1912 Manuscript Diary of a Well-Written Kalamazoo, Michigan Farming Wife and Mother

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On offer is a quaint, well-written diary dating back to early 1912 Kalamazoo County, Michigan, written by farming wife and mother, Maude Ames Codman (1873-1955). 

While Maude does not identify herself, contextual clues, which include the names and birth dates of Maude and all of her family members and corresponding employment and location data, confirm Maude Codman’s identity. Maude was born in Ohio. In 1897, she married an older farmer named Albert Ferris Codman (1859-1942) and they lived together in Michigan. When Albert died, he was the oldest native-born resident of Wakeshema, Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was a farmer. Maude and Albert had two children: George Lewis Codman (1899-1977) and Esbon Brainard Codman (1902-1949). At the time she kept this diary, Maude was 39-years-old and her sons were 13 and 11. 

The Codman family lives on a farm and Maude’s days are full of baking, cleaning, household tasks as well as her very busy social life. Family and friends play an important role in Maude's life and her interactions with them are many.  While they live near Fulton, Maude visits many other communities nearby, such as Schoolcraft, Vicksburg, and Leonidas. Maude is an excellent record keeper. On top of her pleasant diary entries, she keeps a robust address book, birthday list and one of the most detailed monthly accounting sections we have seen. Some excerpts from the diary give the flavour of Maude’s writing:

“Ironed in forenoon. Albert went to Leonidas to try and find a hired man for next year but had no luck. May was down in afternoon. I turned some old blankets. Albert started for Kal about 5 P.M.. Will stay with Aunt Helen tonight”  [Jan 17]. 

“It didn’t snow much today but the wind blew so they could not make roads. Albert tries to go over to Shooks with empty bobs but snow was so deep he had to give it up . Trains are all stopped and a bad wreck on G.R. & I last eve north of [ ]” [Feb 22].

“Ironed, baked bread and cake and took everything out of sitting room and dining room as Ed Cuthbert will come tomorrow to run partition. Was so tired at night was about all in” [Mar 26].

“This is A’s 53rd birthday. I baked a cake in A.M. and then cleaned up the house. Albert’s folks came over to supper. Alice brought A a nice birthday cake. We had chicken for supper” [Apr 5]. 

“Albert and [ ] started out with Frank and Fred in the wagon at 8:30 last eve and didn’t get home til after daylight. Lottie and I put in an awful night too. She was up here from 10 to 11 and I was down there from 2 to 4. Neither of us slept a bit. If those men do such a trick again, there will be something doing. We all slept after breakfast until noon. The boys were over to Aubrey’s. I drove Fred to Fulton. Went to [ ] and got my panama hat. It is a daisy”  [June 13]. 

“Boys started to school this AM. Esbon feeling better. I did the washing alone. Missed the boys. They help a lot. Albert and Leon tore down back porch in PM. Boys thing the new teacher Florence Bennet is a great improvement” [Sept 2]. 

Maude’s detailed cash accounting of expenditures is kept from January through October. She also records in various places payments for various products such as cream, veal and livestock.

Tucked into the back of the diary is a warm, heartfelt letter of thanks to Maud from a close friend named Anna.

For a historian, this is an excellent picture of rural life in the midwest in the early years of the 20th century. It details not only the work entailed in running a successful family farm but also gives an insight into the economics of the times. For a Women’s Studies program, it offers a very clear look at the role of women in rural America and the daily tasks that filled their lives.

The diary is approximately 80% complete, covering much of 1912. The cover is a light taupe canvas with brown leather trim and has a fold over flap. There is a small pocket on the inside back cover. The binding is in very good condition as are the pages. The handwriting is legible. The entries are quite detailed. Overall VG. 

Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information or to request photos. (Kindly include the SKU, listed on this page above the price, in your e-mail so we can more easily answer your questions.)

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