Charles Cornish Pearson and the Great War, Part IV

By Susan Martin, Collection Services


This is the fourth post in a series about the wartime experience of Charles Cornish Pearson. Go back and read Part I, Part II, and Part III for the full story.

After a short hiatus, I’m happy to return to the story of Sgt. Charles Cornish Pearson of the 101st Machine Gun Battalion in World War I. We last heard from him in April 1918, so I’ll pick up now in May. I’ve been looking forward to this installment because it was during this month that Charles wrote some of my favorite letters in the collection.

Things were relatively quiet for Charles’ battalion after the terrible Battle of Seicheprey in northeastern France. Philip S. Wainwright says very little about the month of May 1918 in his History of the 101st Machine Gun Battalion, except that it “passed uneventfully.” But I imagine these calmer periods gave soldiers time to pause and reflect on their experiences, for better or worse. Certainly Charles wrote longer and more introspective letters this month, and in them he took a broader look at the war he’d been fighting for almost a year. He was housed in barracks somewhere near Seicheprey when he wrote to his parents on the 5th.

Please get the idea of the awfulness of this war out of your head […] We are not such a terribly afraid lot and as long as they keep us supplied with the necessary articles of food clothing & ammunition why we don’t kick a great deal. Money supplies & less politics are what we need over here and I hope the people in the U.S. will gradually awaken to these facts & the sooner they do so why the sooner the war will be over.


As for his recent “exciting experiences,” Charles showed remarkable composure (or at least put on a brave face for his family). His letters give us a fascinating look into the psychology of soldiers in the trenches.

Now that we have done our bit at the Front & had a taste of gas, shells air raids etc. why there isn’t much new to experience & one settles down to take it all as it comes. Do our bit & then try to forget about it as quickly as possible. […] We aren’t down hearted, but don’t think that we forget the serious side of this business and realize that the next day may be the time that we get our stomachful a plenty. Its all a matter of chance anyway & […] it makes little difference what you do, if its your turn, why you get it. 


Fifteen days later, still enjoying the well-deserved rest and relaxation, he wrote at length to his younger sister Jean. The collection came with one photograph of her, taken ca. 1910-1915.



Jean—short for Jeannette—was about 26 years old in 1918 and lived in Masters, Colorado, with her husband Thomas B. McPherson and, I think, a young son and daughter. Unfortunately, the MHS doesn’t hold her letters to Charles, but she’d been a steadfast correspondent, often sending cigarettes and care packages. His letter, dated 20 May, reveals not only his affection for her, but also his sense of humor, compassion, and humility. After reassuring Jean that things were fairly quiet (“You don’t care for excitement these days after you have had a little of it”), he launched into a description of another soldier named Charlie. I particularly like his euphemism “over the weather,” which was a new one for me.

[He] was a little Sicilian in my old squad who when ever he got tight found the English language a little beyond him. […] He sure was a comical chap and furnished us with many a laugh. Used to always call me “Boss” and when he came in evenings a little bit over the weather would have to sit on the edge of my bunk and tell me all his troubles. Poor Charlie, he was not a success at the front. He developed a case of shell shock and was sent back to the Base and suppose we will never see him again.


Later he corrected a misunderstanding in his endearingly modest way.

Where do you get that “Hero” stuff in your last letter? Indifference to fear etc. Don’t you believe it for a minute. Yours truly is just as frightened as the next fellow and can duck and run for dug-out just as quick as the next fellow. Still this fear stuff doesn’t figure a great deal at that; you may be scared to death still if you have to do something why you have to, that is all.


And he explained in no uncertain terms who the real heroes were, downplaying his own hardships and betraying not even a trace of self-pity.

Besides as far as danger goes we don’t get it the way the doughboys do, he is the fellow that stands the brunt of this war and deserves the credit even more than any other line of service, aviators not excepted. Why? because he stands real hardship which many of us are lucky to get out of. He goes up to the trenches for six or seven days at a stretch, lives in mud and water, gets very little sleep and eats when he gets a chance […] To see those boys hiking back from the trenches makes one (who doesn’t get that part of the game) think that doughboy is the fellow to be pitied.


Stay tuned for Part V of Charles’ story.

“Across wide fields of melting snow / The winds of summer softly blow”: The Easter poems of Lucy Larcom

By Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

On March 20th we marked the spring equinox here in New England with the arrival of our fourth nor’easter of the month. After a warmer-than-average February we found ourselves bundling up for a colder-than-average March and spring has seemed further around the corner than it ought to be. In this week that marks both the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter holidays, I decided to share a poem for spring from New England poet Lucy Larcom. 


Many of you have likely encountered nineteenth-century writer Lucy Larcom through her autobiographical work A New England Girlhood (1889) which tells the story of her childhood in Beverly, Massachusetts and her experience working in the mills of Lowell before she traveled west to Illinois to become a teacher and later returned to Massachusetts to make her living as a writer and editor. In 1891, Larcom published a small collection of Easter poems, Easter Gleams with Riverside Press an imprint of Houghton, Mifflin & Company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Riverside had also published Larcom’s Girlhood three years before. Below are the poems “Ring! Happy Bells!” (5) poem “Sunrise” (13) from Easter Gleams.


Ring! Happy Bells!

Ring, happy bells of Easter time!

The world is glad to hear your chime;

Across wide field of melting snow

The winds of summer softly blow,

And birds and streams repeat the chime

Of Easter time.


Ring, happy bells of Easter time!

The world takes up your chant sublime,

The Lord has risen!” The night of fear

Has passed away, and heaven draws near:

We breathe the air of that blest clime,

At Easter time.


Ring, happy bells of Easter time!

Our happy hearts give back your chime!

The Lord has risen! We die no more:

He opens wide the heavenly door;

He meets us, while to Him we climb,

At Easter time.



The Sunrise over the houses!

The beautiful rose of dawn

Reddening the eastern windows, —

The curtains of Night withdrawn!


More lovely than boughs in blossom

The spires and the roof-trees glow.

It is day; and, in God awaking,

Shall the spirit unfold and grow.


On the city, in chrismal splendor,

The blessing of morning falls: —

The Bride coming down out of heaven! —

The pearl-gates, the jasper walls!


The white light enters the casement

Like the wings of the Holy Dove;

And every house is a flower,

A blossom of peace and love.


The sunrise is fair on the gardens,

The groves and the forests afar;

But fairer the trees of manhood,

Of heavenly planting are.


And wide are the green savannahs

That under the dawn unroll;

But broader the landscape opens

In the sunrise of a soul!


The footsteps of morning hasten

Across yonder populous space,

And the dwellings of men are illumined

With the glory of God’s own face.


Who can guess the power of His coming?

He will banish doubt and despair;

The life of His Spirit will kindle

And stir the sleepers there.


Behold the Day Star ascending!

See the hour of His triumph begin!

The sunrise over the houses!

The Christ-light shining in!


In addition to holding a print copy of Easter Gleams and other published works by Larcom, the Massachusetts Historical Society holds Larcom’s diaries, correspondence, and other manuscript materials, principally in the Daniel Dulany Addison collection. We also hold issues of Our Young Folks (1865-1873) and the Lowell Offering (1840-1845), both of which Larcom was deeply involved in as a writer and editor. Researchers interested in accessing Larcom’s writings may visit the library or contact the reader services staff to learn about options for reproduction.


This Week @ MHS


After three straight weeks with canceled programs or weather-induced closures, here is hoping that the last week of March lets us exit the month like a lamb. This is the slate of programs coming in the week ahead:

– Tuesday, 27 March, 5:15PM : First up this week is a seminar from the Modern American Society and Culture series with John Bezis-Selfa of Wheaton College, titled “La Villania Arizoniana: Disenfranchisement, Citizenship, and Defining the Body Politic in the Early 20th-Century US-Mexico Borderlands.” In 1909 and 1912, the Arizona legislature enacted requirements that all voters be literate in English, sparking a storm of multilingual protests in the papers and the courts. How and why Anglo-Arizonans took the right to vote from thousands of Mexican-American men and how Spanish-speakers fought back shows how conflicting views of race and ethnicity have influenced citizenship in the U.S.’s southwestern borderlands. Alex Keyssar of the Harvard Kennedy School provides comment. 

Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers. To RSVP: email or call (617) 646-0579.

– Wednesday, 28 March, 12:00PM : Jaclyn Schultz of University of California at Santa Cruz leads this week’s Brown Bag lunch talk, “Learning the Values of a Dollar: Childhood & Cultures of Economy, 1825-1900.” Nineteenth-century children rarely had access to money, even when they worked. Yet, several forms of authority instructed children in specific expectations of spending, saving, and giving. This talk explores how and why children were taught to interact with and value financial resources as well as how these lessons were racialized. This talk is free and open to the public. 

– Thursday, 29 March, 6:00PM : Protest & Citizenship is a panel discussion with Stephen Kantrowitz, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Crystal Feimster, Yale University; John Stauffer, Harvard University; and Chad Williams, Brandeis University. Throughout American history many groups have struggled to establish their rights as citizens. While the United States was a grand experiment in republican government, in the beginning only a small percentage was allowed to participate. Over time, citizenship has grown, but this has often not been a simple or a smooth process. This talk explores this history of citizenship and protest. How have groups throughout American history used agitation to help change the dialog about their position as citizens? How can this history help inform our views and reactions to the changing political climate we see today?

This talk is open to the public, though registration is required. PLEASE NOTE – PEOPLE REGISTERING FOR THIS PROGRAM AFTER 3/15/18 MAY BE ASKED TO SIT IN OVERFLOW SEATING (The overflow seating is on the same floor, one room over with a live video feed).

This program is made possible by a grant from Mass Humanities

– Saturday, 31 March, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society Tour is a 90-minute docent-led walk through our public rooms. The tour is free, open to the public, with no need for reservations. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or

While you’re here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: Yankees in the West

World Poetry Day, Porcine Edition

By Daniel T. Hinchen, Reader Services

Today, 21 March, is World Poetry Day as proclaimed by UNESCO in 1999. To recognize this designation we will look at a bit of newly-acquired poetry found here in the collections at the MHS. 

A few years ago here on the Beehive I published a post, “Porcineographs and Piggeries” about a man named William Emerson Baker and his vast estate, Ridge Hill Farms. In the original post I included references to a Guide to Ridge Hill Farms held here at the Society, as well as an invitation “to assist in laying the corner stone of a new piggery” on the estate, and my personal favorite, the Porcineograph.* 


The Society recently acquired several more items related to Ridge Hill Farms and Baker, generally, and some that specifically detail the lavish party held to lay the corner stone of his new piggery. In a printing titled Fete Champetre at the laying of the coner-stone for the new piggery…“, a contributor mourns the dearth of verse dedicated to pigs: 



The Pig and the Poets.

Almost every domestic animal has found his Homer among the poets. The horse, the dog, the cat, all have been celebrated in immortal verse. The pig, on the contrary, has been neglected by the brotherhood of bards; and the most persons would find it difficult to cite a single friendly reference to this despised creature in the writings of British poets. The pig seems to have been born under an evil star. He is never esteemed until he is dead. During his life, man gives him the cold shoulder: when he is dead, man takes it back.


What follows this brief lamentation is a series of responses to Baker’s invitations to join the festivities, including a handful of poems dedicated to his porcine pals. In honor of World Poetry Day, I present one such poem here. 


To the Ridge Hill Piggery.


Tall oaks from little acorns grow;

Great deeds from little causes flow.

The corner-stone of this new piggery

Is monument of past-time Whiggery,

When porkers, rooting for their dinner,

Cured old Great Britain, that great sinner,

And, making war upon strange gardens,

Set the old lady asking pardons;

And so she yielded up her knavery

That bound our seamen in her slavery.

All honor to the pigs immortal

Who brought the key to freedom’s portal!

They shall be praised with feast and song

As years roll on, and ages long, 

And voices chant the glorious bravery

Of those who broke our seamen’s slavery;

While grunting piggeries shall proclaim

From shore to shore each glorious name

Of porcine pilgrim, who began

The contest brave, that swiftly ran

Through House and Senate, and put down

The claim to search from Britain’s crown.

Let their bold choruses of grunts

Still meet all national affronts,

And stir the hearts of man and beast,

From North to South, from West to East.

All praise to all brave pigs forever!

Let piggeries multiply; and never

The glorious race, or noble donors,

Live but in health and wealth and honors!*

Mrs. G. L. Ford


Stay tuned to the Beehive for more recently-acquired items relating to the eccentric William Emerson Baker and Ridge Hill Farms. And if you just cannot wait until then, consider Visiting the Library. Who knows, there could be many a piggy punny you just might find funny.




*The Porcineograph provides a small tidbit of information that sheds some light on the topic of Mrs. Ford’s poem: “Litigation about the killing of two hogs found trespassing in a garden in Rhode Island in 1811, is said to have resulted in the election of the opposition candidate, Howell, to the United States Senate, and the Declaration of War in 1812.” 

This Week @ MHS


It is the middle of the month and it appears that the lion of March is not making way for the lamb. Below is the round-up of events in the week to come, just be sure to keep an eye on our website to ensure that the event you want to attend is not affected by weather-related closures. 

– Tuesday, 20 March, CANCELED : This week’s seminar, “On Fantasy,” is canceled due to illness.

– Tuesday, 20 March, 6:00PM : People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, & A New Movement for City Making is the new book by Karilyn Crockett, who will be on-hand for this author talk. In 1948, inspired by changes to federal law, Massachusetts officials started to plan highways circling and cutting through the heart of Boston. But when officials began to hold hearings in 1960 the people pushed back. The story of how an unlikely multiracial coalition of urban and suburban residents, planners, and activists emerged to stop a highway is one full of suspenseful twists and surprises. And yet the victory and its aftermath are undeniable: federally funded mass transit expansion, a linear central city park, and a highway-less urban corridor that serves as a daily reminder of the power of citizen-led city-making and has had lasting national implications.

This talk is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders). 

– Thursday, 22 March, 5:30PM : Often a biographer confronts silences in the record of her subject, when part of the life story is not documented with words. Mute sources—objects in the subject’s archive—can pose a challenge for interpretation, but also offer rich opportunities. How can biographers read objects as eloquent sources? “‘No Ideas But in Things’: Writing Lives from Objects” is a panel discussion with Deborah Lutz of University of Louisville, Karen Sanchez-Eppler of Amherst College, independent scholar Susan Ware, and moderator Natalie Dykstra of Hope College. 

Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers. To RSVP: email or call (617) 646-0579.

– Saturday, 24 March, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led walk through our public rooms. The tour is free, open to the public, with no need for reservations. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or

While you’re here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: Yankees in the West.

– Saturday, 24 March, 10:00AM : In celebration of Women’s History Month, the MHS is calling for items–pink hats, signs, pins, t-shirts, photographs, written accounts–from the 2017 and 2018 Women’s March events. We invite the public to stop by 1154 Boylston Street in Boston to donate 2017 and 2018 Women’s March memorabilia—pink hats, signs, pins, t-shirts, photographs (prints or digital images)—as well as written accounts to its collection. If you do not want to part with your Women’s March items, consider wearing them to the MHS and having your picture taken (a photographer will be on site) to be added to our collection. We also encourage written experiences and accounts of the marches to be shared. These can be e-mailed to or mailed to: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA, 02215, attention Brenda Lawson.

If you are unable to come to the MHS on 24 March but have items you would like to donate, please contact Anne Bentley ( or 617-646-0508) or Brenda Lawson ( or 617-646-0552) to discuss.

Selected items collected on 24 March will be displayed as part of our 2019 exhibition on women’s suffrage.


Welcome to Our 2018-2019 MHS-NEH Fellows!

By Lex Buckley, Research Dept.

The Massachusetts Historical Society’s Research Department is pleased to announce our two 2018-2019 MHS-NEH Long-Term Fellows, Mara Caden and Brent Sirota. Mara Caden will be researching the mint and early economic conditions in New England, and revising her book manuscript, which comes out of her Yale University dissertation, “Mint Conditions: The Politics and Geography of Money in Britain and Its Empire, 1650-1750.” Brent Sirota is an associate professor at North Carolina State University, and will be researching and writing his second monograph, Things Set Apart: An Alternate History of the Separation of Church and State, examining how people in the 18th– and 19th-century British Atlantic maintained their religion separate from the state after 1689.

Caden and Sirota join a renowned group of current and former MHS-NEH fellows. The long-term fellowship began in 2002, and the National Endowment for the Humanities has helped to support long-term fellows every year since. NEH support has allowed the MHS to have fellows spend four to twelve months as not only researchers, but as part of the scholarly and collegial fabric of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Our 2017-2018 fellows have presented at MHS seminars and brown bag lunches, and prior fellows have presented at MHS conferences and elsewhere in the city of Boston during their tenure here, and often return to the MHS to serve on committees for seminars, conferences, and future fellowship selections. As well as taking the opportunity to share their research and historical expertise in these formal settings, our MHS-NEH fellows—many of whom are established scholars in their fields—also foster an intellectual atmosphere at the Society by taking local graduate students and short-term fellows under their wing. They attend other researchers’ presentations, invite them for coffee, and offer advice on archives to visit, collections to search, and ways to read documents, artifacts, and silences. Our long-term fellows come from History, English, Political Science, Drama, and other fields, and their innovative methods and deep understandings of their field have broadened research horizons for younger fellows and students for over a decade.

Of course, such erudite scholars also use their long-term fellowships to research and write, and have published impressive works on a wide variety of subjects. From the fellowship’s first year in 2002-2003, we had Walter Woodward, who was working on Prospero’s America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676. There is 2003-2004 fellow Woody Holton’s research project, “Minds Afire,” now the book, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution; Lisa Wilson’s A History of Stepfamilies in Early America; Lisa Tetrault’s The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898; Vincent Carretta’s biography of Phyllis Wheatley; Martha Hodes’s Mourning Lincoln; Linford Fisher’s The Indian Great Awakening; and many, many more stellar works produced and forthcoming. (Keep an eye on our fellows’ publications page to read what comes out next!)

In sum, we couldn’t be more excited to have Caden and Sirota join an already prestigious array of long-term fellows in enriching the field with the scholarship they’ll produce here, and enriching the MHS with the expertise that they’ll share with young fellows and researchers during their stay. And we couldn’t offer any of this without the generous support and encouragement from the National Endowment for the Humanities!

(For more on the National Endowment for the Humanities, see their webpage. For more on our long-term MHS-NEH fellowships and past recipients, please visit


From Absolute Monarchy to Absolute Demon: “Identity of Napoleon and Antichrist”

By Ashley Williams, Reader Services

As a newer library assistant in the MHS library, I occasionally peruse different subjects in ABIGAIL in the hopes of further familiarizing myself with topics our collections cover. Often, the search topics pertain to my own historical interests. A few months ago I was looking into our Napoleon-related materials when I came across this leviathan of a title: The Identity of Napoleon and Antichrist completely demonstrated, or, A commentary on the chapters of the Scripture which relate to Antichrist [microform] : where all the passages are shown to apply to Napoleon in the most striking manner : and where especially the prophetic number 666 is found in his name, with perfect exactness, in two different manners. 



This “observation,” as defined by the text, has no attributed author but was published by Ezra Sergeant in 1809, the same year the War of the Fifth Coalition was fought. It is no great secret that Napoleon had enemies, but to realize that he was despised enough to be compared as Antichrist was too thought-provoking a concept to let lie. As soon as time afforded, I pulled out the microfilm to take a peek.

Before diving into the topic of their reflection the author takes a few pages to chastise philosophers like Locke, Rousseau, and Voltaire for furthering the spread of deism and religious tolerance, seeing it as promotion for war against Christianity:

We never ought to use against any body the arms of satire and ridicule, which both reason and Religion disown. But to permit in this way the weakest boldly and openly to make war against the strongest, to tolerate it, and not to take care sometimes to set every one at his proper place, is what I consider as entirely abusive.


Throughout the work, the author notes what they consider to be several blatant parallels between passages from the Bible’s book of Revelations and Napoleon’s reign. They conclude that Napoleon and “the beast” share the same origins as the beast is prophesied to emerge from the sea and Napoleon, being Corsican, comes from an island.

The parallel of second beast is given to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a French diplomat known for promoting the nationalization of church property in France during the beginnings of the French Revolution. The description of the second beast reads, “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” (Revelation 13:12)

Tallyrand played a large role in foreign ministry under Napoleon and was eventually appointed grand chamberlain. He worked to keep peace with the British and encouraged the signing of the Concordat of 1801 which mended the alliance between France and the Papacy.² Unfortunately, he was also an accessory to the kidnapping and execution of a Bourbon prince and attempted to steal from the French National Archive to hide his involvement.¹ While this was a crime to the outside world, it helped to safeguard Napoleon’s rule. The author attributes a great deal of Napoleon’s success to the tireless work of Talleyrand which earns him the parallel.

After assigning the roles of Revelation to different people and countries, the author interprets the symbolism they perceive in the mark of the beast:

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:16-17)

Given that Napoleon’s rule was arguably one of militant conquest the author argues that this mark in the hand or forehead is materialized by the French cockade, typically worn in hats, and the swords of the French military. To make applicable the hindrance of buying and selling in verse 17, the author alludes to Napoleon’s interference with European trade. In 1806, Napoleon issued the Berlin Decrees forbidding trade between his allies and England in the hopes of wounding England’s economy.³ This was not altogether unsuccessful, however, since England ruled the seas and moving goods over land was rather expensive, many of continental Europe’s economies suffered as well.

One of the final and farthest reaching pieces of evidence our author declares is mentioned in the title, “…where especially the prophetic number 666 is found in his name…” The author uses two different series of numbers aligned with letters of the English alphabet to spell out different versions of Napoleon’s name. In each case the numerical values assigned to the letters in his name equal 666. 



One can’t help but wonder just how many combinations of numbers and names the author calculated before getting the desired results.

These are just a few highlights of the connections drawn in this work. If you are interested in reading more parallels or perhaps viewing other Napoleon-related materials, check our online catalog, ABIGAIL, and consider stopping by the library for a Visit!



1. “Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, prince de Bénévent | French statesman and diplomat”. Encyclopedia Britannica, Accessed 2018-03-09 at

2. “Concordat Of 1801 | French Religious History”. Encyclopedia Britannica, Accessed 2018-03-09 at

3. “Continental System | European History”. Encyclopedia Britannica, Accessed 2018-03-09 at


This Week @ MHS


It is a fairly quiet week ahead, so this round-up will be brief:

– Wendesday, 14 March, 6:00PM : Between 1638 and today, the Browns of Rhode Island have provided community leaders, endowed academic institutions, and transformed communities through art and architecture. However, they also have wrestled with society’s toughest issues slavery, immigration, child labor, inequality and with their own internal tensions. Sylvia Brown, of the family’s 11th generation and author of Grappling with Legacy, explores this story in conversation with Edward Widmer.

This event is open to the public, though registration is required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members or Fellows, and EBT cardholders). 

– Saturday, 17 March, 9:00AM : “Monuments & Historical Memory” is a teacher workshop that explores how monuments can help students understand history, historical memory, and how national symbols play a critical role in articulating culture and identity. Highlights include looking at WWII and Holocaust commemoration across the globe; learning about the history of Confederate monuments in America; and a tour of Reconstruction-era Boston monuments. 

This program is open to all K-12 educators, and registration is required with a fee of $25 per person. 

– Remember to come in and view our current exhibition, Yankees in the West, before it ends on 6 April. 


There is no Saturday tour this week.

“Too many things to do in the cause”

By Susan Martin, Collection Services

As I looked through the MHS collections for a Massachusetts woman to profile for Women’s History Month, I found myself faced with an embarrassment of riches. Our library holds the papers of female writers, doctors, teachers, artists, war volunteers, and mill workers, not to mention slaves and First Ladies. I decided to go back to a letter acquired by the MHS a few years ago. The letter was written by Lucy Stone on election day 1890, and I remembered her terrifically snarky opening sentence: “This is the day when our political superiors are electing rulers for Women!!”



Lucy Stone (1818-1893) was a suffragist and abolitionist from West Brookfield, Mass., famous for her oratory at a time when public speaking by women was considered scandalous and unfeminine. According to one account, before an appearance by Stone, a certain minister warned his congregation that “a hen will undertake to crow like a cock.” Opponents of her speeches shouted her down, threw hymn books at her, and even once dowsed her with water from a hose. As Sally G. McMillen wrote in her biography Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life (2015):

To say that most mid-nineteenth-century Americans deemed this occupation wholly inappropriate for women was a truism. Women were not supposed to have a public persona; they were supposed to marry and spend their lives in the quiet of home. And the two causes that Lucy espoused on which she intended to speak were radical ones. [p. 63]


Stone is also known for her refusal to take her husband’s name when she married—later advocates of this practice were often called “Lucy Stoners.”

This letter was written on the stationery of the Woman’s Journal, a paper founded in 1870 by Stone, her husband, and other like-minded reformers. The recipient, Mrs. Steele, had submitted an article, and Stone wrote back to explain that she couldn’t pay for contributions; the paper “had hard uphill work all the time and as hard now as ever was.” She offered Steele a one-year subscription instead and finished with: “I am sorry not to have said this sooner. But too many things to do in the cause.”

I had hoped to identify Mrs. Steele, but unfortunately came up empty. I did find three possible candidates: Lucy Page Steele of Washington, D.C., who wrote for the Young Woman’s Journal; Anna (Truax) Steele, wife of Colorado’s Chief Justice Robert W. Steele; or Carrie Steele, the “Mother of Orphans,” a former slave and founder of an African-American orphanage in Atlanta, Ga.

Lucy Stone did not live to see the battle for suffrage won for all American women, which wouldn’t happen for 27 more years with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. But less than three weeks after her death, on 7 November 1893, Colorado became the first state to enact women’s suffrage through popular vote.

Lucy Stone, Abigail Adams, and Phillis Wheatley are honored in the Boston Women’s Memorial on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, March 1918

By Lindsay Bina, Intern and Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

Today we return to the 1918 diary of Newton teenager Barbara Hillard Smith. You may read our introduction to the diary, and Barbara’s January and February entries, here:


January | February | March | April

May | June | July | August

September | October | November | December


We will be following Barbara throughout 1918 with monthly blog posts that present Barbara’s daily life — going to school, seeing friends, playing basketball, and caring for family members — in the words she wrote a century ago. Here is Barbara’s March, day by day.


* * *

FRI. 1                          MARCH

School. Dentist Cousin Bert came. Papa glad to see him, Sick

SAT. 2

Showed C. Booklet to K. Heard Galli Curci. She is wonderful. Seminary with Mother


SUN. 3

Helped Mother. Studied

MON. 4

School. Mrs. Reed’s. Papa died. Grandma very brave, Mother is wonderful. C. Burt came.


Aunt Mabel gave Mother her car. She is very busy. People are very kind. Cousin Bert is the [back…]

WED. 6

Everything peaceful. Deluged with flowers. Funeral services very sweet + pretty. C. Bert went back.


I must stand up for Mother. Worked. Flowers from […]. Waltham with Mrs. Pyrene. Hard to keep tears back

FRI. 8

Worked. Doctors with Mother. Things [go] a little easier. I feel like crying all the time.

SAT. 9

Helped Mother. Got Camp Fire Cocoa. Mrs Richmond came. Wood called up. At McDonalds

SUN. 10

Church. Sunday S. Cousin Mildred to dinner. Dr. Huntington.

MON. 11

School. Mrs. Reed

TUES. 12

School. Basket Ball

WED. 13

School. Gym dancing. Swimming


School. Basketball. Got on class team

FRI. 15

School. Took care of the baby. Captain of the team

SAT. 16

Sewed at Mrs. Bucknams. Over to Lanes. Went swimming

SUN. 17

Shot Cat. Church and Sunday School. Moody’s for supper. Mr. Bailey out.

MON. 18

School. Took care of baby. Got [byce] out. Living Pictures.

TUES. 19

School. Played the Freshmen. 16-5 s. Juniors beat 30-0. Saw Dr. Ashland.

WED. 20

School. Rehearsed dancing. Swimming.

THUR. 21

School. Played the Juniors. They beat us. 25-10. Saw Dr. Ashland.

FRI. 22

School. Mrs. Reed’s. Newton-Erasmus game. We licked em up. War is awful

SAT. 23

Mrs. Reed’s all day.

SUN. 24

Church. Sunday School. Saw Dr. Ashland ([nude]). He seems much better. Dr. McClure.

MON. 25

School. In Town. Got suit. It seems funny without paper.

TUES. 26

School. Went to Mrs Reeds. Sick.

WED. 27

School. Dancing. In Town. Peg went with me.

THUR. 28

School. Mrs. Reed’s. Wrote Dr. Gordon

FRI. 29                                    GOOD FRIDAY

No School. Mrs. Reed’s all day. Surgical dressings

SAT. 30

Mrs. Reeds. In town. Got new hat

SUN. 31                      EASTER

Church[,] Sunday School and Concert. [Fraulein] and Miss [Colin] to dinner.

* * *

If you are interested in viewing the diary in person in our library or have other questions about the collection, please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.


 *Please note that the diary transcription is a rough-and-ready version, not an authoritative transcript. Researchers wishing to use the diary in the course of their own work should verify the version found here with the manuscript original. The catalog record for the Barbara Hillard Smith collection may be found here.