroyers and
the facilities at South Portland built more than a hundred "Liberty Ships"--large
cargo ships for transporting supplies.
Pa churned Mena's cream before he
went to camp. I dressed 14 1/2 lbs. Home nursing class met
again at Ruby's. I cleaned attic in P.M.
Monday, May 4, 1942
We are lucky to have tar put on
our road today. The Government have closed down on tar being used
on the roads. I have done some mending and washing for Agnes and
am sending it by mail. She expects to have to go to Philadelphia
Wed. for a week and may be longer. Also my own [washing.] Louis
[Z.] made two trips to Oakland to day with Howard Merrill with his birch
Thursday, April 2, 1942
Went to Waterville with Louis [Z.]
this A.M. Got some "Black Out cloth" for kitchen & pantry windows.
This P.M. I went up to Mena's and did some of her ironing and brought the
rest home to do tomorrow. Louis is gone over to camp. in P.M.
Friday, May 8, 1942
A rainy day and everything looks
green and pretty. The nursing class met again at Ruby's this P.M.
Pa and I are going over to Agnes this evening, to be gone until Sun. nite,
to lay her living room floor while she is gone. We are to have our
first Black-out tonight but we won't be here.
Tuesday, April 25, 1944
Ray Clifford came to paint for us
this morning, screens, gutters & boat. I have painted on piazza
chairs to day. Been over to see Ken to night. He is'nt [sic]
very sick, good appetite and not tempature. [sic] Had a half-hour
black out to night.
In urban areas, like New York City
and Oakland, California, women were increasingly employed in factories
and other paid labor positions, since men's service in the armed forces
removed them from the domestic labor market. The experiences of women
entering the work force in cities stand in contrast to those described
in Edith's diary. The pace of change, as affected by the war, in
rural areas like Vassalboro was much slower. Vassalboro was
affected by the draft, and volunteer service, of the town's young men who
joined the armed services; in 1945, the town Fire Department was "short
handed" because so many men had left for the war.
World War II mobilized the people
of Vassalboro in many ways. Edith's children had been active within
and outside of their communities since the 1920s, and they were reliant
upon automobiles for accomplishing their civic and employment duties.
With the draft, however, Edith's grandchildren began to leave the state,
many for the first time. When Louis R. and Gerald were in the
armed services, and Wallace was away at boarding school, the remaining
relatives in Edith's family had to adjust by redistributing the farm work.
During the war, Edith's work-load was most affected by the combination
of her family's need to supplement their farm income with outside work,
and the lack of available relatives to work the Robbins farm. The
elder people of the family, Edith and Louis Z., who were retirement age,
often assumed the responsibilities which the young men left behind.
Edith's knowledge of the political
and international events of World War II came mostly from radio broadcasts,
but her direct experience of it came though rationing, blackouts and through
the absence of her grandsons and her son-in-law, John, as they joined the
armed forces. On many occasions, she remarked that celebrations and
picnics were not the same without all of their family members present.
She wrote :"Malvena's family came to spend the day with us at camp.
Agnes took snapshots of the group. We wrote a letter, each one a
sheet, to John & Louis. How We wish they could have been there."
Edith noted of the effects of the
war which enter her daily routine. She noted the nursing class at
her daughter-in-law's house :"Nursing class met again at Ruby's" which
was sponsored by either Ladies Aid or the Red Cross. She mentioned
the "Black-out" cloth and black-outs in her community, a common practice,
much like a fire drill, for a town to hide itself from possible enemy planes
flying over head at night. She also noted an aspect of war shortages
which will directly affect her family: "We are lucky to have tar put on
our road today. The Government have closed down on tar being used
on the roads." The maintenance of the roads in Maine's changing
climate is no small task; when the ground freezes in the winter the
"frost heaves" leave ruts and holes, and crack the tar surface. Edith's
family traveled quite frequently to jobs, to visit relatives and on errands
to nearby towns. The cutback on road maintenance was one which affected
Edith's family on a daily basis.
Edith also notes a job that she
and her husband accomplished together: "Pa and I are going over to Agnes
this evening, to be gone until Sun. nite, to lay her living room floor
while she is gone." Since John, Agnes' husband who might have supervised
this task, was in the armed forces, Louis Z. and Edith assisted Agnes with
the renovation of her home, in this case, while she is away at work.
Edith's usual duties sometimes included furniture re-finishing, but this
job seems quite out of her "sphere" of responsibilities. Louis Z.
probably oversaw and assisted the workmen with the actual laying of the
new floor, and Edith supported him with her usual duties of cooking,
cleaning and doing the chores in the house where they were staying.
But sometimes, if Louis Z. needed an extra hand, he asked Edith to assist
him. She and Louis worked together to complete a job in another part
of the renovation process:
"Pa went to work on the
bath room wall to remove corrugated wall board and put on plain so the
linowall can be cemented to it for the shower bath. It was a hard
& fussy job but we both worked together on it and got it all done but
filling the nail holes and a few cracks."
The material Edith cites--"linowall"--must
be a sort of water-proof linoleum for the shower. In this case, her
participation in the family economy, and her husband's offer to assist
Agnes required that she help her husband complete a "man's" task.
Edith more frequently shared tasks with her daughters Mena and Agnes than
with her husband. In all cases, however, sharing a job served several
purposes; two people could complete a task more efficiently than one, they
could share that satisfaction in a job well-done, and they could share
the process of work itself, which sometimes took their minds off difficult
emotional matters, like the war.
The war was a time of shortages
of goods as well as labor for the Robbins farm. Edith kept a record
of the ways in which she and her family became accustomed to adapting to
these shortages. They combined innovative strategies and traditional
practices and coped with the daily shortages.
Wednesday, May 6, 1942
Got card from Agnes. She has
started this morning from Philadelphia, to be gone nearly two weeks I guess.
Have ironed all afternoon. This A.M. went up to the school house
to register for sugar stamp book. Everyone is allowed 1/2 lb. per
week. Stimpson brought Mena's second can of gass (sic.) Came
in here to fix my stove but broke off a screw & I am no better off.
Monday, February 7, 1944
I have fixed up a box of food and
sent to Ken & Wallace. Also have sent 8 lbs. of butter to Athol,
a pound each to Ern, Aurie, Gladys, John, Geo., Jen, Edna & Eunice.
Louis has cut the quarter of beef into thirds & we all have a share.
Probably will can some of it.
Saturday, February 12, 1944
"A very stormy day, fine snow and
a wind that piles it into drifts...Wrote to Aurie to day. Sent back
money for the butter I sent her."
Thursday, February 25, 1943
Am trying to lie down as much as
I can according to Dr.'s orders. Called on Mrs. Lockett and Nettie
in P.M. and stopped at schoolhouse to get our "Ration Book No. 2."
Thursday. April 20, 1944
The Beck's have come to put a metal
roof on the barn. Have made out my order for canning sugar this morning,
40 lbs. Hope to finish dress to day.
Friday, April 21, 1944
They finished the barn roof to night.
Cost $166.40. More than we expected but it will last a good deal
longer than Louis or I will. I finished my dress to day. Now
I am in for house cleaning.
Sunday, November 19, 1944
"A lovely day. Ken went back
to school to day. Granpa & I took him as far as Fairfield.
Then we went up to Skowhegan & back. Felt real guilty to use
the gass [sic] but Pa longed for a little ride before we hive up for the
Tuesday, March 20, 1945
Churned 7 lbs butter. Sold
two lbs. and 2 qts. cream to Grange Meeting supper to night. Mrs. Goodrich
& Mr. Tobey came this morning to get advice from Louis [Z.] on lumber
she has sold. It is very poor sap season so far. Hope to get
cooler nights soon.
Another significant change during
World War II that affected Edith's management of the household were the
practices of rationing of food and gasoline. Shortages affected everyone
and were constant reminders of the war. Rationing affected the daily
and seasonal cycles of food preparation; the scarce commodities included
sugar, which was vital for baking and canning. Edith's management
of the household's food supply was strained by the unavailability of canned
fruit. She find relied upon her traditional skill of home-canning
as an alternative. There were local farmers from whom she could purchase
fresh fruit, and hr family often picked the fruit themselves and brought
it home for her to preserve, but the rationing of sugar made her work more
difficult. She had to order her sugar in advance in accordance with
rationing: "went up to the school house to register for sugar stamp book.
Everyone is allowed 1/2 lb. per week." Louis Z's "hobby" of making
maple syrup expanded to provide a sugar substitute.
What may have begun as a traditional
hobby for Louis Z. had become a major production during World War II.
The process of "tapping" the maple trees for sap and boiling it down to
make syrup shifted because of the high demand created by rationing.
As collecting sap and making syrup became more important and the Masse
family tried to bring in larger quantities to use as a sugar substitute,
the operation had to be moved outside.
Edith and Mena initially assisted
with the boiling of the sap, as the diary shows. But the operation
was eventually moved to a cabin outside the house so the quantities of
syrup produced could be managed more easily and not interfere with the
rest of the women's' work. One can see the intense labor involved
in the boiling process; the boiling sap, which required constant
supervision, created a huge amount of steam, and left a residue of stickiness
on all cooking surfaces. Edith wrote: "Have spent all afternoon cleaning
up stove. Maple syrup boiled over and I never had such a mess.
Stove covered with burned on syrup."
The task of syrup making was divided
into two realms of Edith's world; her husband "tapped" the maple tree,
punctured the bark with a metal spout, and hung a bucket on it. He
then collected the bucket and the boiling process began. After the
sap was boiled, it was canned for later use. Since Edith and Mena
were in charge of the cooking, they boiled the sap during the spring seasons
of 1942 and 1943. By common consent, the woman's part of the job--boiling--
was moved to a cabin out by the mill, which transferred the first two aspects
of the job to Louis Z. Edith noted that the responsibility
of producing syrup shifted to her husband: "Pa is getting ready to make
sap syrup. Made a stove, a big pan for boiling and is putting up
a little house over beyond the mill." The Edith and Louis Z.
shared the syrup supply with their relatives, who were also neighbors:
"Louis [Z.] busy all day tending to the sap. Boiled down over a gallon
for Ruby to day." Yet despite the shift in who was responsible
for the boiling, she still felt it was a family operation:
"Sap camp going full blast
to day. Carried a gallon of syrup up to Mena [word cut off] night.
Pa is spending the evening over there boiling sap. Agnes called on
her way to Hampden. She wanted me to go but I could'nt [sic] leave
Pa with so much to do.
If the weather was "poor for sap,"
and the quantity of gathered sap was low, the women boiled the smaller
quantity it in their homes and the family relied more heavily upon
other sweeteners. One entry notes the purchase of 28 pounds of honey
from a neighbor, Mr. Ray Dow, of Riverside. The canning of
the syrup, however, remained a women's job; Edith notes that she, Mena
and Ruby all canned Louis Z.'s syrup. All three households could
then use the syrup that was gathered and processed by Louis Z. The
home-made syrup eased the use of rationed sugar for canning.
Edith produced goods and provided
services which contributed to the family's participation in the bartering
system. One might assume that they had practiced bartering during
the years previous to the war, because of their remote rural location and
their "neighborliness." Edith's family relied upon these previous
barter relationships, within their families and the larger community, to
sustain themselves during the rationing of goods during World War II.
Trading goods and services with a local family member or friend was more
convenient than the nine mile trip to the nearest grocery store, especially
when the supply of many foodstuffs were short or unpredictable.
During rationing of butter, when
Edith churned cream from the Robbins' farm (Mena and Maurice's) cows she
sent it to friends and relatives, who, sometimes sent money.
Edith's resourcefulness was a continuation from earlier Depression years.
Her mastery of traditional skills enabled her to "make do" in difficult
times. Edith had more access to milk and meat since she lived in
a farming community and often shared what she had with neighbors and relatives.
Three of the above entries which
involve the distribution of butter and cream are examples of Edith's different
options for distributing what she has produced. Edith notes that
she "sent 8 lbs. of butter to Athol, a pound each to Ern, Aurie, Gladys,
John, Geo., Jen, Edna & Eunice." The family members she describes
are relatives who visit Maine during the summer months in the China Lakes
region. Aurie had apparently mailed Edith a check in exchange for
the butter. In the entry dated a week later, Edith "sent back the
money for the butter I sent her." Had Edith meant the butter to be
a gift? Edith didn't usually trade in currency with relatives, but
did she expect some other compensation at a later time, in the manner of
her trading goods with Mr. Rollins and other neighbors?
A different option for Edith was
the direct, but informal, sale of the milk products. In the entry
for March 20, 1945, she noted how many pounds of butter and cream she sold
to the Grange meeting. She seems to have no qualms about selling
this commodity to the meeting, but will not accept a cash payment from
relatives. The reader may note the flexibility of Edith's sense of
"family," if the butter is a gift. It was probably quite an effort
to mail such commodities out of state. Her generosity reflects her
understanding of the effects of scarcity which is a result of rationing.
These examples reveal Edith's three
circumstances of "trading" the butter and cream that she has produced.
Her production relied upon her other family members' provision of raw milk,
but she made the decision about where the final product would go.
Edith's motivation for producing the butter, and how she felt about her
work, were complex. The practical purpose of earning money for her
family remained central, but giving a needed commodity to relatives was
emotionally satisfying, as was the promise of bartering a product she has
made for an equally valuable product, given at a neighbor's convenience.
Each trading practice has its purpose and relevance in her life.
The variety of Edith's "trading" experiences indicate that a secondary
economic system is at work, one which is dependent upon Edith's production
Tuesday, April 7, 1942.
The entry above shows the pattern of
exchange between neighbors. Edith mentions that Arthur Dutton brought
eggs which she purchased in order to give them to Agnes. Edith preserved
these eggs for her daughter. Her purchase of the local eggs made
it possible for a neighbor to keep up his livestock, and left one less
item to purchase on shopping trips to the larger towns. Edith mentioned
shopping at the First National Grocery Store and at the A&P:
"We went to Waterville and took Mena. Did some shopping at A&P,
& First National. Pa got him self some shirts & sweaters
& shoes. I did'nt [sic] get any thing but stationary."
Bartering with neighbors made these trips to neighboring towns of Waterville
and Augusta less necessary, and saved the gasoline required to get to the
Louis [Z.] gone off to camp again
with his lunch. I've made pies, two for Grange supper to night.
Arthur Dutton brought down 4 doz. eggs for Agnes. I am putting down
a jar for her. Marion stayed all night while her folks went to Grange.
Gasoline rationing curtailed one
of the Masse's favorite leisure activities. Edith and Louis Z. no
longer went on scenic weekend drives, as they had before the war.
They limited this recreation until the war was over, with one or two exceptions.
They "Felt real guilty to use the gass [sic] but Pa longed for a little
ride before we hive up for the winter." It is interesting to compare
this rare glimpse at Louis Z's. and Edith's preferred leisure activity,
the Sunday drive, to Edith's usual, matter-of-fact reports of their work.
When rationing is officially called off, they do splurge and take long
drives :"Pa & I took a nice ride to day, the second nice ride we have
had since gass [sic] came off the ration list. Went to Skowhegan,
Norrigeworck, [sic] Oakland, through Sidney to Augusta and back to camp
& and home..."
Edith has many roles- mother,
grandmother and volunteer- and her traditional occupation of "housewife"
encompassed a number of responsibilities, based upon her rural upbringing.
The traditional duties of a wife
and mother in the town of Vassalboro reflected the norms in other parts
of the United States. In the two decades leading up to the 1940s,
the role of the housewife was valued, idealized, yet at the same time,
it was challenged by the changing economic realities of that era;
extra wages were required if a family was to maintain its middle-class
status. Women were traditionally trained in the home by their
mothers, and other female relatives, in the basics of running a rural home.
The role of the rural housewife included traditional practices of production
which differed from the role of women in urban areas. Urban housewives
no longer had the same home-economy and their roles had transformed
more quickly from "producers" of goods and services to "consumers" of goods
The role of the rural housewife
was more self-sufficient than that of the urban housewife, partly due to
her isolated location and her greater reliance upon local resources and
people. Running a rural home required a large variety of techniques
for preserving food, standards of cleanliness, flexibility in planning
tasks to accommodate for child care, and assisting one's family in the
operation of the farm. One suspects the latter was taught by example
from both a child's parents and from interactions in the child's home.
The following excerpts reveal the training process between Edith and her
Sunday, February 20. 1944
A nice day. Wrote to Lee at
Keesler Field Miss. Malvena & Agnes came from Hampden this evening.
Marjory has been taking care of things with Maurice while Mena has been
gone. She feels quite grown up now. Abbie and Mrs. Cosby called
Friday, June 9, 1944
Ironed most all day. Marjory
came with a sun-suit she wanted to make on my [sewing] machine so I had
to spend quite a lot of time with her. Mena had letter form Louis
saying he was being put through different stunts, crawling 200 yds. on
stomach with machine guns firing over his head and bombs exploding all
around. Said he was never so tired in his life.
Saturday, June 10, 1944
A nice rain which is very much needed.
Gardens can't grow with out it. Marjory has been down again to sew.
Have sewed, cooked & ironed to day. Herman asked me to go to
Waterville with them to night but I felt to [sic] tired. I must write
to the boys in service: Gerald, Louis, Lee, Virgil & John. Agnes gone
home by way of Rockland to night.
Saturday, April 21, 1945
Pa and I went over to Agnes.
Got there at noon. She had dinner ready. In P.M. Pa & Agnes
took off banking, double windows, washed windows before putting on screens,
raked most of lawn & burned leaves and twigs, mowed lawn. Fixed
wood pile in shed that had tumbled down.
Edith notes many different tasks,
some of which are guideposts of her duties as a wife and as a woman contributing
to her "home-economy." Some of her duties involved directly supporting
her husband by working with him. For example, she assisted her husband
in the repairs of a home purchased by their youngest daughter, Agnes.
She also maintained her own home; she cleaned, painted and reconstructed
windows, screen doors, furniture. Some tasks show how she taught
techniques to her grandchildren and other notations of her husband's duties
exclude her. The following two entries exemplify the contrasting
tasks in Edith's life :
Saturday, July 10, 1943
We got up at 4 o'clock this morning
and started for Agnes['s]. Got over there at 6 o'clock as she was
getting up. Pa went to work on the bath room wall to remove corrugated
wall board and put on plain so the linowall can be cemented to it for the
shower bath. It was a hard & fussy job but we both worked together
on it and got it all done but filling the nail holes and a few cracks.
Saturday, October 7, 1944
A warm, bright day. We are
having a thunder shower now. Went to Bangor to night with Agnes.
Have been ironing curtains. Agnes is getting a Christmas box ready
to mail John. Also one to Louis [R.] We cleaned the hall to
day and did some odd jobs. Expect to go home tomorrow. Guess
Pa will be glad to have a cook by this time.
Monday, October 30, 1944
A cold morning. [sic] Took
off Agnes screens. Washed house windows, also the double windows
and put them on. Put on banking paper. Did quite a few
odds & ends to make things warm for winter. Came home, 5 o'clock,
also Agnes started for Augusta at the same time. I rode with her
as far as China then we seperated [sic]; I got in with Pa. Had a
card from Gerald.
"Guess Pa will be glad to have
a cook by this time." Edith refers to her husband's relief at having
her come home to cook for him. The reference is an indication of
the traditional role which she was expected to fulfill. The brief
statement also implies he had patience while she was away helping Agnes,
and he could probably go to Mena's if he got fed up fending for himself.
In contrast, her description of
preparing the bathroom for repairs is a strenuous, two-person job in which
she assisted. "It was a hard & fussy job but we both worked together
on it and got it all done but filling the nail holes and a few cracks."
Her approach to the task was practical and reveals a sense of determination
which is reflected throughout the diary. Her duty to Agnes while
John was away was to assist in making their home comfortable and livable,
despite the absence of an additional handy-man to help Louis Z. Her
practical sensibility was shaken only when she is ill, and was mourning
Edith was not employed in the changing
urban war-time economy of 1942-1945 but her work expanded to compensate
for her daughter Mena's changing role. When Mena's husband, Maurice,
had to take a second job as a salesman, that left Mena alone to do heavy
work, like tend the livestock of their farm, and supervise the harvests
of corn and beans. In 1943, all three of Mena's sons were away, either
in the armed services or at boarding school. Mena was expected to
do the farm work which was usually assigned to men in addition to her usual
duties. Maurice was often gone for part of the week, and Mena and
her daughter Marjory were at home alone. Edith and Louis Z. assisted
the Robbins family in many ways. The reader may note that the Edith
mentioned no milking machine until July, 1945 when they used "the new"
one. The "barn full" of cows were milked by hand, which may account
for Edith's concern at Mena's solitary workload.
Friday, September 10, 1943
Canned carrots & fixed some
of Wallace clothes for school. Went up to Menas in morning.
Pa went to camp but came home to help on Maurice corn. Herm took
his crew to pick and hauled away a big truck load to Farmington Falls to
night. Mena has picked corn all afternoon and I think it is to [sic]
hard for her. She had a letter from Louis and account of dedication
of the big hospital where he is.
Friday, November 5, 1943
Did ironing. Mena & Marjory
spent night here. Maurice in Portland. Mena is over burdened
with a barn full of animals to take care of. Besides she had to cook
for a church supper.
Thursday, December 9, 1943
Pa went up to Mena's to night to
help with chores. Maurice gone to night and tomorrow night.
Mena & Marjory came home with us to sleep here. It is to [sic]
bad he has planned so many chores for her to have to do when he is gone.
No other woman here in the place would do what she has to do.
Thursday, December 16, 1943
It is 20 [F] below Zero this morning.
Maurice is gone for the night again, leaving Mena with the care of a barn
full of stock. Brown boy did'nt [sic] show up. Pa & Herm
went up and helped her finish up after she had them most done. Brought
she & Marjory down to stay all night. I have made cookies this
P.M. to send to Nettie Skillings. They are having a discouraging
time up there. Both Mrs. Lockett and Frank sick and blue. Telephone
line out of comission. [sic]
Thursday, December 30, 1943
I have been makeing a house dress
for Mena. Maurice has been gone two nights leaving all of those animals
for Mena to take care of. Pa has been up to milk a cow that is a
hard milker. I don't think Maurice shows Mena one bit of consideration
to fill that barn full of stock and expect her to carry on when he is gone
Thursday, March 29, 1945
Up to Menas again this P.M.
Started on Davenport cover. Maurice gone to night. Mena doing
all milking. I don't think he uses her right.
Tuesday, October 6, 1942
Went up to Menas a few minutes this
morning to carry milk for pig. She would like to go with Maurice
this week on his trip through Farmington, Stratton, Eustis and Bigham,
to be gone with two nights to celebrate their 21st wedding anniversery
[sic] that will be next week the 15th. I told her to plan to go for
I would do the cooking for the Church supper that she was supposed to do,
and we could manage with the chores, Ect. [sic] Marjory stayed here
night & boys came down to breakfast and took the buss [sic] for school.
Edith's comments about Mena's
new responsibilities are some of the harshest in the diary. They
show her feelings of protection toward her daughter; she would liked to
have to seen a different resolution to the labor problem, one that spared
Mena's having to make such physical sacrifices. Mena was in her forties
at the time and Edith was concerned about her daughter's health.
Her comment, "Mena has picked corn all afternoon and I think it is to [sic]
hard for her," shows both Edith's concern and the lack of assistance Mena
has during the harvest. It also reveals Edith's concerns about the
"appropriateness" of a woman do a large amount of physical labor.
Her next comment shows how Mena struggled to maintain her original role
and responsibilities, in addition to her added responsibility of the management
of the farm: "Mena is over burdened with a barn full of animals to take
care of. Besides she had to cook for a church supper." Edith
was impressed by Mena's perseverance in her difficult, dual role.
She was candid in her opinion of her daughter's circumstances and felt
that Maurice had made the wrong decision on several occasions because he
left his wife to do all the work alone: "It is to [sic] bad he has planned
so many chores for her to have to do when he is gone. No other woman
here in the place would do what she has to do." Edith felt that her
daughter was strong and admirable in her continuation of the farm duties,
but saw the continuing pattern as detrimental: "Maurice is gone for the
night again, leaving Mena with the care of a barn full of stock.
Brown boy did'nt [sic] show up...They are having a discouraging time up
there." The last two statements from this set of entries are the
most upset in tone: "I don't think Maurice shows Mena one bit of
consideration to fill that barn full of stock and expect her to carry on
when he is gone nights." "Mena doing all milking. I don't think he
uses her right."
In July of 1945, the Robbins family
purchased a new milking machine and Louis [R.] who had been discharged
from the service, came home and could help with the farm work. Edith
left off her comments at this point and focused on other matters.
Her tone of concern was less heightened after these entries, as the war's
end brought a release of some of the tension in the work-load on the Robbins
farm. The war's end did not bring all the boys back. Wallace
began college and Gerald remained in the service where he learned to pilot
In 1942 through 1943, Edith shifted
her work to incorporate some of her daughter's housework. Edith provided
child care and did extra loads of laundry, ironed, and cleaned for Mena.
Mena and Marjory would often stay overnight at Edith's when Maurice was
away. Mena's activity in community organizations occasionally took
her into the community, away from her youngest child, Marjory. Her
activity required extra assistance from her mother. Mena held the
office of Chaplain of the Grange in 1944. She said the prayers at
the start of each meeting, attended to organizational duties, organized
the Grange women to make food for events, and was required to be present
at most Grange functions. At various times, Mena's commitment to
civic groups required that she attend meetings in the towns of Branch Mills,
Clinton, Albion and Portland. The combination of Maurice's travel
for his job, and Mena's travel for her community work, meant that Edith
and Louis Z. took care of things until they got back.
Edith assisted her daughter during
this difficult time by providing moral support and a place for she and
Marjory to stay when Maurice was away. Edith's traditional approach
to her own role supported Mena's expanded role; Edith's maintenance of
Mena's house-work duties allowed Mena to keep her active positions in the
Grange and in the Friends Church. Edith and Mena both felt the effects
of a lifestyle of mobility which was required of Maurice in order for him
to keep his additional job.
The Grange and the Friends Church
were two organizations which had been present in the Vassalboro community
for at least a century before World War II. The women in these organizations,
and others, used their previous fundraising and organizing strategies to
address the new needs of the community during the war. Edith and
Mena fulfilled their duties to their community and supported the war effort
by their voluntary contributions of time, money and home-made goods to
many community-based service organizations.
During the War
Monday, January 19, 1942
A rainy day but washed just the
same, and did some machine work for the Red Cross.
Tuesday, January 20, 1942
Went up to Grange Hall to Ladies
Aid dinner, had business meeting and did sewing for Red Cross.
Tuesday, January 27, 1942
Sewed on house dress. Mr.
Tailor [Taylor] called to collect for Red Cross. Gave $5.00.
Louis [Z.] don't miss much of the war news over the radio. Our American
Boys are being sent over to different points of the conflict. It
means hard times ahead for everyone.
Wednesday, February 11, 1942
I worked alone on the dress to day.
Mena will come again tomorrow. The war news looks pretty dark.
How and when it will end. We wonder.
Friday, September 18, 1942
Was up to Mena's all day.
Pa came up to dinner. She was getting ready to entertain Christmas
club. I took every thing out of her front room and cleaned it while
she got her refreshments ready. Then we worked together. Only
four members was there after all the fuss.
Wed. Sept. 30, 1942
Took Charles over to camp and Louis
showed him around. Had dinner over there. After dinner we went
and called on Pearle, also the Hawes boys, and Geo. & Olive Pierce.
Went to cemetery. Then to Coopers Mills & Jefferson to the C.C.C.
camp which has been converted into an "Old Man's Home"; Some one
there that knew Charles.
Thursday, October 1, 1942
We spent all day at Charles Baker's
Auction. Sold 42 head of pure bred cows and farming implements.
A large crowd there. Ladies Aid sold sandwiches, doughnuts and coffee.
Mena was sick with cold and could not go.
In World War II, women were asked
to "serve" their country in many ways. Edith was one of the three
million women who volunteered for the Red Cross. Occasionally,
she went to "surgical dressing" preparation sessions with neighbors.
More often, she sewed clothing from her home, where she could fit the work
around her busy schedule of weekly and seasonal chores. According
to Marjory, Edith's granddaughter, Edith was very shy and liked to be at
home best. Mena was more active outside her home at this time,
attending Grange and Quaker activities and bringing the baked goods Edith
had made as donations for fund-raising to local events.
The Society of Friends was the first
religious group to build a meeting house in Vassalboro and it was constructed
in 1786 at a location close to the Kennebec River. It still
stands near the current Route 201. This "River Meeting House" became
a part of Oak Grove Seminary, a secondary school founded by the Quakers
in 1850. The "East Pond Meeting" was established in 1797 and
built a meeting house in 1798. In order to accommodate the
large number of local residents who had become Quakers, there was a "Quarterly
Meeting," established in 1813, which met at the "River Meeting House."
In 1832, the brick meeting house for the "East Pond Meeting" was constructed
and it is still in use. It was the church at the "East Pond Meeting
House" that Malvena attended; she became a member of the Society of Friends
around 1917 when she attended Oak Grove Seminary. This meeting
house was the closest to Malvena's farm. The former "East Pond Meeting,"
now known as the East Vassalboro Meeting, is currently the only Quaker
Meeting still in existence in the area. In 1928 the Friendly Circle,
an organization of Quaker women, was begun in the home of Lillian Haslam,
a close friend of Mena Robbins'. The Friendly Circle met every month
from 1928 to 1971. Mena was very active in the Friendly Circle
and Edith often mentioned assisting Mena with the preparations for Friendly
Circle events, donating home-made goods and clothes for collection drives,
and participating in social meetings. Edith mentioned Mena's membership
in the "Christmas Club," which was an organization founded earlier than
the Friendly Circle, in which members met in each others' homes to sew
articles for Christmas.
Although Edith was not a Quaker,
she made numerous aprons for sales sponsored by the Friendly Circle.
Edith's volunteerism was flexible and fit in with her own sewing projects.
She mentioned making a quilt, sometimes called a "puff," for herself; she
made quilts for her children at Christmas time, and she described one of
meetings of the Friendly Circle . By the 1940s, the women of the
Friendly Circle had been meeting monthly for sixteen years. It was
an opportunity for Edith to socialize with other women in the community
and to contribute to the completion of a large project:
March 6, 1944
Have been up to Mena's this P.M.
and helped her do a few things getting the house ready to entertain the
"Friendly Circle" Wednesday for an all day session to tack a larg[e] quilt.
She & Annabel entertain together. Pa came after me & stopped
to supper. A letter came from Gerald said he was better.
March 8, 1944
Mena invited Ruby & I up to
her house to Friendly Circle. Had dinner and tacked quilt in P.M.
Also Mrs. Dr. Town entertained with showing souvineres [sic] and reading
letters discribing [sic] the people on the Island where her husband is
located. There were 18 ladies present.
These entries reveal the two
spheres of involvement in the war: the men's and the women's. Women
were participants in the volunteer organizations of the town and men were
more directly involved, through the armed services. The content of
the Friendly Circle meeting had an educational character, similar to that
of a Grange meeting. Dr. Town's wife "entertained" the group with
souvenirs and stories from her husband's location, possibly in the South
Pacific. Edith, like many of the other women, saw the opportunity
to participate in a meeting of the Friendly Circle as a social and civic
opportunity; she contributed her labor to a voluntary organization
and could share what was usually a solitary activity, sewing, with a group
of peers. "Mrs. Dr. Town" provided the group with evidence of her
husband's direct contribution to the war effort. The meeting shows
how the war made international information available to women in small
towns like Vassalboro in a personal way. This entry also shows the
how the traditional practices of a sewing circle could be harnessed to
produce goods for the war. Many of the women in these volunteer groups
were contributing to other projects as well, like the Red Cross "surgical
dressing," or bandage rolling, campaigns. These groups adapted their
traditional skills and their organizations, which were already in place,
to the needs of the community during the war.
The Vassalboro chapter of the Grange
was founded in 1895, and grew out of a number of previous "Agricultural
Societies," which date back to the beginning of the town government in
1771. The Maine Agricultural Society was founded in 1818 and
the Vassalborough Agricultural Society began in 1820. In the
1840s, Vassalboro farmers were noted for their many varieties of apples
and in the 1860s, for their thoroughbred horses and sheep.
In 1867, the national Grange was founded in Washington DC. by an employee
of the Department of Agriculture, Oliver Hudson Kelly. The Grange
was an agricultural fraternal order of farmers, set up "to remove conditions
that were sapping the life blood of the Nations farmers and to enrich all
aspects of rural living emphasizing education and social intercourse."
Many branches of the Grange established cooperative organizations, banks,
political parties, and promoted legislation which regulated the growth
of railroads. The Vassalboro area had three separate meetings
in the 1880s: the Cushnoc, Oak Grove and Vassalboro Granges.
Only the Vassalboro Grange still remains. The Grange was organized
on many levels: the National Grange, the State Grange, the Pomona Grange,
which was the county meeting. The structure of the organization
included positions such as Lecturer and Chaplain. Often the Grange
would bring in speakers on topics like new developments of farming techniques.
During World War II, Edith noted that the Grange hosted veteran speakers
who discussed their experiences from their tours of duty over seas.
Edith's role in the war effort was
primarily behind the scenes, like her agreement to take on more of her
daughters' traditional household duties. Besides supporting her male
relatives in the armed services, and giving occasional cash donations,
Edith's creation of clothing for the Red Cross was her biggest contribution
toward the war effort. When she sewed for the Red Cross, her task
became a community service. She made dresses, skirts, shirts, pants,
pajamas, and children's clothes. She sometimes made two garments
a week to donate to the Red Cross.
Her traditional training became
useful in the voluntary war effort; she could make something useful and
contribute to an organization that was directly involved with the assistance
of needy people. Her sense of thrift often led her to combine two
war-related practices, recycling and sewing:
Tuesday, Sept. 29, 1942
A heavy frost last night.
Have been picking up old keys to send to Kennebec Journal collection.
Also, Louis has picked up a load of old junk to turn in for the Gov't.
Have been entertaining Chas. Rollins and sewing for the Red Cross.
November 21, 1942
Gathered up a bunch of old silk
stockings, a bag of rags and tin cans to turn in for defence. Mended
up my old chin chiller [sic] coat and picked up & mended some things
for the Friends Missionary barrel. [sic] Morneau boys came here to
put in a 'phone call to Quebec. Their mother has had a bad shock.
Monday, April 9, 1945
Have worked most of day on a coat
that was Mother's to send to the "Friends Service Committee" along with
things Mena is going to send. Brought some things down from attic
to air in Sun. Hope to get started cleaning the house this week.
April 18-19 1945: "I have ripped
up & washed a dress to make blouse for Marjory" and then, "I have been
sewing most of day. Finished Marjory's blouse."
November 27, 1944
Washed in A.M. After dinner
we went to Waterville. I got something for quilt linings & batting
& found I did'nt [sic] get enough. So we shall plan to go again
in morning, to get more before it is gone. Mena called me in evening
& read a letter from Louis [R.] He says it is rain, rain and
no sun. I guess he is blue.
November 28, 1944
Went again to Waterville and got
more cloth. This P.M. have cut out and made a flannel night gown.
Was able to get 5 yrds. up to Cate's store. This has been a nice
day Arthur Dutton called.
December 2, 1944
Cooked, mended for Mena and this
evening have sewed patch-work. Hope to get a crazy quilt done before
December 7, 1944
Another lovely day. No snow.
Finished pieceing [sic] the squares to quilt, sewed them together ready
for the lining, bating [sic] & tacking. Pa has gone to help Mena
milk, then she and Marge will come back with him for night. She is
going to bring letters from boys for me to read.
Edith recycled materials as part
of her duty to in the war effort. She mentioned the local metal and
scrap drives, this one sponsored by the county newspaper: "Have been picking
up old keys to send to Kennebec Journal collection." Similar drives
recycled "old silk stockings, a bag of rags and tin cans" which she later
collected. Her habit of saving old things and re-using them was probably
established during the Depression when goods weren't as easily replaced.
Given her proximity to stores where she could purchase new items, her thrifty
tendencies were sensible. At other times in the diary, she mentioned
the lack of merchandise in those local stores which further encouraged
the recycling of old goods.
Edith mended torn garments instead
of replacing them with something new and provided some older clothes for
a local clothing drive: "mended some things for the Friends Missionary
barrel." Since Mena was an actual member, Edith's recycling was part
of a team effort. "Have worked most of day on a coat that was Mother's
to send to the Friends Service Committee along with things Mena is going
to send." Mena probably mentioned this national drive to Edith and
the two women put their donations together. The Friends Service Committee
is the national branch of the Quaker Church's voluntary service organization.
Once again, the reader can see the dual level of the meaning of work to
Edith; she is emotionally satisfied with her contribution to the recycling
efforts sponsored in her community, and she can share the task with Mena,
perhaps sharing some emotions raised by giving up her mother's old coat.
The two women worked together to produce something toward the war effort;
they contributed their labor to a situation over which they no control,
but fulfilled their sense of duty by giving what they had.
Edith's practice of recycling for
the war effort was probably an extension of her sense of thrift and her
need not to "waste" anything. It was also an outlet for her to be
creative. When she combined recycling with her sewing projects, such
as her quilting and dress-making for Marjory and other children, she was
utilizing her materials in an innovative, and utterly practical way.
One set of entries illustrates the recycling process in her sewing: "I
have ripped up & washed a dress to make blouse for Marjory" and then,
"I have been sewing most of day. Finished Marjory's blouse."
If she spent most of the day completing the project, it must have provided
a challenge for her. Her completion of the blouse must have been
rewarding; the old cloth from her dress was transformed into a new shirt
for her granddaughter. Perhaps Edith had run out of cloth, or ideas,
and found a solution in her old dress. The efficiency of her action
is reminiscent of the proverb, "killed two birds with one stone;"
She gave herself a challenge, created a new garment from a discarded one,
and provided her granddaughter with a gift.
Sewing as Creative
Sewing was a creative outlet for
Edith; it was an activity over which she had complete control, and which
provided her with satisfaction. It was soothing and satisfying work
for any season. Unlike other tasks which were more seasonal and were
part of her required, cyclical maintenance of her environment, a sewing
project had a beginning, a middle, and an end. It yielded a
functional as well as and an ornamental product. Sewing, unlike mending
which is part of the maintenance cycle of the household, provided a change
of pace. Sewing was an opportunity for Edith to both create an object
and to share the process of creation with her children and grandchildren.
Edith made quilts and night gowns, and dresses for herself, For Mena and
Marjory, and for her other children.
During the days of December 13th
through the 23rd, 1944, Edith sewed two quilts, one for Ruby, and one for
Mena, a pair of flannel pajamas for Marjory and a flannel night gown for
Mena. In January of 1945, she began a quilt for herself but no other
mention of the quilt is made for the rest of the month; letters from Gerald
and Louis, and illness are her main concern.
The skill and creative task of sewing
is one in which Edith can note her progress at each stage. Sewing
is more concrete than most of her work. When one compares it to house
cleaning, which seems to need constant renewal and is "never done," one
can understand why Edith records each instance of her new projects. A garment
needs renewal when one has worn it, but when one has created it from new
cloth one can feel that it is "finished." As she chose the time to
begin each project, and throughout her record of completing it, the style
of her writing was more detailed than her other entries. She always
indicated when she did the sewing and who the project was for, which indicates
that her purpose is focused on the emotional reward of giving the garment
to a family member or to an organization. She did her part, cheered
up a relative, or at least relieved another person of the task of sewing:
"In P.M. cut out and sewed on another dress for Mena." The
afternoon in which she worked on this project was a repetition of the previous
dress she made for Mena, but Edith could choose when to do the sewing;
it did not demand immediate attention, like dish washing, food preparation
or children. Perhaps her sewing. like churning butter, was
a rewarding process because it was a quiet time in which she could produce
an immediate result from her efforts.
"I got something for quilt linings
& batting & found I did'nt [sic] get enough. So we shall
plan to go again in morning, to get more before it is gone." This
entry notes the scarcity of cloth in the stores and reveals her concern
that she needed to go back right away to get the rest of the cloth so that
she could complete her project with the proper materials. Her enjoyment
of sewing and the flexibility of the job is illustrated in the following
"Went again to Waterville and got
more cloth. This P.M. have cut out and made a flannel night gown.
Was able to get 5 yrds. up to Cate's store. This has been a nice
day Arthur Dutton called."
She had a "nice day," which would
indicate that she was satisfied with the balance between her levels of
productivity and relaxation. She was able to buy "5 yrds." of appropriate
material at a local store; the Cates family owned the general store just
down the road, at the center of town. This entry also shows how her
sewing was flexible and could be fit in around visits from neighbors, like
Edith made several kinds of quilts.
She made a "puff," which was a simple quilt like a comforter, made from
large matching pieces of cloth. She also made patchwork-designed
quilts. When Edith was not able to obtain the right materials, her
surplus of scraps came to good use. She exercised her creativity
and made a goal for the completion of her project: "have sewed patch-work.
Hope to get a crazy quilt done before Christmas." In the design of
a crazy quilt, the quilt maker utilizes the odd shapes of the scraps to
make one side of the quilt. By contrast, a regular patchwork design
requires precisely measured squares of cloth for each patch. Her
details of the process of making a crazy quilt illustrate the more complicated
procedure: "Finished pieceing [sic] the squares to quilt, sewed them together
ready for the lining, bating [sic] & tacking." The "lining" would
hold her layer of various "crazy" patches to the "batting," which was what
she would have stuffed inside the quilt. The "tacking" were the bits
of thread which, tied through all the layers of the quilt at intervals,
held the stuffing inside and kept it from moving around with use daily
use and laundering. One can see the complexity of the quilting
process. Edith chose to document her quilting work with more detail
than other tasks; her written account is parallel in detail to the many
dimensions of her quilting work.
When Edith structured her own time,
and was not pressed by impending responsibilities like child care or seasonal
harvests, she chose her own tasks. Edith's choice of sewing provided
her with a break from her routine of household maintenance. As a
task, sewing satisfied her because of her appreciation of efficiency.
It provided her with an opportunity to be creative, productive and caring.
By choosing to sew, she provided herself with an enjoyable process in which
she fulfilled her family duty; she provided warmth and clothing.
She also created objects of beauty which were functional, daily reminders
of her efforts.
Edith provided more than food and
clothing for people in her family. She extended her care to them
when they were sick and provided food for neighbors who had no family.
Care of Children,
Sick Relatives and Dependents
Sunday, November 29, 1942
In P.M. Louis & I went to camp
a few minutes, then called at S. China to give Mrs. Stuart the hat she
left in the hall. Then called at Pearles. She & Cony were
over to Dudleys so we made Helen a short call. Herman & Ruby
& Marion went to their camp to put papers up to the windows.
Called at Mena's & found Marjory sick with the gripp. Helped
put on an onion poultice.
Sunday, December 27, 1942
Kenneths no better. Tempature
[sic] up again this P.M. Ruby keeping mustard plaster on his chest.
Begins to show his sickness more, no appetite. Marion staying at
home to night in her own bed since her Mother was taken sick a month ago.
Wallace up and about the house to day with bath robe on.
February 1, 1943
I have been up to Mena's all day.
She still in bed. Gave her back a good alcahol [sic] rub. She has
been down stairs this P.M. and called up Smith's in Portland. They
say he has just left there for a train home. He came in on the 5:30
buss [sic.] Granpa was up to supper. Louis [R.] says very little
but he hates to go. His Mother & I feel very sad to night.
I am staying up here to night as he has to be in Hallowell at 8:30 in the
morning to take buss [sic] to Portland thense [sic] by train to Camp Devans,
Friday, February 5, 1943.
When I woke this morning was so
dizzy could not take my head from pillow. Louis [Z.] brought me some
soda. After a while he helped me down stairs to the couch.
Took caster [sic] oil, but did'nt [sic] get streightened [sic] out for
the day. Mena brought her wash down to do. Got it dry and folded.
She went home to get supper. It is hard for her to bear Louis [R.]
going away. She has to make herself keep going and try to bear it
as carmly [sic] as she can. And it is the same with me. Do
wish we could hear from him.
Edith took care of elderly men
in her neighborhood, her sick relatives, her children, and her grandchildren.
In each case, the care was different, but once again her definition of
"family" remained flexible and included people outside her immediate circle
The entries about caring for the
sick are helpful in determining how Edith viewed her role of caretaker.
As Edith demonstrated in other entries, her judgment, with regard to the
welfare of the person who is ill, may have been influenced by her sense
of thrift. It may have been more economical to treat a relative with
a chill or flu with home remedy before bringing him or her to the
doctor. She may have avoided additional doctor's bills by suggesting
a home remedy when the sick person was having a long recovery from a professionally
diagnosed illness. Edith may have practiced her remedies as
part of her duties to the relative, or as an attempt to do all that was
in her power, before resorting to a professional opinion, especially if
the symptoms were familiar. Some of Edith's home remedies are the
same as those described in the diary of Martha Ballard, a midwife
who practiced her healing arts in the town of Augusta in the late 1700s.
The "onion poultice" and the "mustard plaster" were treatments in the eighteenth
century. Since an illnesses like the "gripp," or flu, just
had to "run it's course," the home remedy was the most desirable and the
Edith and her family assisted a
few neighbors in the town as well as helping relatives. Three bachelors
with whom she bartered, and for whom she provided food in rough times,
were Arthur Dutton, Mr. Graves, and Charles Rollins. The latter of
was an elderly friend of Louis Z.'s who visited from another town.
Marjory indicated that both Mr. Graves and Mr. Dutton lived alone on their
road; she was instructed to bring them meals at holiday times like Christmas
and Thanksgiving. Charles. Rollins, an old friend of Louis
Z.'s, is mentioned many times in the diary during his visits with the Masses.
Monday, May 29, 1944
Edith exchanged hospitality for furniture
in this entry about Charles Rollins. She said the family "brought
Chas. Rollins for a visit. Got the chair he made for us." The
chair may have been a friendly gift to exchange for his previous visits,
or as a gift between friends. Edith preserved beets for Mr. Graves,
the man to whom Mena sent food at the holidays. Her actions were
probably a gift since she did not note their exchange of any food or product.
Both of these interactions indicate an informal economy between Edith and
Louis [Z.] , I Maurice Mena &
Marjory went to Charleston to Wallace' graduation. Graduation, Memorial
Service at Cemetery & ball game in P.M. Ate a nice dinner at
domitory [sic] Left at 4 o'clock, came home by Dover-Foxcroft & brought
Chas. Rollins for a visit. Got the chair he made for us. We
had trailer on behind to bring home the boys things.
Monday, August 28, 1944
I have canned 11 1/2 qt. beets for
Mr. Graves. Louis [Z.]went to camp with team. Cut out
five aprons for Mena. Will make them as I get time. Mena had
letter from Louis [R.] to day. He is sending some things home from
"Camp Grant Ill." prepairing [sic] to leave any minute. Probably
has left now. O dear.
The quotations above include accounts
of Edith's assistance at Mena's home and at Ruby and Herman's home which
was next door to hers. Edith's house was in walking distance of both
Mena's and Ruby's. The daily visits between Mena and Edith create
a modified "extended" family; they were not always under one roof, they
close enough for regular visits. There are many entries of Marjory,
Mena's daughter, and Marion, Herman's daughter, staying over for the night,
under Edith's care. These entries are a record of her assistance
to both of the girls' parents. They also suggest that Edith's assistance
gave Mena the opportunity to participate more actively in community work
which took her outside her home. Mena had described herself as a
"housewife" when asked about her life. She omitted her level
of commitment to the various organizations which have been discussed.
Mena's community responsibilities required that she depend upon her mother
for child care on a regular basis.
Although her description of the
relationships between her family members was spare, Edith's duties as a
housewife included bartering with and taking care of her family.
She extended her hospitality to other members of her community. Edith's
response to the events of the war, which directly evoked her concern, involved
her family members. Most of her internal reflections and prayers
were about the war and the passage of time.
Prayer and Reflection
Edith's language in her diary changed
with the subject. She reflected on the passage of time and those
moments of her realization of it. Her emotional reflections are rare
and stand out among the more brief accounts of her daily tasks and errands.
She recorded some prayers about the war and her children's safety.
She often saved her comments on the war for the final section of her entry.
They provide a frame for the rest of the entry.
Monday, August 21, 1944
Edith made no note of church attendance,
only of participation in the community activities sponsored by a number
of different local churches. Although Mena described her mother as
"non-denominational," Edith kept a record of her prayers about the
war.. Her prayers were quite frequent and were evidence that she
wanted to assist her loved ones more, but this matter was out of her control.
She had a relationship with God in which she expressed her concerns.
"This is New Years Eve 1943 and our soldier boys across the water are fighting
for Peace. Will it be won in the coming year. God grant that
it may." She appealed to God to "grant" peace, end the war,
and "grant that Louis [R.] may return to us." To Edith, the end of
the war symbolized hope; peace would restore her family, and bring back
the unity that was lost as the "boys" were drafted or left to volunteer.
Prayer was a vehicle for her to release her own concerns and offer, hope
in the face of circumstances outside of her control. Prayer was a
way for Edith connect her own perspective to a larger picture of the war:
one in which peace would ultimately prevail. In keeping with her
Christian world view, she trusted that God would "grant" this gift since
the powers at work in early 1943 seemed to be more and more involved in
the conflict and less sure of the possible result.
"Aurie & Ern drove down to camp
a few minutes as they were going by for home. We all wondered what
the next year may bring forth. We are all getting along in years.
I hope to live until this awful conflict is at an end and nations can live
peacibly [sic] one with another. God grant that Louis [R.] may return
Thursday, August 31, 1944
"Am thinking of Louis [R.] good
a deal of the time. We wonder where his destination will be and pray
that he will be kept safe and will return to us whole in body and mind."
Saturday, November 4, 1944
"In evening listened to election
talk on radio. Dewey and Roosevelt 'slinging mud' at each other.
It is disgusting."
December 31, 1944
"I have written a V-mail letter
to Louis [R.] to night. Hope the boys are both well and safe."
Thursday, February 22, 1945
"...It has rained most of the day.
Many wounded soldiers are being sent back. The casualties are mounting
high. When will this war be over? O dear.
Saturday, April 28, 1945
It has rained now for three days.
A rumor came over the radio to night that Germany had surrendered to the
Allie's [sic] but afterwards the President said there is no foundation
to the story as yet. Hope it will be official soon.
December 30, 1945
The year of 1945 is almost gone.
What will the year 1946 bring to us and the world. Will it bring
Peace or more strife.
Edith recorded her reflections about
her process of aging and about her children growing up. Her reflections
often occurred when she realized a dead loved one's birthday had come and
gone. Edith usually noted how old her parents would have been if
they were still alive at the time of her writing. She commented on
passing years and noted relatives' birthdays or anniversaries.
Tuesday, February 29, 1944
"Mother would have been 96 yrs.
old today if she had lived."
Thursday, July 8, 1943
Today is Mena's birthday, 44 years
old. Don't seem that I could have a child as old as that. Makes
us realize how old we are growing.
June 22, 1944
"Agnes called on her way over to
Hampden. I gave her a birthday present to be opened Sat. the 24th.
My baby 38 years old. We are truly getting old."
Monday, June 26, 1944
Did some mending and cleaned out
in grammies room. Washed and ironed curtains. Most of
the wood bine over the bay window is dead so Louis [Z.] helped me tear
out the dead part. I shall feel bad to lose it as Mama started it
when she came to live with us from the one she had over home.
Sunday July 16, 1944
"Louis & I have been married
46 years to day."
Saturday, February 17, 1945
A letter from Agnes in Augusta,
saying she is not going over to Hampden this week end. Probably [she]
will come here some time tomorrow, it being Granpa's birthday, 69 yrs.
old. We are reconed [sic] as "old folks" now.
Monday, April 30, 1945
My father would have been 101 yrs.
old to day if he had lived.
Monday, October 29, 1945
"So cold to day my fingers ached
as I hung out my washing. Herman is 41 yrs. old to day. Pa
& I sure are getting old to have children their ages. Mena is
now 46 yrs., Herman is 41 yrs. and Agnes 39 yrs."
Saturday, June 24, 1945
"Agnes is 39 yrs. old to day.
Where do the years go so swiftly."
Edith had taken care of her mother
before her death. She expressed the depth of her relationship with
her mother when she wrote how hard it was to clear away a dying "wood bine"
plant her mother had planted by the window of the room she had lived in
at Edith's home. This entry shows that she still referred to the
room as her mother's: "cleaned out in grammies room. Washed and ironed
curtains. Most of the wood bine over the bay window is dead so Louis
[Z.] helped me tear out the dead part. I shall feel bad to lose it
as Mama started it when she came to live with us from the one she had over
When one reviews Edith's more reflective
entries, her central thoughts about her life emerge. When she shares
her duties with her daughter Mena, they are sharing more than duties; they
are sharing a means to emotionally withstand their concern for their loved
ones who are away. In these two quotations, one can see the two women's
shared concerns and how they cope with them:
Monday, August 10, 1942
Have been in garden picking beans
for Mena, as hers are poor this year. She came to garden to help
me. We sat by the fence & snapped them ready for her to can
Making more yeast bread to day. Pa over to camp pipeing [sic] for
water. War news are [sic] awful bad now. How will Victory ever
be won I wonder.
February 5, 1943
"Mena brought her wash down to do.
Got it dry and folded. She went home to get supper. It is hard
for her to bear Louis [R.] going away. She has to make herself keep
going and try to bear it as carmly [sic.] as she can. And it is the
same for me. Do wish we could hear from him.
The first quotation shows how
sharing the work was a way for Edith and Mena to comfort each other.
When Mena's bean crop was "poor," she could count on her mother's crop.
One can picture them, as they "sat by the fence & snapped" the beans,
enjoying the summer weather, and perhaps speaking about the war, or discussing
other projects they had to accomplish. In that moment, the work was
peaceful and far away from the war they heard about on their radios.
The second quotation reveals, in
part, the importance of Edith's and Mena's work during the war. Their
work was necessity to sustain their family physically, but it also sustained
the women emotionally during a troubled time. The production process
itself was rewarding, yielding the fruits and vegetables from their gardens.
The nature of the work was secure and manageable in a world where great
powers operated beyond their control. These powers, and the war,
though out of their reach, touched the safety of their sons and grandsons
who were in the war. The nature of women's work on their farm assisted
in their acceptance of the world at war. It helped them to "bear
it as carmly as (one) could." They did "keep going," often exhausting
themselves; Mena with milking, taking in the bean and corn crops, and Edith
with cleaning the house in a vigorous and thorough manner.
"From Top to Bottom"
Wednesday, September 15,
Swept and dusted the house from
top to bottom.
Monday, November 1, 1943
A nice bright day. I have
got the double windows cleaned ready to put on. Wish I felt like
geting [sic] more things done that needs to be done.
Saturday, April 29, 1944
Have been all over house doing a
little picking up from attic to cellar. Don't know when I shall ever
get this house cleaned. Agnes called on way to Hampden.
Tuesday, May 9, 1944
I have been working in cellar most
of day. Cleaned out a lot of rubbish, washed out both cellar and
garage with hose, windows and also the car. Expect to be all done
up so I won't get much done tomorrow. Went up to Mena's a few minutes
to night. Got Gerald's photo. She has finished painting her
room, ready to paper.
Edith cleaned her house, but
cleaning to her meant something quite different than to us today.
Her granddaughter, Marjory described Edith as a woman who was always busy,
and whose standards of cleanliness surpassed most. One example
Marjory gave was of her grandmother using a paring knife to clean between
the floorboards. Edith's standards of what she accomplished
from day to day were very high and they reflected the standards that housewives
had been applying to their work for many decades since industrialization.
Twentieth century technological innovations, such as hot and cold running
water, changed the standards of acceptable cleanliness in the home.
If the housewife did not have to carry and boil water, she had more time
to devote to the level of cleanliness, which new housekeeping products
made "easier" for her. The technological changes which had
occurred between Edith's mother's housekeeping years and her own had transformed
the work of housekeeping. Throughout the twenties and thirties, the
availability of modern appliances changed the housewife's work considerably.
Her work became less and less associated with production and more focused
on consumption of appliances and other products which were created to be
used with them. Cleanliness was the "symbol of decent living;" it
signified the standard of living in a household.
The following quotation seems ironic;
Edith's expectations were higher than what she had accomplished, but may
seem a bit harsh to the reader:
Saturday, May 22, 1943
Baked yeast bread and doghnuts.
Cleaned outside of cupboards in pantry. Busy all day but no one would
see any thing that I have done.
Monday, November 19, 1945
Guess I have'nt [sic] done much
to day. Sent Agnes a letter this morning. I have washed and
glo-coated the kitchen floor but It will be all tracked up if this weather
Edith discounted her work in
these entries because they yielded no visible "product." She "washed
and glo-coated the kitchen floor" but thought it wasn't "much" because
the results wouldn't be noticed and because of the weather, probably rain
or snow which made for muddy boots, wouldn't last. She remained busy
all day with baking and cleaning but felt that "no one would see any thing"
she had accomplished. These entries are among those which reflect
Edith's discouragement and her fluctuating health. She was in her
sixties and did not always have the energy to do as much as she would have
liked to do. It was probably from her strong sense of duty and efficiency
that she dismissed such maintenance work on her home. But, she also finds
the repetitive aspect of housework reassuring at times when the outside
world is unpredictable.
Edith often recorded the repetitive
tasks of her weekly work. Her purpose in doing so is two-fold.
She wanted to keep a record of her productivity level, which varied according
to her health, her willingness to assist others and to the season.
She also used the work to keep her mind from pressing emotional concerns
about which she had no control, like her grandchildren's safety.
She used the rhythm of repetition as a soothing reassurance that she was
keeping busy and fulfilling her duties. The following entries stand
in contrast to her times of illness, which, besides Sundays, and holidays,
seem to be the only breaks in her cycle of work.
Wednesday, April 22, 1942
Edith often did Mena's ironing, and
Mena's, Agnes' or Ruby's wash, as well as her own. There was not
one day in the week that was "wash day" for Edith, although her Saturday
entries often indicate a certain set of chores reserved for that day.
Washing was an arduous job, especially when one's family was large, operated
a farm and worked out of doors.
Pleasant. Ironed all day and
Monday, April 27, 1942
Went up to Mena's and brought her
washing down to do, so she can clean up the kitchen ready for the painters.
Washed all day doing hers and mine.
Thursday, April 30, 1942
Cleaned house some, ironed &
cooked, brought Mena's churning down here to night to do for her tomorrow.
Afraid butter would taste of paint as her kitchen smells so strong of paint.
Automatic washing machines were
very different machines before the war than they were after it; as industrial
plants were converted from war production to consumer goods production,
the companies presented a new product for consumers who had saved their
income during the war. Malvena kept large, metal wash tubs
and roller in her shed, which she must have used before purchasing her
automatic machine. Edith's entries which describe a "big wash"
as an entire day's activity would indicate that she did not have one of
the newer model machines. The "electric washing machine" that she
used probably required her to "fill the washer and the rinse tubs with
water from the tap, start and stop the washer, lift the clothes and run
them through the wringer, rinse by hand and wring again." The
"automatic washing machine" which "eliminated the wringing and made ironing
easier" was not available until 1944.
Edith was practical. She probably
used the older machine during the war for three reasons: to make the best
use of what tools or resources the family already had, to save money for
more important purchases, and because parts were not available on the fancier
mid-war models, just as they weren't available for her electric carpet
sweeper or Mena's dryer. The war affected Edith's family and
households in many ways. A variety of war shortages had a direct
impact upon how Edith did her work and planned her time. During the
production of materials for the war, domestic products and replacement
parts for appliances became scarce. The following entries show that
there were no parts to fix the electric "carpet sweeper" or Mena's dryer:
Thursday, September 2, 1943
Edith's ability to maintain her standards
of cleanliness were affected by war shortages, just as her management of
the family's food supply were affected. The seasonal work she did
was shaped by the war as well.
"A man came from Central Maine [Power
Company] to fix the dryer on her washer. Wish she could have a new
Nov. 14, 1942
"Did some sweeping before the electric
sweeper went on the blink. Began to smoke. Expect it is done
Nov. 20, 1942
Have finished the chair covers to
day. The man that looked over my electric sweeper, Donald D. Raymond,
9 Edward's St., Waterville, called to say it would cost so much to have
it fixed that it would not pay to have it done. So I got a second
hand one of him in good condition. No more new ones for the duration
of the war.
September 29, 1943
The seasonal patterns of work on the
Masse and Robbins farms followed the yearly harvests and food-storing times.
In the spring, Edith did a lot of cleaning, especially in the attic and
cellar once the weather was warm. This was to prepare these areas
for maximum storage during the upcoming food preserving times. February
through April was also the time for tapping Maple trees for sap.
The following entries record the process of making Maple syrup.
A lovely fall day. Leaves
are beginning to turn. Most everything from the garden has been gathered
in for winter. Am expecting a hard winter in more ways that one.
Expect the war will be at its worst. Louis [Z.] & Herman &
men have been running cement for the dam they are repairing at the mill.
Tuesday, March 31, 1942
Stove covered with sap boiling most
of day. Canned 5 1/2 pts. maple syrup."
Wednesday, March 31, 1943
Red Cross are folding surgical dressings
in vestry tonight. Mena did not go. Could'nt leave boiling
down sap. Ruby had a nice letter from Louis [R.]
Monday, March 20, 1944
A real stormy day. Pa &
I went to Waterville. He got a pan made to boil down sap. He
has tapped 20 trees to day.
Monday, April 3, 1944
"Have canned 6 pts. of maple syrup.
Ruby canned 7 pts. & Mena 6 pts. so far. Not a very good sap
year but Pa is pretty busy with what little we get."
Saturday, March 17, 1945
Did some washing. Cleaned Mena's
white satin grange dress and slip. Boiled down 3 pts. maple syrup.
It is not good sap weather, to [sic] warm. Hope to get more soon.
Edith noted that summer was a
time of large, outdoor projects like removing and repairing the storm windows,
replacing them with screens, and refinishing furniture, which could be
allowed to dry when windows were open to remove fumes. Summer and
fall were harvest seasons, depending on the crop, and the canning and preserving
of various foods happened as soon as they were harvested. The crops
included corn, beans, tomatoes, spinach, chard, potatoes and many others.
Edith's family picked many varieties of fruit which they preserved as well.
Edith mentions preserving beef and pork, when they were available.
The fresh meat was often shared among the households in their family, and
canned it for later use.
Summer was the time when Louis Z.
and Edith went to their camp on Three Mile Pond. They usually did
maintenance projects there, but they also had family gatherings and Louis
Z. took out the sailboat. The fall brought many yearly fairs and
Edith mentions attending them:
For Edith, winter was a quiet time for
indoor activities like sewing, although she could, and did, do that year
round. For Louis Z., however, winter was a time of outdoor work;
he liked to be "in the woods" and outdoors helping his son or his neighbors.
Went to Windsor Fair and took oil
stove for auction, got $3.75 for it. Marjory went with us.
A very large croud [sic] there. I sat in car most of time and watched
the auction sale and crouds [sic] milling back and forth. The oxen
& horses pulling was a big attraction. Marjory & Marion had
a pretty good time together.
In this final quotation, Edith uses
full sentences to record her day. This may indicate her hopeful
mood. It is the time of year when short periods of warmth precede
the arrival of spring. Edith describes her husband's work and she
sounds hopeful about the sap season, since "Louis [Z.] is making plans
to tap quite a few trees this spring." He has set up the Maple syrup
operation in the shed by the mill. Edith also notices her son Herman's
productivity with the new equipment, a "catapilla" tractor. Edith
could probably see a lot of their activities form her house, which was
across the road from the mill. She noted the brightness of the day,
and reflected upon her family's work during that season. Her memoranda,
in which she described hard work with a hopeful note is characteristic
of much of her writing. The diary was an outlet for her practical
thoughts and grew to be record of relationships: between Edith and her
work, and her place in her family's livelihood.
This is March 1st, 1945, and a nice
bright warm day. It really seems as if Spring was on the way except
for the piles of snow every where. Louis has been cutting and yarding
wood and pulp from his wood lot, on the Thompson lot. Herman's crew
have helped him some as they were at a stand still on account of to [sic]
much snow to work on the lot that he had bought. But they have resumed
the work on his lumber now. Louis [Z.] is making plans to tap quite
a few trees this spring. His sap camp and stove, boiling pan is all
ready. Herman is making good use of the catapilla [sic] Tractor he
has just bought, shoveling snow and saw dust away and hauling it off.
Edith's diaries are a written record
of her life during the Second World War in rural Maine. They provide
the reader with a woman's daily experiences in a community which had maintained
many traditions during previous conflicts. These traditions prepared the
residents of Vassalboro to weather a turbulent time. The diaries
illustrate the dynamics of a rural labor system, maintained by a set of
connected families which were thought of as one family. The diaries
show how Edith and her family responded to the changes that occurred in
their work as a result of the war, brought about by the shortages of labor
and goods. Edith's personal responses to these changes reflected
both her traditional skills and strategies, and her willingness to be flexible
and take on added responsibilities. Edith's written experiences describe
the various roles she helped create for herself: as a housewife, as a community
volunteer, and as a producer in a local barter economy. They document
her roles as care-taker, mother, and grandmother within her own home and
in the homes of her relatives. The diaries reveal the relationship
between her work, and her sense of determination and faith, which supported
her family during the difficult years of World War II.
Generations of Women
Edith Starrett Masse (30 Jan.1881-17
Taught school at Erskine Academy
Met her husband, Louis Z. Masse,
(18 Feb.1876- 14 Nov.1959) an immigrant from Becancour, Canada. (He
established water systems and built a lumber mill in the town of Weeks
Mills (1908) and bought a second in East Vassalboro (1914). He built
three different homes for his wife, a camp on Three Mile Pond and many
barns throughout the area's farming villages. He was known as a master
builder in charge of building the China elementary school building in 1948.
In his retirement, he renovated a home for their daughter, Agnes.)
Bore three children: Malvena Pearl,
(1899) Agnes and Herman.
Traveled with her husband to Florida
in a camper he designed and built, First trip: 1936-37.
They were married for at least sixty
[traditional career and education,
took after her mother's calling as a teacher, kept a diary from: 1936-37;
1942-45..[1946-1959 not transcribed as of January 1994]
Malvena Pearl Masse Robbins (8
Lived at the home of a minister
while attending Oak Grove School
Became a Quaker with several classmates
at a revival meeting
Graduated in 1917 as salutatorian
Attended Colby College in Waterville,
Maine, until the flu epidemic, (during the First World War) closed the
Graduated from Thomas Business College
in Waterville, Maine
Was employed at the Ticonic Bank
in Waterville, for three years, commuting on the "electric cars"
Met Maurice Robbins at a East Vassalboro
Two years later, was married on
October 15, 1921
Bore four children: Louis Ira (1922),
Gerald Laroy (1925), Wallace Clifton (1927), and Marjory Lucy(1932)
[Sons Louis and Gerald served in the Armed forces during World War II;
Wallace, whose bad eyesight kept him out of the Army and the Navy, later
served in the Air Force.]
Ran the farm while husband Maurice
took a job as regional representative of sales for the Sunshine Baking
company, 1943. While Maurice was gone for days at a time, Malvena,
with the help of her father, Louis Z. Masse, was responsible for caring
for a barn full of Jersey cows, taking in the corn harvest caring for her
ten year old daughter, Marjory.
Was an active in the volunteer effort
for the Red Cross during the war, the Friends Church, and in the Grange
Moved to Florida for three winters,
visiting friends, including Lillian Haslam (1975?)
Returned to Vassalboro and was active
in the Grange, the church and with the Senior citizens club
Broke a hip, recovered fully; had
a history of a heart problems; recovered fully from cancer operations in
Remained active in the Society of
Friends and Senior Citizens Club until her death in 1993
Marjory Lucy Robbins [Feeney]
Lalime (24 Sept. 1932-)
Graduated from Higgins Classical
Institute, high school, 1950
Graduated from University of Maine
at Orono, 1954
Interned at Beth Israel Hospital,
Boston, MA, became a Registered Dietitian 1955
Worked at New England Baptist Hospital,
Married Joseph Patrick Feeney 1957
Became a widow three months after
Bore a daughter, Robin Katherine
Remarried to widower Ronald Francois
Adopted his three daughters(1959?):
Andrea,(1953) Cynthia (1954) and Amy (1957)
Bore two more daughters Jody (1960)
and Suzette (1965)
Returned to work as a dietitian
at Thayer Hospital, Waterville, Maine, 1968
Divorced Ronald Lalime, 1972?
Left Dietary Department of Mid Maine
Medical Center after 14 years (1982)
Moved to Newcastle, Maine, to open
her own business, Serendipity House (1983)
Currently a grandmother to nine
List of Edith's
The following is a list of the various
jobs Edith accomplished and the services she provided. [recorded
in her diary between 1942 and 1945.]
Baking: pies, cakes, doughnuts,
bread: yeast & brown, baked beans, fudge, cup cakes, cookies
for: Grange suppers & church
suppers; for Mena, Athol relatives, Gerald, Louis R., Agnes
beet pickles, cucumber pickles,
pickled eggs, tomatoes
beans, corn, peas, carrots, spinach,
Swiss chard, beets, succotash, mixed vegetables: corn, carrots, onion,
celery, shell beans, red and green peppers.
For jelly, jams and butters:
grapes, crab-apples , apples, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries
beef, pork, mincemeat, hog's head
Churned butter; made cream to exchange
with neighbors or to give to needy relatives and neighbors
Cooked meals for her family and for
her daughter's families at gatherings and on visits;
Folded bandages for the Red Cross
Carried water and food to Mena's
Produced Maple Syrup: boiling, canning
Gardening: Picked berries, peas,
beans, plant flowers, weed and clear Agnes' garden in Hampden, helps Mena
in her garden,
Sewing: "puff" for self, quilts for
others; aprons for Friends Church sales, nightgowns for Mena; dresses,
pajamas, children's clothes for Red Cross; taught Marjory to sew; made
slip covers for Mena's furniture; made drapes and curtains; made black-out
curtains for windows,
Cared for sick relatives: applied
plasters, visited sick children and grandchildren; wrote to "blue" relatives
and sent V-mail letters and care packages to Louis in the armed forces,
and butter to relatives in Athol. Gave food to elderly men of her
Mended and altered pre-made clothes
Furniture refinishing: reupholstered
chairs, refinished chairs: one set for Agnes and a set of six chairs for
Mena; "old chair from Canada;" rocking chair, bedstead, bureau, bookcase
Gathered for recycling: old
metal scraps, silk stockings, and old clothing for war time drives;
made old feed bags into dish cloths and aprons; used her old dresses to
make new blouses for Marjory.
Washed clothes, sometimes Mena and
Edith do their wash together;
Wall papered: removed old wallpaper
and hung new paper in Mena's house
Ironing: clothes, curtains, "bureau
Cleaning: dishes (Agnes' or
Mena's dishes also) aired bedding, cleaned windows, woodwork, floors, attic,
cellar, dusted furniture, cleaned silverware, cleaned ashes out of kitchen
and camp cook-stoves
Storm window & screen maintenance:
cleaning, painting, repairing frames (storm windows were removed in spring
and replaced with screens; in fall they are put back on for extra insulation)
Waxed floors: "glo-coat"; used electric
sweeper on floors; swept with broom
Did outdoor/yard work at the camp
on Three Mile Pond
Assisting Louis Z. with renovations
at Agnes' and John's house: yard work, cleaning woodshed, installing "linowall,"
gardening, decorating, re-furnishing, (see above.)
Ladies Aid nursing classes and fundraising
The Friends Church: The Friendly
Circle, a women's fundraising and sewing club, collection drives for local
and national branches of the Society of Friends Service organizations
The Methodist Church
The Christmas Club
Red Cross: First Aid Training,
surgical dressing/bandage-rolling campaign
The Grange: fundraising events
and social meetings
List of misspelled
words, related to pronunciation:
"catapilla Tractor" for caterpillar
tractor; "estermate" for estimate [4-26-42;] "prepairing" for preparing
[6-15-32;] "streightening" for straightening [6-29-42;] "toards"
for towards [8-14-42;] "goards" for gourds [10-11-42;] "chin
chiller" coat for chinchilla coat [11-21-94;] "tempature" for temperature
[1-18-43;] "croud" for crowd [1-27-43;] "carmly" for calmly
[2-5-43;] "clowdy" for cloudy [4-21-94]; "bureau draws" for
bureau drawers [4-29-43;] "resturant" for restaurant [9-9-43;]
"eather" for ether [9-18-43;] "disagreeble" for disagreeable [11-8-94;]
"Presk Isle" for the town Presque Isle [11-30-43;] "Aviation Mecanics"
for Aviation Mechanics [12-1-43;] "Southener" for Southerner [12-3-43;]
"Austrailer" for Australia [2-19-44;] "accumilated" for accumulated
[2-14-44;] "layer" and "lawer" crossed out and replaced with "attorney"
[5-11-44;] "domotory" for dormitory [5-29-44;] "chest of draws"
for chest of drawers [7-9-44;] "whalf" for wharf [8-6-44;]
"Pemiquid" for Pemaquid area [8-27-44;] "Montpelia, Vt." for
Montpelier, Vt. [10-4-44;] "Philipean" for Philippine [10-20-44;]
"choaked" for choked [12-18-44;] "Holliwood Cantine" for name of
movie "Hollywood Canteen" [2-3-45]; "Cebral Hemorage" for cerebral
hemorrhage as cause of Roosevelt's death [4-12-45;] "Briton" for
Britain [4-30-45;] "Churchil" and Starlin" for Churchill and Stalin
[5-7-45;] "Winstal Churchil" for Winston Churchill [5-8-45;]
"Norrigework" for town of Norridgewock [9-2-45;] "oporation for hernier"
for operation for hernia [9-28-45;] "Togas" for town of Togus [10-28-45;]
"Cansas" for Kansas and Pensacold" for Pensacola, Fla. [12-15-45.]
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