Diaries of Girls and Women: A Midwestern American Sampler

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Univ of Wisconsin Press, May 30, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 472 pages

Diaries of Girls and Women captures and preserves the diverse lives of forty-seven girls and women who lived in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin between 1837 and 1999—young schoolgirls, adolescents coming of age, newlywed wives, mothers grieving the loss of children, teachers, nurses, elderly women, Luxembourger immigrant nuns, and women traveling abroad. A compelling work of living history, it brings together both diaries from historical society archives and diaries still in possession of the diarists or their descendents.
Editor Suzanne L. Bunkers has selected these excerpts from more than 450 diaries she examined. Some diaries were kept only briefly, others through an entire lifetime; some diaries are the intensely private record of a life, others tell the story of an entire family and were meant to be saved and appreciated by future generations. By approaching diaries as historical documents, therapeutic tools, and a form of literature, Bunkers offers readers insight into the self-images of girls and women, the dynamics of families and communities, and the kinds of contributions that girls and women have made, past and present. As a representation of the girls and women of varied historical eras, locales, races, and economic circumstances who settled and populated the Midwest, Diaries of Girls and Women adds texture and pattern to the fabric of American history.


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2 Coming of Age
3 Journeys
4 Home Work Family
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Page xiii - I have also been greatly assisted by grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Page 14 - By the dailiness of women's lives I mean the patterns women create and the meanings women invent each day and over time as a result of their labors and in the context of their subordinated status to men. The point is not to describe every aspect of daily life or to represent a schedule of priorities in which some activities are more important or accorded more status than others. The point is to suggest a way of knowing from the meanings women give to their labors. The search for dailiness is a method...
Page 22 - [T]he binaric version of nineteenth-century American history is ultimately unsatisfactory because it is simply too crude an instrument — too rigid and totalizing — for understanding the different, complicated ways that nineteenth-century American society of literary production functioned" (445). How does the diary function as both text and artifact? Diaries are things — artifacts of material culture as well as texts.13 As Kathryn Carter explains, "Diaries foreground the material conditions...
Page 35 - It is only relatively recently (roughly in the last one hundred years) that the content of the diary has been a record of private thoughts and feelings to be kept hidden from others' eyes. Many eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury diaries were semi-public documents intended to be read by an audience.
Page 31 - Although I have in the past written frequently about autobiography as a literary genre, I have never been very comfortable doing it, primarily because I believe that if one is to speak relevantly of a genre one has first of all to define it, and I have never met a definition of autobiography that I could really like.
Page 29 - Life writing comprises texts that are written by an author who does not continuously write about someone else, and who also does not pretend to be absent from the [black, brown, or white] text himself/herself. Life writing is a way of seeing, to use John Berger's famous phrase...
Page 39 - It involves the reconstruction of the movement of a life, or part of a life, in the actual circumstances in which it was lived.
Page 19 - ... a special inventive patience. We must interpret what is not written as well as what is, and, rather than dismiss repetitions, value them especially. 'Nothing happened' asks that we wonder what, in the context of a particular woman's stream of days, she means by something happening...
Page 31 - periautography!, which would mean 'writing about or around the self, is precisely its indefinition and lack of generic rigor, its comfortably loose fit and generous adaptability, and the same for 'life-writing'.

About the author (2001)

Suzanne L. Bunkers is professor of English and director of the Honors Program at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She is the editor of The Diary of Caroline Seabury: 1854–1863, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press. She is the author of In Search of Susanna; the editor of All Will Yet be Well: The Diary of Sarah Gillespie 1873-1952; and the co-editor of Inscribing the Daily: Critical Essays on Women’s Diaries.

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