It has been said that “the first duty of love is to listen”( theologian Paul Tillich.) Freud spoke of the “talking cure.” But what if there isn’t someone to talk to? Keeping a diary can provide a listening ear. Women write diaries to try to make sense out of life, to express their feelings honestly, especially when writing may be their only opportunity for that honesty.
Diaries preserve the voices of women and girls so that when we read their diaries we hear their voices speaking to us through time. Diaries of girls and women are an important primary source for understanding women’s lives. The experiences, private thoughts and stories of daily life recorded in diaries help historians (herstorians) understand the lives of ordinary women.
Cornelia, a daily diary-writer herself (how else can you use beautiful fountain pens?) whose several hundred diaries (so far) are being archived at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, has presented programs about the value of diaries in a number of different settings : at the Sewall Belmont House and Museum in Washington, D.C., http://www.sewallbelmont.org, (home of Alice Paul, early suffragette); at the annual conference of the National Association of Women’s Studies, http://www.nwsa.org, at the Northwestern Summer Writer’s Conference, at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of Northwestern University http://www.sps.northwestern.edu, and at the Creativity & Madness Conference in Santa Fe, N.M. http://www.creativityandmadness.com. If your women’s group, book club, library, or organization would like such a presentation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s a list of some books which are diaries or collections of diaries:
Brittain, Vera, CHRONICLE OF YOUTH, THE WAR DIARY 1913-1917
Bunker, Suzanne L. (editor), DIARIES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN-A MIDWESTERN AMERICAN SAMPLER
Cahill, Susan (edItor), WRITING WOMEN’S LIVES-AN ANTHOLOGY OF AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NARRATIVES BY TWENTIETH CENTUR WOMEN WRITERS
Franklin, Penelope (editor), PRIVATE PAGES; DIARIES OF AMERICAN WOMEN 1830’S-1970’S
Moffatt, Mary Jane; Painter, Charlotte (editors), REVELATIONS; DIARIES OF WOMEN
Salomon, Charlotte, CHARLOTTE, A DIARY IN PICTURES
Sarton, May, JOURNAL OF A SOLITUDE; EIGHTY-TWO, A JOURNAL
Schlissel, Lillian, WOMEN’S DIARIES OF THE WESTWARD JOURNEY
Scott, Margaret (editor), THE KATHARINE MANSFIELD NOTEBOOKS
Rose, Phyllis (editor) THE NORTON BOOK OF WOMEN’S LIVES