A fascinating collection of student-produced historical narratives (a number of them using materials from the Rhode Island Historical Society’s collections) are available at Brown University’s Chronicles of Brunonia website. The narratives are the final product of work done by students in Beth Taylor’s creative nonfiction writing workshops, and they draw their inspiration from primary-source materials at institutions like the Historical Society and Brown’s John Hay Library. The following is a list of stories that make use of RIHS materials (with précis provided by the authors):
- “Charlotte Perkins Gilman; letters to Martha” (Abigail Rabinowitz)
Starting in 1878, teenage friends on the East Side of Providence
become inseparable, then go their separate ways when Martha weds. But even as Charlotte gains fame as the writer of The Yellow Wallpaper and as an activist for women’s rights, she never forgets Martha.
- “Little Caesar(historical narrative)” (Austin Kennedy)
The Diary of Giuseppe Zambarano offers a glimpse into the life of a
young immigrant from Italy in the late 1800s, who builds a business
and family on Federal Hill in Providence.
- “Lucy and the Chinese bandits” (Meryl Rothstein)
Lucy Truman Aldrich, born in 1869 to a prominent Rhode Island family, travels to China in 1923 and is kidnapped by bandits.
- “Miss Edna Krouner at Vassar in 1908” (Elizabeth Loeb)
Miss Edna Krouner, of Wakefield, Rhode Island, embarks on her first
year at Vassar College and learns about everything from crushes to
Marxism and the Vote for Women.
- “Mutiny! A high seas misadventure” (John Sheehy)
A tale of piracy aboard the Vineyard, a brig, that set sail from New
Orleans to Philadelphia on November 9, 1830.
- “Providence’s Black Chinese; a love story” (Luke Tsai)
In 1901, Chung Yik, one of the city’s “best-known Chinese
restauranteurs” and his wife, Cynthia Monki, survived the burning of
their Charles Street apartment.
- “Searching for home; accounts of a sea captain’s wife” (Stephanie Bernhard)
Cynthia Sprague Congdon’s tales of being aboard ship then recording
her life in East Greenwich, R.I. when she received word that her
husband was lost at sea during a storm
- “States of mind; the founding of Rhode Island’s first hospital”
The story of the founding of Butler Hospital in Providence, R.I. or,
as it was originally called, Butler Hospital for the Insane.
- “Stories from the Good Doctor’s farm; colonial southern Rhode Island”
For a short period in the mid-18th century, the MacSparren farm
flourished at the hands of an assortment of free, enslaved and
indentured workers. In such a small-scale plantation, typical of
colonial southern Rhode Island, the social hierarchy was constantly
repositioning itself to accommodate emerging colonial ideas about
race, sex, and religion. This story, based on the diary of Reverend
MacSparren and other historical documents, imagines the personal
relationships between those who worked and lived in such close quarters.
- “The things they planted” (Molly Jacobson)
Almost four hundred years ago, Roger Williams and his companions
paddled down the Seekonk River and landed on the Rhode Island shore. Surrounded by wilderness, with no outside aid and scarce resources, these first settlers slowly raised their farms and homesteads, scavenged for food, and drafted laws for their community.
- “The vampire disease” (Victoria Chao)
At the turn of the century, a deadly disease swept Europe and the
Eastern United States. In the span of four years, George Brown, a
farmer in rural Rhode Island, lost his wife and two daughters to the
disease. Faced with the prospect of losing his only son, George is
convinced to seek and destroy the alleged vampire responsible for
- “Waiting, 1938” (Alice Lovejoy)
The story of the famous hurricane of 1938 as revealed by the
meticulous notes of David Patten, managing editor of the Providence
Evening Bulletin at the time.
- “The wreck of the Bark Montgomery; an East Greenwich family at home and at sea” (Margo Irvin)
The story of a storm at sea from both the point of view of the
captain, John Congdon, and his wife on shore, Cynthia.