Picks and Pans Review: Domestick Beings

UPDATED 05/07/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/07/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

by June Sprigg

On May 20, 1772 Jemima Condict, 17, of West Orange, N.J. wrote in her diary: "Rose in the morning tho not very early and Went to weaving yet not very willingly for tho I Love that yet it likes not me and I am in the Mind that I never shall be well as Long as I Weave." On July 16, 1777 Abigail Adams, 32, of Braintree, Mass. (the wife of future President John Adams) had a daughter stillborn and wrote to a friend: "Join with me my dearest Friend in Gratitude to Heaven, that a life I know you value, has been spaired and carried thro Distress and danger altho the dear Infant is numbered with its ancestors...it appeared to be a very fine Babe, and as it never opened its Eyes in this world it looked as tho they were only closed for sleep...My Heart was much set upon a Daughter." On June 9, 1800 Abby May, 24, of Ballston Spa, N.Y. told her diary, "After Tea we four ramble'd into the woods and found many beauties tho I must confess Pine Trees and Musquitoes were more plenty than any other Commodity." This fascinating, lovely book consists of excerpts from the writings of seven 18th-century American women, selected and illustrated by Sprigg, a student of early American culture. These were all extraordinary women—only half the women of the era could write at all—yet their unaffected writing is sharply evocative. This is subtle, parenthetical history, but history all the same. (Knopf, $17.95)

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