A New England Girlhood Outlined from Memory
By Lucy Larcom
This book is not a diary nor a journal but seemingly a new genre, a collection of memories of Lucy Larcom. It follows the author from a toddler to early adulthood. The values and morals woven into her live should be a lesson to all of us. Born in 1821, she moved with her family to Lowell, Massachusetts, in the 1830s after the death of her shipmaster father. Originally published in 1889, her autobiography offers glimpses of the early years of the American industrial and social development.
Two of her memories strike me. As soon as the children were thought capable of learning their letters they were sent off to school. It was not uncommon to learn lessons at two and three, with the sole purpose of getting them off their mother's hands. Lucy was an exceptional child and her family vowed she was reading the Bible by the age of two and a half.
One can imagine how delighted she was when at five she was allowed to dip a quill pen in an inkbottle and write out her ABC's.
Christian fundamentals were the bases for all learning in the early to mid 1800's. While attending church service Lucy memorized the hymnbook in an attempt to sit still. She would then recite the songs to her mother while she ironed or cooked in the kitchen, knowing it delighted her.
Lucy and her mother wanted to further her learning by sending her to college but they hadn't the money. It was hard enough to support her and her brother's and sisters. In order to make ends meat her mother ran a boarding house and eleven-year-old Lucy Larcom went to work in a textile mill like many farm girls her age.