EMILY: The Diary of a Hard-Worked Woman by Emily French

EMILY: The Diary of a Hard-Worked Woman

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Rarely do we have a chance to read a diary kept by a working woman of a bygone era and written is so revealing a manner. The entries cover the year 1890, in which a divorced woman on her own with two children struggled for survival. Working as a cook, maid, laundress, she eked out a bare existence. Yet she persevered with a remarkable faith and strength. Life in Colorado, as seen through the eyes of this unique witness, is hard and without frills. The diarist started life in the Midwest and came west with a husband who left her after 31 years of marriage and many children. When the diary begins, she has taken the two youngest children--really kidnapped them--and is trying to support them on her meager earnings. Her husband has remarried and two of the children live with him in comfort. The harshness of Emily's life seems unremitting except for church services, an occasional sympathetic friend and quiet moments with her children when they are all healthy and fed. Her demands of life were not unreasonable--a warm home, her children's happiness and perhaps a kind man to love and be loved by. To accomplish this, she was not afraid to work long hours and often endure considerable humiliations. She was in her late 40s when she began the diary, and though bent by work, needing false teeth, she still was attractive enough to interest suitors. The editors know that sometime after the diary ended, Emily did marry, but what more happened to her is apparently lost to us. We have diaries of 19th-century women of leisure, but not so life from the bottom up. In French, we find the quiet courage and toughness of those hardy women who pioneered the West.

Pub Date: March 11th, 1987
ISBN: 0803268610
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska Press