Diary of a New York Girl


In 1852, a young New York girl began keeping a journal of everyday happenings in the village of Canadaigua. For 20 years, she noted ordinary and extraordinary events, including school days, social outings, the American Civil War, the assassination of President Lincoln, and attending the speeches and sermons of famous personages. The diary was originally published 1913 as Village Life in America. This edition has been reformatted and includes new footnotes and information about the author and her family, as well as the First and Second Inaugural Addresses of President Abraham Lincoln.

It’s an amazing piece of history written by an average citizen of the 19th century. Great for all ages!

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November 21, 1852

I am ten years old to-day, and I think I will write a journal and tell who I am and what I am doing. I have lived with my Grandfather and Grandmother Beals ever since I was seven years old, and Anna, too, since she was four. Our brothers, James and John, came too, but they are at East Bloomfield at Mr. Stephen Clark’s Academy. Miss Laura Clark of Naples is their teacher.

May 1

I arose this morning about the usual time and read my three chapters in the Bible and had time for a walk in the garden before breakfast. The polyanthuses are just beginning to blossom and they border all the walk up and down the garden. I went to school at quarter of nine, but did not get along very well because we played too much. We had two new scholars to-day, Miss Archibald and Miss Andrews, the former about seventeen and the latter about fifteen. In the afternoon old Mrs. Kinney made us a visit, but she did not stay very long. In dictionary class I got up sixth, although I had not studied my lesson very much.

December 20, 1855

Susan B. Anthony is in town and spoke in Bemis Hall this afternoon. She made a special request that all the seminary girls should come to hear her as well as all the women and girls in town. She had a large audience and she talked very plainly about our rights and how we ought to stand up for them, and said the world would never go right until the women had just as much right to vote and rule as the men. She asked us all to come up and sign our names who would promise to do all in our power to bring about that glad day when equal rights should be the law of the land. A whole lot of us went up and signed the paper. When I told Grandmother about it she said she guessed Susan B. Anthony had forgotten that St. Paul said the women should keep silence.

July 4

     Barnum’s circus was in town to-day and if Grandmother had not seen the pictures on the hand bills I think she would have let us go. She said it was all right to look at the creatures God had made but she did not think He ever intended that women should go only half dressed and stand up and ride on horses bare back, or jump through hoops in the air. So we could not go. We saw the street parade though and heard the band play and saw the men and women in a chariot, all dressed so fine, and we saw a big elephant and a little one and a camel with an awful hump on his back, and we could hear the lion roar in the cage, as they went by. It must have been nice to see them close to and probably we will some day.


March 4, 1861

President Lincoln was inaugurated to-day.

March 5

I read the inaugural address aloud to Grandfather this evening.[1] He dwelt with such pathos upon the duty that all, both North and South, owe to the Union, it does not seem as though there could be war!

[1] See appendix for the full address.

Additional information

Weight 15 oz
Dimensions 9 × 10 × 2 in


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