The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Margaret Russell’s Diary, January 1916

After receiving positive feedback on last year’s serial documenting a journey up the Nile by an anonymous diarist, I decided to repeat the format in 2016 but with a very different type of diary from the MHS collections.



Between 1913-1922, Margaret Russell kept track of her activities in Ward’s line-a-day diaries pre-formatted to accommodate five years worth of daily records. As historian Molly McCarthy documents in her history of the daily planner, these standard blank books rose in popularity toward the end of the 19th century. The Samuel Ward Company of Boston, Massachusetts copyrighted their format in 1892, offering a “condensed, comparative record for five years” with the tagline, “nulla dies sine linea (not a day without a line).” Russell’s volume, which she began filling in 1913 at the age of fifty-five, offers prefatory instructions for the inexperienced diarist:



Russell appears to have found satisfaction in keeping her line-a-day record, because three years later in January 1916 she is still diligently writing daily in her Ward’s volume. The first month of the year is punctuated by poor weather and ill-health, as well as a full slate of social activities. While brief, in aggregate form the diary entries grant us view of daily life for a white, upper middle-class woman in middle age, living in Boston in the second decade of the twentieth century.


1 Jan. Saturday. Snowing & raining. Ear & Eye hosp. & errands. Went to Cambridge to see Katey & Aunt E--. Concert with Mrs. Schelling & Mrs. Sears.*

2 Jan. Sunday - Church - Lunched at H.G.C.’s. Family to dine & then to Slater musical. Gov. W-- very prominent.

3 Jan. Monday - Hosp. meeting. [word] lunch at Marian’s. Botany lecture & drove to Swampscott. Very heavy roads.

4 Jan. Tuesday - Paying bills - walked downtown to Dr. Crockett for third time about my ear. Lafayette Fund show with Georgie.

5 Jan. Wednesday - dancing - Ward lecture. Throat sore again. Going to [word] I put up car.

6 Jan. Thursday. Felt poorly with [word] cold. Went to tableaux with Marian R. A beautiful show.

7 Jan. Friday Walked for errands & Dr. Crockett who says I better go to Woodstock to have [word]. Stayed at home all the afternoon.

8 Jan. Saturday. Mr. Surette’s first lecture very interesting. Went to Ellen’s dancing school. Meant to go to assembly but throat prevented.

9 Jan. Sunday - Felt feverish so stayed in all day. Family to dine.

10 Jan. Warm & rainy. Drove to Cambridge with Miss A-- for botany lecture with slides. Much depressed by my ignorance.

11 Jan. Monday-Felt very poorly. Dr. C.sent me home & I passed the P.M. on my couch with pleasure. Gave up dinner at Burr’s. 

12 Jan. Wednesday - In the house all day this is the fourth sustained attack I have had.



13 Jan. In the house - better.

14 Jan. In the house. Sat in the window for a short time.Miss A- sent for as sister has pneumonia but she died before Miss A- got there.

15 Jan. So cold I gave up going out but sat in the window in the warm sun. Susan Bradley came to see me.

16 Jan. Sunday - did not go out. Mr Fenno came to call & family came to dine.

17 Jan. Monday - very cold & windy but drove to May R.’s birthday lunch and back .Botany lesson here. Ellen & teacher to play here.

18 Jan. Tuesday - lovely cold day.Feel better at last. Sat in the open window & went to Swampscott in P.M. Roads very good.

19 Jan. Wednesday. Went to Mrs.Ward’s lecture.Llunched at Chilton. Lecture at Art [word] & tea for Emily [word] at Mrs. T. Motley’s.

20 Jan. Thursday - Errands but began to snow and then rain so stayed at home in the P.M. Feeling better.

21 Jan. Friday. Went to concert & took Mrs.Hadder

22 Jan. Saturday Went to Mrs.Tyson’s in the P.M. did not feel so well.

23 Jan. Sunday Stayed in bed till dinner time & felt better. Family to dine.

24 Jan. Monday. Stayed in bed in the morning. Botany lesson & then rested.

25 Jan. Monday. Sat in the window & after lunch went to drive. Really warm. Gave up Lyman dinner.

  26 Jan. Wednesday.Drove morning & afternoon & feel better.

27 Jan.Thursday. Drove in the morning & went to bank. Lunch club at [word]. Went to see Dr. Balch who says I must be careful.

28 Jan. Friday - [word] not get up in the A.M. Lunched at Bell’s - took a drive & feel better.

29 Jan.Saturday-Mrs.Tyson’s in the A.M. To see Dr. Balch who called in Dr. W.D. Smith in consultation. Both say be careful.

30 Jan. So tired after yesterday’s performance that I stayed in bed until P.M. Lucy Bradley & Jessie came to call. Family to dine.

31 Jan. Monday -Feel better. Had my hair washed. Lunch at Marian’s & home for botany lesson. Rested. Mrs. McL-- called home.


Join me once a month throughout the year as we continue to follow Margaret Pelham Russell’s daily activities as she recorded them one hundred years ago.

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.


permalink | Published: Friday, 29 January, 2016, 1:49 PM


Feb 5, 2016, 4:19 am


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