Today in our Family History Class we talked about Personal Histories and how reading the histories of others can be helpful to us as we write our own stories. We see what is interesting to us, or what we wish had been recorded but wasn’t. These things always motivate me to try a little harder to write a little better.
The history of Patty Bartlett Sessions has been interesting to me because she was a midwife who kept a diary from 1846 until shortly before her death in 1888. She was almost 98 years old when she died. She was 51 when she started writing. She left an amazing record of her life.
In the Foreword to this book, Marueen Ursenbach Beecher, shared some words I’ve read many times. She said, “Reading the diary of a woman is like visiting across the back fence on a summer afternoon. While your wash dries on the line, and her garden awaits the seeds she is planting, you chat about the things that matter to each of you: your new carpet, her problem with the car, her daughter who is about to marry, your son who seems unable to find directions in his life, the neighbor whose husband recently died, and whether or not the town council will fix the potholes in the road this spring. Of just such topics is a woman’s life filled; or such things she writes in her diary. The events and circumstances, the concerns and achievements of a woman’s life are as worthy the attention of historians as are the doings of governments and corporations, generally the domain of men. Public and private and male and female worlds overlap, but as Laurel Thatcher Ulrich observed in the introduction to her Pulitzer Prize study, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, there are areas of both which have not in the past been deemed of interest–the details of the day to day activities of men and women, for example, but especially the domestic affairs of women. And, as Ulrich noted, ‘it is in the very dailiness, the exhaustive, repetitious dailiness, that the real power of Marth Ballard’s book lies.’”
These early Mormon Midwives, like my 3rd Great-Grandmother, Elisabeth Degen Bushman, lived extraordinary lives, that probably seemed mundane and repetitious to them at the time. They did what needed to be done. There was little fanfare or applause. They probably wondered if anyone would be interested in their words in some future day.
I, for one, am jumping up and down for joy that these records were kept and have been preserved. Part of what makes them precious to us is that time has passed between their day and ours. Our daily routines have changed so much, that we are quite unfamiliar with their lifestyles of the 1840s to 1880s.
That being said, I suppose that if we were to wait long enough, our 2014 lifestyles would be of great interest to our 3rd great grandchildren. We will not live to see it, but I am pretty confident that once we are gone, our words will be precious to those who will follow us.
Another reason for writing my fingers to the bone.