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Daughter of Boston: The Extraordinary Diary of a Nineteenth Century Woman

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Book Details
  • Publisher: Brand: Beacon Press
Boston was well-known in the nineteenth century as a center for intellectual ferment. Amidst the popular lecturing of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the discussion groups led by Margaret Fuller sat a remarkable young woman, Caroline Healey Dall (1822–1912): transcendentalist, early feminist, writer, reformer, and, perhaps most importantly, active diarist. During the seventy-five years that Dall kept a diary, she captured all the fascinating details of her sometimes agonizing personal life, and she also wrote about all the major figures who surrounded her. Her diary, filling forty-five volumes, is perhaps the longest diary ever written by any American and the most complete account of a nineteenth-century woman’s life.

Daughter of Boston is a selection of the best from Dall’s diary, woven together with biographical narrative. What Samuel Pepys did in his Diary for seventeenth-century London, Caroline Dall does in hers for nineteenth-century Boston. The city’s celebrations, mob scenes, poverty-ridden neighborhoods, lectures, and exhibits are described with great wit and insight. Dall also writes colorfully about people whose names never made it into the history books—wives and mothers, fugitives, servants, children, and working people of all ages.

Daughter of Boston is both a significant document of social history and an engrossing account of one woman’s life and thoughts.

“In Daughter of Boston, Helen Deese, one of our foremost scholars of American Romanticism, has unearthed the fascinating journals of Caroline Healey Dall, a nineteenth-century New Englander who was an astute observer and active participant in nearly every major intellectual and political movement of her day, from Transcendentalism to abolition to women’s rights.” —Megan Marshall, author of The Peabody Sisters