In 1820, Phebe Orvis began a journal that she faithfully kept for a decade. Richly detailed, her diary captures not only the everyday life of an ordinary woman in early nineteenth-century Vermont and New York, but also the unusual happenings of her family, neighborhood, and beyond. The journal entries trace Orvis’s transition from single life to marriage and motherhood, including her time at the Middlebury Female Seminary and her observations about the changing social and economic environment of the period. A Quaker, Orvis also recorded the details of the waxing passion of the Second Great Awakening in the people around her, as well as the conflict the fervor caused within her own family.
In the first section of the book, Susan M. Ouellette includes a series of essays that illuminate Orvis’s diary entries and broaden the social landscape she inhabited. These essays focus on Orvis and, more importantly, the experience of ordinary people as they navigated the new nation, the new century, and the emerging American society and culture. The second section is a transcript of the original journal. This combination of analytical essays and primary source material offers readers a unique perspective of domestic life in northern New England as well as upstate New York in the early nineteenth century.
“Ouellette’s chronicle offers the reader a beautifully crafted and richly textured account of ten years in the life of a young woman as she transitions from unmarried to married life on the New York and Vermont frontier. In the hands of Ouellette, the diary of Phebe Orvis is interpreted with skill and grace, and her life experiences are firmly grounded in the vibrant world of post-revolutionary America. This engaging work will be liked by those readers seeking a deeper understanding of the lives of women and family in the Early Republic as well as those interested in the history of New York, Vermont, and the American frontier.” — Jacqueline Barbara Carr, author of After the Siege: A Social History of Boston, 1775–1800
“Unraveling intricate threads from a young woman’s nineteenth-century diary, Ouellette deftly weaves them into a picture of life in northern Vermont and New York during the Early Republic. Themes of life, death, courting, marriage, travels, fears, and yearnings jump off the pages as Ouellette works her magic not only bringing Phebe Orvis to life but also using the diary and other primary sources to place Phebe’s life within the larger context of her times, gender, and social class. A wonderful read.” — Elise A. Guyette, author of Discovering Black Vermont: African American Farmers in Hinesburgh, 1790–1890