"A Secret to Be Burried"

"A Secret to Be Burried"

The Diary and Life of Emily Hawley Gillespie, 1858-1888

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472 pages, 14 photos

"Lensink's edition of the Gillespie diary…makes compelling reading…This diary will be important to women's historians…It is a tribute to Lensink's persistence that she is able to discern the important commentary embedded in the manuscript and to place it in the context of the best of current women's history."—Linda K. Kerber

“Between 1858 and 1888 Emily Hawley Gillespie kept a private record of her life on a rural Iowa farm. Increasingly, even as she maintained the outward trappings of Victorian propriety, she railed against her marriage, her limited domestic sphere, and her inability to make real choices about her own life. In 1989 Judy Nolte Lensink recovered Emily’s lost voice, offering us a condensed version of the journals and a probing analysis of the ways in which women’s diaries serve as autobiographies in the construction of a life story. For scholar and general reader alike, this is a fascinating study.”—Annette Kolodny

The sound of nineteenth-century women, once thought lost to us, is alive because ordinary women like Emily Hawley Gillespie gave voice to their thoughts in diaries. This condensed version of the 2,500-page journals of Emily Gillespie, faithfully written from 1858 to 1888, is a detailed account of rural Iowa life. More than this, it contains the reflections of a woman who dreamed of being a painter and writer and instead became a wife and a mother, a woman whose radical convictions were recorded in her diary, while publicly she conformed to the prescribed life of a Victorian pioneer woman. Through Emily's journals, readers are offered immediate and unmodified contact with settlers in Iowa one hundred years ago. A wealth of facts are included—what produce she harvested and preserved from her garden, how her husband tended his fields and what he raised, the challenges and rewards of family life.

Judy Lensink's skillful analysis shows the larger patterns in Emily Gillespie's life and provides keys that unlock the diary's secrets. Emily's life is revealed as a youth full of promise fading into middle and declining years of lost dreams and eventual tragedy, which caused her to write, "I have written many things in my journal, but the worst is a secret to be burried when I shall cease to be."