I wore moccasins or slippers of buffalo skin

When the French Revolution took a radical turn in 1793, many aristocrats fled to escape the guillotine. Comte de La Tour du Pin de Gouvernet, his wife Henriette-Lucie, and their two children journeyed to Albany, New York in 1794, at the invitation of General Philip Schuyler. They leased a farm in the area, purchased tools and animals, as well as several slaves. From Madame du Pin’s journal (on which she based her memoir begun in 1820 but not published until 1906), we learn of the life they led in reduced circumstances. She proved to be a capable farm manager. It was her intention to “fit in” as she noted in her journal.

The day that we took possession of our farm, I adopted the costume worn by the women on the neighboring places, that is to say, a skirt of blue and black striped wool, a little camisole of light brown cloth, a handkerchief of the same color, with my hair parted … and caught up with a comb. In winter I wore gray or blue woolen stockings, with moccasins or slippers of buffalo skin; in summer, cotton stockings, and shoes. I never put on a dress or a corset, except to go into the city [Albany]. Among the effects which I had brought to America were two or three riding-costumes. These I used to transform myself into a dame élégante, when I wished to pay a visit to the Schuylers or Van Rensselaers.

This from a woman who had once been a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette! Life on the farm assumed a routine that, for Henriette-Lucie, was not unpleasant.

We took our déjeuner at eight o’clock, and our dinner at one o’clock. In the evening at nine ‘clock we had tea, with slices of bread, our excellent butter and some fine Stilton cheese which Monsieur Talleyrand sent us.

Look for future posts about Henriette-Lucie’s life in America.

Journal entries are from In the Words of Women, page 309. Image is on the front cover of Memoirs: Madame de la Tour du Pin Laughing and Dancing Our Way to the Precipice published in 1999.

one comment so far
  1. What an interesting woman! She seems to have adjusted easily to such a drastic change. Looking forward to learning more about her on your blog 🙂

    Comment by Keri@AWH — October 12, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

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