Way Back When … 1908
As Mother’s Day approaches, let’s take a look at the daily life of a new mother in 1908. The Fairfield Museum has in its collections the diary of Gertrude Jelliff Perry, who lived in the area from the late 1800s through 1951. This diary covers the year from January 1 through December 31, 1908 while she lived at her parents’ home after her daughter Gertrude (called Trudy) was born on December 30, 1907.
The diary includes descriptions of post-childbirth recuperation, breastfeeding, daily weather, activities, town and church events, paid work (typing) for her father, and a six-week trip with her husband and daughter to his hometown in Kentucky. Here are a few snippets from May of 1908, which seems to have had some of the same unpredictable weather that we still experience her in Fairfield during springtime.
On Wednesday, May 13 she wrote, “An extremely hot day. I went to the office and wrote for Pa a little while and took care of the baby and gave her a bath & left her to sleep.”
On Monday, May 18 she wrote, “A fine day. … After dinner I went to Bpt. and exchanged a waist for Ma and came home on the 5 train. Baby is a little fretty and I guess she is teething. … We spent the evening quietly together and did a little reading. It was hard work to get baby to go to sleep to-night. Went to bed at 10.”
On Thursday, May 21 she wrote, “A rainy, miserable day. I went to the office for a little while and wrote for Pa and then came home and took care of the baby and did a little sewing. Aunt Carrie made candy for Uncle Nate. After dinner I dressed & went on the 2-10 trolley to the … Club at Mrs. Horace Wakeman’s and had a very pleasant time and got home at 6-10. Baby had been good all the afternoon. Rob went to the store early after supper … The sun shone a little this after-noon. I nursed the baby and Ma put her to sleep. I did a little writing. We are all feeling quite well. Our colds are better. Sadie is working well. Baby changes a little every day and is growing very fast.”
And this is what she wrote on Sunday, May 10, “Baby woke me at 4-o-clock this morning and I am a little sleepy to-night.” That entry would actually have been written during the same month in which Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. (In May 1908, Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia and thousands of people attend a Mother’s Day event at a Wanamaker’s retail store in Philadelphia.)
Gertrude ended the last page of her 1908 diary with this sweet thought on December 31: “God has been very good to us this year.”
The Fairfield Museum & History Center and Museum Shop, located at 370 Beach Road, is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members of the Museum and children under 5 are admitted free. For more information, call 203-259-1598 or visit Fairfieldhistory.org.