Who Was Maggie B?

Ed note: Last week we began tweeting the daily diary of Margaret Boyd, Ohio University’s first alumna. PACE student employees Karah Finan and Matt Wesley will be writing blog posts about Boyd and the OU she knew in 1873 over the winter and spring quarters. This first post describes Finan’s experience first learning about Boyd and some of the surprising similarities between Boyd’s senior year and that of the modern college student.

Though Margaret Boyd was a college student over 130 years ago, the similarities that can be recognized between between her daily life and that of a modern college student are astonishing. As you read on through her diary, you notice that many of her entries could have been written today. We would like to invite our fellow Ohio University classmates to get to know Maggie as we have. Though there are many differences, I believe you will find that Maggie has wisdom and insights that still ring true today.

Maggie expressed frustrations with finding motivation to study for her subjects; on January 11, 1873, Maggie wrote: “If I just could study all the time, but I find I can-not. The body I think has great influence on the mind.” This particular sentiment rings true with almost every college student I’ve known today. Study and preparation were a challenging undertaking over a century ago and maybe even more so for Maggie. She had the enormous pressure of being the first female to attend Ohio University, and often she expressed doubt that she would be able to live up to their pressures of being a woman in the male-dominated academic world.

As the stereotypical “poor college student,” many of us are living off Ramen noodles, watching every dollar we spend and dreaming about the day when we will have a steady salary. Maggie was no different, well… you would have to substitute whatever the Victorian equivalent to Ramen Noodles was.  On January 7, 1873, she wrote: “I can not help feeling sad to think this is my last year at college.  Many a pleasant hour have I spent within its walls.  Still I will be so glad to be able to make something. I have always had to be so careful of every cent.” In her diary, Maggie often expressed nostalgia for her years at Ohio University, and though she is sad to leave, she often dreams about her future.

Though Maggie’s future is now history to us, it helps to remind us that human emotions are timeless, and the life of a woman who lived over a century ago may not be so different from yours or mine.

If you’d like to read more of Maggie’s diary, please follow the Twitter account in which we will be chronicling her day-to-day entries. Follow Boyd’s Twitter account, the @AldenLibrary Twitter account or our Facebook page for updates. Also, keep following the Library Blog to read more about the university’s history during Maggie’s time and other aspects of Victorian life.