Tuesday, June 20, 2006

There Is Nothing New Under The Sun

Below is a letter written by my great-great-grandmother when she was a 17-year-old student at a women's teaching college, a school that is now Albright College. As you can see, the essential problems between fathers and teenage daughters remain unchanged. All emphasis and notations added by me:

New Berlin [Pennsylvania] Oct. 5th, 1860
Dear Father,

This evening I will try to answer your letter. I thought of answering it before this time but I did not get it accomplished and I hardly have time this evening, I have very hard lessons to study for tomorrow. I have been very busy this whole week, I had such long lessons to study. Your letter was very welcomely received. Mr. Wolf was very glad to receive that certificate just the evening before that he said the next letter that I write I may tell you about sending it. I just said yes and never let on as if I had told you, I thought I would surprise him a little if you send it. Well last Thursday evening he came in the study room with two letters for me, now said he Lizzie can well be proud this evening for I have two letters for her. Then I said I hope one is from father, well says he if it is open that one first perhaps there is money in it. Says I, I guess not it is to limber well says he I don't trust it open it once, well I opened it took the letter out, and said Oh no here is no money to be had but he was not satisfied yet he said I had not looked right yet, well says I believe there is something for all, well says he that is it out with it, well I got it out and looked at it. Then I handed it to him. Then he told the other ladies that I had a right to eat as much as I pleased now. And off he travelled with it. You said that you cannot think where all my money is. Well it is not all spent yet. But it costs money here and I think it would be so at other places too. I did not mention all the little things I had to buy and I don't know whether I can remember all this time, but I can mention some yet at least. Well I had to buy paper, ink, chalk, slate and pencil. A lamp and fluid, a can to put the fluid in, six pence ,to the ladies paper that is to get it bound, a shilling, to Sunday School and I don't know whether I have mentioned it all or not. And I have six dollars but I am wanting a pair of stockings that is the next thing. Father you need not think that I am sparing with my money indeed I try to spare as much as I can but of course it costs some if a person takes care as much as they can.

I expect the next thing is the hoop [skirt] question. You said perhaps I would say it is not true that I wear them and that you would be glad to hear it if I did not. But I cannot say that because I do wear them of course I would also rather tell you it was not true if I could tell it with truth. And I was sorry to hear that people have to make such a fuss about it. And I would gladly prevent it but indeed father under such circumstances as there are here it is hard to do it. Because everybody does wear them the preachers wives and all. Here is Brother Orwig's family well they all wear them and Mrs. Wolf here where I board she wears them too so you may well think that it would be hard for one alone to go without. And another thing they would think it more of a sin to wear such heavy petticoats than to wear hoops. They would be ashamed to go with one that had none on. They would think it disgrace for a young girl to go out on the street without. I tell them that where I live The professors of religion do not wear them. Well they can see no harm in them. There is one lady here she says too, they don't wear them where she comes from but she says too that if they all wear them she sees no harm in. A person is no stumbling block anyhow I cannot think any person can think that it is hard of me to wear them under such circumstances for if the professors of religion could not wear them I would not either. But I think such as it is it would take pretty much denial.

Father I will tell you that I still like it well, and enjoy good health for which I feel thankful to the Lord. I must now try and come to a close. I have to write a composition yet this evening and it is pretty late already. I had been out taking a walk. It was so pleasant to be out this evening. And one of my very best friends came to take a walk and so I could not refuse, and now I guess I must stay up pretty late, but I was determined to finish this letter this evening. I commenced it last evening then I got company. So that till the company was gone I had to get to studying my hard lessons of which I have been writing last evening in the beginning of the letter. I received that box last Saturday tell sister Emma that I will answer her letter next week. I was going to send one along with yours to spare the three cents but I have not got time to write more this eve. Give my love to all at home, I think about everyone just now and I hope you have not forgotten me either.

I hope you will excuse all mistakes, and write soon I will be anxious to hear from home again. No more at present.

From your daughter,

NOTE: As the above was only recently scanned I have not had time to double check the text against the original. I may make corrections when I have a chance to do so.

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