EMMA'S WORLD: An Intimate Look at Lives Touched by the Civil War by Shirley Blotnick Moskow

EMMA'S WORLD: An Intimate Look at Lives Touched by the Civil War

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A charming and poignant collection of letters sent to and saved by Emma Barbour of Cambridge, Mass., between 1854, when she was 11, and 1863, when she married--a collection that illustrates how ordinary individuals far from sources of power and scenes of action are ""touched"" and, more to the point, remain untouched by major historical events such as the Civil War, the assassination of Lincoln, and the opening of the western frontier. Moskow, a professional journalist whose father-in-law found a case of Emma's letters in an antique show in 1951, re-creates Emma's world by placing it in a living and extended context, lucidly, tactfully, imaginatively. Although Emma dominates the collection, her voice is never heard, but only the confessional, instructive, or entertaining voices of friends and relatives from Mobile to Maine. They express pleasure or interest in such activities as spelling bees, sleighing and skating parties, fashion, romance, marriage and the perils of childbirth, childhood itself, afflictions ranging from cholera to insanity, the hardships of life even for a white middle-class, educated woman living at a time of great expectations and danger (women who married had a life expectancy of 39). Still, they stuffed their mattresses with corn husks, embroidered their pillowcases, wrote long and literate letters full of domestic sunshine and affection, planned summer holidays to escape the diseases of the city, and pursued both the salvation of their souls in revivalist Christianity--and of their minds in the philosphy of perfectibility they heard about in great public lectures and read about in the new popular press. Immensely interesting as social history, as travel history (an amazing amount of travel takes place using a vast array of conveyances, all lovingly described), and as a document in the history of adolescence.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1990
Publisher: New Horizon