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The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker

The Life Cycle of an Eighteenth-Century Woman

Edited by Elaine Forman Crane

Publication Year: 2010

The journal of Philadelphia Quaker Elizabeth Sandwith Drinker (1735-1807) is perhaps the single most significant personal record of eighteenth-century life in America from a woman's perspective. Drinker wrote in her diary nearly continuously between 1758 and 1807, from two years before her marriage to the night before her last illness. The extraordinary span and sustained quality of the journal make it a rewarding document for a multitude of historical purposes. One of the most prolific early American diarists—her journal runs to thirty-six manuscript volumes—Elizabeth Drinker saw English colonies evolve into the American nation while Drinker herself changed from a young unmarried woman into a wife, mother, and grandmother. Her journal entries touch on every contemporary subject political, personal, and familial.

Focusing on different stages of Drinker's personal development within the domestic context, this abridged edition highlights four critical phases of her life cycle: youth and courtship, wife and mother, middle age in years of crisis, and grandmother and family elder. There is little that escaped Elizabeth Drinker's quill, and her diary is a delight not only for the information it contains but also for the way in which she conveys her world across the centuries.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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Preface: A Woman for All Seasons

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pp. vii-xi

Elizabeth Drinker and I go back a long way. We met by chance at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania about three decades ago, and since then—courtesy of her diary and the passage of time—she has been a friend, sister, or mother (depending on her age and mine). I have always maintained that historians are drawn to specific subjects consciously or unconsciously and for reasons that do not easily succumb to analysis. ...

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pp. xiii

In addition to the many people whose contributions to the unabridged edition of The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker are reflected in this volume, I would like to thank Steven Spishak, Gilbert Stack, and Bowen Smith, graduate assistants at Fordham University who helped with this version of the diary. I am also grateful to John Weingartner and Jill Bahcall al Northeastern University Press, ...

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pp. xv-xxvi

After a particularly stressful day in the fall of 1798, Elizabeth Sandwith Drinker, a Quaker Philadelphian whose lifetime pill intake made her an expert on the subject, concluded that "a mixture of good with the bad, makes the pill of life go down. "1 And even if this was not one of her more astute observations, it does imply that at age sixty-three she assessed her own life in terms of such a balance. Elizabeth Drinker's life, most certainly a mixture of good and bad. is ...

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Editorial Note

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pp. xxvii-xxix

Elizabeth Drinker's diary falls somewhere between a historical and a literary document. Although its primary value is historical, readers can enjoy both content and form. Similarly, it falls somewhere between a private and a public document: private in the sense that it was not meant to be published, public because the volumes were open to the scrutiny of others, both in her time and ...

List of Abbreviations and Short Titles

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pp. xxxi-xxxix

Family Tree

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pp. xl

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1. Youth and Courtship, 1758-1761

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pp. 3-22

Elizabeth Sandwith introduces herself through her needlework. Preceding her chronological entries, and not reproduced here, is a compilation of hand-wrought accomplishments for the years 1757-60. The list of nearly one hundred items presents a young woman who was both skilled and productive. Elizabeth knitted stockings, plaited watchstrings and whipstrings, and worked pincushions, pocketbooks, and purses, most of which she either gave or perhaps ...

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2. Wife and Mother, 1762-1775

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pp. 23-54

Life for Elizabeth Sandwith Drinker was very different from what it had been for Elizabeth Sandwith. Love overcame restraint, and Henry Drinker became "mon chere," "my best friend," or "my Sweet-Heart." Yet these endearments were the only indicators of her marital relationship. Except for one entry on May 12, 1761, silence shields the seventeen months following her marriage, during which time her first child, Sarah (affectionately called Sally), was born. ...

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3. Middle Age in Years of Crisis, 1776-1793

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pp. 55-121

Two major public events bookend the central phase of Elizabeth Drinker's life: a violent War for Independence and a virulent yellow fever epidemic. Both episodes threatened the Drinkers' well-being, although neither claimed the life of immediate family members. ...

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4. Grandmother and Grand Mother, 1794-1807

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pp. 123-304

Although the last section of the diary spans only fourteen years, it represents fully three-quarters of the journal's entire contents. Drinker's prolific output during this period was a measure of available time, as was her voluminous reading, judging by the lists appended to the end of every year between 1799 and 1806. As her physical pace slowed down perceptibly, her intellectual ...

Biographical Directory

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pp. 305-342

Index of Names

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pp. 343-356

Subject Index

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pp. 357-366

E-ISBN-13: 9780812206821
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812220773

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: Abridged Edition