In nine diaries written between 1872 and 1891, Mary Ann Porter Harrington provided a detailed look at daily life on her central Massachusetts farm.
Throughout the diaries, Mary Ann described her daily chores, meals, errands, social calls, and correspondence. After the death of her husband in 1875, she devoted more of her time and attention to managing her farm and finances. She wrote about her hired hands, business investments, real estate transactions, and personal loans. At a time when Americans debated the role of women in civic society, Mary Ann’s diaries reveal how she navigated both the private and public spheres.
Though her diaries read primarily as a record of personal details, they also describe a thriving community of townspeople who worked, worshipped, and socialized together. Mary Ann cited over 420 people and the text includes short biographies of most of them. Her annotated diaries are an indispensable resource for genealogists and historians who are researching families who lived in and around East Brookfield, Massachusetts during the late nineteenth century.
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Courtney A. Clements has been working on her family history (which includes the Harringtons) for over two decades. She acquired Mary Ann’s original diaries on eBay in 2017. Courtney holds a master’s degree in history and has worked as an art educator and museum curator. She lives with her family in Oregon.