mary boykin chesnut

Mary Boykin Chesnut's Diary, Part Two (Repost)

Historical documents of a personal nature can be difficult - especially for students - because tone is everything. Overlook a little flirting, or sarcasm, or other emoticon-deficient vibe, and you can misread a source completely. Mrs. Chesnut is kind enough to write on both levels simultaneously - the obvious, smiling appreciation for a friend’s long-awaited offspring, and - unless I’m projecting - a little wry commentary as well.

It might even be cruel.

Mary Boykin Chesnut's Diary, Part One (Repost)

Mary Boykin Chesnut was a Southern lady in the purest tradition, well-educated and well-bred. Her husband was the son of a successful plantation owner and an upwardly mobile politico himself.

Women in such circumstances were expected to be well-educated, but not given much opportunity to use their fancy brains. In retrospect, it might have been kinder to either keep them as ignorant as possible or let them do stuff - but such were the mores of the day. So she read, she observed, and she wrote. Lots.