“I keept Christmas at home this year”

Young Anna Green Winslow, whose parents lived in Nova Scotia, was being schooled in Boston and living with her aunt. In these excerpts she describes the weather on Christmas Eve 1771, how she spent Christmas itself, as well as January 1.

Decr 24th.— … today is by far the coldest we have had since I have been in New England. (N.B. All run that are abroad.) Last sabbath being rainy I went to & from meeting in Mr. Soley’s chaise. … Every drop that fell froze. … The walking is so slippery & the air so cold, that aunt chuses to have me for her scoller [scholar] these two days. And … tomorrow will be a holiday, so the pope and his associates have ordained. … *

Decr 27th.—This day, the extremity of the cold is somewhat abated. I keept Christmas at home this year & did a very good day’s work. …

1st Jany 1772—I wish my Papa, Mama, brother John Henry, & cousin Avery & all the rest of my acquaintance … a Happy New Year. I have bestow’d no new year’s gift as yet.** But have received one very handsome one … [a book]. In nice Guilt and flowers covers. This afternoon being a holiday I am going to pay my compliments in Sudbury Street.

* Anna’s remarks reflect the Puritan dislike for Christmas.
** Gift-giving, if it prevailed at all in Puritan New England, took place on New Year’s Day.
For another excerpt from Anna’s journal, click here.

These excerpts are from a reprint of The Diary of Anna Green Winslow—A Boston School Girl of 1771, edited by Alice Morse Earle (Bedford, Massachusetts: Applewood Books, originally in 1894), pages 9-10, 13. The image is of a miniature owned by Elizabeth C. Trott, Niagara Falls, New York.

posted December 23rd, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Boston, Christmas, Holidays, Weather, Winslow, Anna Green

“Accept the Compts: of the season . . .”

I am taking this opportunity to revisit several posts about the Christmas and New Year holidays. I hope you will find them as interesting and charming as I do.

SARAH LIVINGSTON JAY and her husband John were apart during the holiday season of 1778-1779, John being in Philadelphia serving in the Continental Congress, and Sarah in New Jersey with their son Peter Augustus. Sally (as she was called), whose health was always fragile, was unwell and depressed by the absence of her husband. However, she assured him that “The company of your dear little boy proved a great consolation to me since you’ve been absent.” She ended her letter to him: “Accept the Compts: of the season,” the lovely expression typical of the time, adding to it “& may we repeat the same to each other fifty years hence.” Sadly, Sarah Jay did not live to fulfill her hope.

Christmas was not a widely celebrated holiday in the colonies. Its observance was generally prohibited in New England by Calvinists and other Protestant sects, and by the Quakers in Philadelphia and elsewhere. On the other hand, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Moravians did celebrate the Christmas season with both religious services and secular festivities. Generally these groups were in the Middle colonies and the South. If there was any decoration at all in homes it was likely to be garlands of natural greens, a few sprigs of holly and, perhaps, some mistletoe.

Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005), 56. Read articles on the celebration of Christmas in the colonies HERE and HERE.

posted December 22nd, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Christmas, Jay, John, Jay, Peter Augustus, Jay, Sarah Livingston

“Our souls are by nature equal to yours”

JUDITH SARGENT MURRAY (1751-1820) was born to a ship-owning family in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Although her younger brothers were tutored at home to prepare for college, Judith received no formal education. Self-taught, she read books from her father’s library and boldly pursued the intellectual life as essayist, poet and playwright, writing on topics like politics and religion.
In her essay On the Equality of the Sexes she argued that women should have the opportunity to receive an education equal to that of men. She was also one of the few women of her time to save her letter books; most women did not think their letters serious enough to be worth saving. In 1984, 20 volumes of 5,000 letters by Murray were discovered in Natchez, Miss. in a house near her daughter’s where she died.
While Murray did not—indeed could not—lead the charge for equality of the sexes in the male-dominated society of the time, she was an inspiration to the many who would follow in her footsteps.
To celebrate its one-hundredth anniversary the Sargent House Museum in Gloucester has joined with the Cape Ann Museum and the Terra Foundation of American Art to present a special exhibition Our Souls Are by Nature Equal to Yours (September 28, 2019 — March 31, 2020). The John Singleton Copley painting (pictured above) on loan from the Terra Foundation will be on view. On January 25, 2020, at 3pm, Judith Sargent Murray biographer Sheila Skemp of the University of Mississippi will give a talk titled First Lady of Letters: Judith Sargent Murray and the Struggle for Female Independence.

Bonnie Hurd Smith is an author and the founder of The Judith Sargent Murray Society. She describes the contributions of Judith Sargent Murray in this VIDEO. See other posts about Murray HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

posted December 10th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Murray, Judith Sargent

Holiday Entertainments at Mount Vernon

Now that December is here it’s time to look into some holiday entertainments that are not only timely but informative. Depend on Mount Vernon to present an array of interesting seasonal programs. Plan a visit around those that appeal.

On view until the end of December is a splendid gingerbread replica of the mansion. Including animals in marzipan!

Candlelight tours scheduled throughout the month allow visitors to spend a few hours in the 18th century: visiting the kitchen where servants prepare holiday fare, admiring the dining table laid with beautiful china and traditional comestibles, mixing with costumed dancers and interpreters in the ballroom. There’s no better way to muster up some holiday spirit.

If I could make the trip I would attend a chocolate making demonstration (December 3-6). I never really appreciated the many steps involved in producing the chocolate that is the basis of that wonderful hot drink often served for breakfast back then. Enjoy a spell of spirited music with the fife and drum.

Perhaps the most unexpected and delightful event is a visit with Aladdin the camel. In 1787, George Washington paid 18 shillings to bring a camel to Mount Vernon for the entertainment and delight of his guests and family. Today visitors can hear about his fascination with exotic animals and learn a few facts about camels.

If you can’t visit Mount Vernon do at least visit the online site, take a virtual tour, and enjoy the videos that accompany the holiday offerings.

posted December 2nd, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Christmas, Food, Holidays, Mount Vernon, Washington, George

“ship-shaped headdresses “

An addendum to the previous post about fancy headdresses crowned by ships. Readers may want to read the following post by Brenna Barks on the subject: When Fashion Set Sail. Do read the entire article. She makes the point that the modes excentriques were not just amusing indulgences but were in fact anti-British: proud, patriotic symbols of French support for the American cause, by women who had few other ways of expressing political views. Short-lived perhaps, but nonetheless meaningful.

Anonymous, Le Négligé Galant Ornés de la Coëffure à la Belle Poule, 1778, Bibliothèque nationale de France, cote cliché RC-B-05642.

posted November 21st, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Fashion, France

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