Today’s Ohio University students often use text or social media to keep in touch with their friends and family back home. But more than 130 years ago, none of these modern luxuries existed, so how did Maggie Boyd socialize and communicate?
Letter writing was one of Maggie’s main forms of communication with friends and family both far and close. In the Victorian Era, letters were sent for numerous reasons: congratulations, apologies, invitations, business and commerce, and for courtship. Presentation of the letter was almost as important as the content itself, nice paper and “flair” were used to decorate the letter, along with elaborate wax seals and ribbons (Malheiro).
Maggie used letters to call on friends, keep in touch with family in other counties and to arrange social meetings. On January 13, 1873, she wrote:
“My letter written to E.J.J. returned today. I had ordered it to be returned, to box 51 Athens O. if not called for within ten days. Suppose he was not at home. A Joke on me!!”
Though Maggie’s note to her male friend was never received, in what she thought might be a form of courtship rejection, Maggie engaged in letter writing and receiving almost daily. In her year-long diary, she mentions sending or receiving a letter more than 60 times (Boyd).
Maggie’s social life was full of calling on friends at their homes, attending church meetings in-home and in the church, playing crochet, taking walks and visiting the shops on Court Street. She chronicled her daily activities in her pocket diary, which she wrote in daily for a little more than a year from 1873-1874. Maggie was given the diary as a Christmas present from her sister Kate (Boyd).
By the Victorian Era, diary writing was becoming popular for women. Some women even chose to publish their diaries as memoirs or autobiographies.. In decades before, it was frowned upon for a women to engage in creative endeavors like writing, but diary writing reached its peak for women in the 1890s. It was a way for the women to escape their normally oppressed daily life and have a chance to express opinions about things without being looked at as unladylike (Jump).
To read Maggie’s Diary and her letters to friends and relatives please follow Maggie’s Twitter account, @MaggieBoyd1873 – we will be chronicling her day-to-day entries from her pocket diary. Also, keep following the Library Blog, the @AldenLibrary Twitter account or the Alden Library Facebook pageto read more about the university’s history during Maggie’s time and other aspects of Victorian life.
Boyd, Margaret. “Pocket Diary for 1873.” Digital Initiatives. Ohio University. 1873 http://cdm15808.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/archives/id/40940. Web. 29 Dec 2011.
Jump, Harriet Devine, and Harriet Devine. Women’s Writing Of The Victorian Period, 1837-1901, An Anthology. Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.
Malheiro, B.. “Victorian Etiquette – On Letter Writing.” Victorian Era 1876. N.p., 2011. Web. 1 May 2012.