Written in the late 1880s, this petite diary of Theodora G. (Bowen) Armington (1877-1967) includes almost yearly entries about Thanksgiving from the age of nine up until her early twenties. As we near Thanksgiving it is nice to see that not much has changed regarding our love of bringing together food and family.
November 24, 1887
In the morning I washed and wiped all of the breakfast dishes. Mamma and papa surprised me with grapes, nuts, corn-cakes, and oranges for dessert. It was the first time Mamma had got a Thanksgiving dinner all alone for her family but she got along very nicely. In the after-noon about three oclock Percie Jenks came up and played on the piano a little, and envited [sic] us all to come to his house and spend the evening. In the morning Everett went to ride with a riding party, and papa went to church, so that left mamma and me alone. We celebrated Thanksgiving by getting the beds made before dinner. At about half past six we all started for Mr. Jenkses. Alice Simmons was quite inpatent [sic] for me to come first I went in to Alice’s half an hour, then she came in to Mrs. Jenkses until eight oclock. I had refreshments in both places, at Mrs. Jenkses I had some of her home made chocklet [sic] creames [sic], and they were very nice. I had a very pleasant time at both places. We started for home about quarter of ten. (9 years old)
Nov. 26, 1889.
We moved all the beds in yesterday and slept here last night. Today is Thanksgiving. It will be after we have eaten dinner, the first dinner eaten in the new house. Grandma has not moved all her things in yet but she is coming [sic] over to dinner. We did not expect a very elaborate dinner but it was just the same as it had been.
Her holiday musings almost always include talk of her parents’ activities, the food they ate, and time spent with her friends.
Nov. 27, 1890
In the morning until about ten o clock I sat before the open fire and worked on a _____ wiper I was making for the fair our Mission Band is going to have. Then Papa and I started for church. We have a new girl and Mamma was obliged to help her get the dinner so Papa and I went to represent the family. On our way home we bought some peanuts. A short time after we arrived home the dinner was ready. Cousin Bessie came over and took dinner with us and we had a very pleasant time. After dinner I worked a little more and then went up-stairs to cheer Grandma up a little. Then Helen called for me and I went out and had great fun with her. We were disputing who has eaten the most and to teste [sic] it we both ran and Helen beat me which showed she said, that I had eaten the most but I think it was rearly [sic] because I was laughing so hard. Then I came into the house and Cousin Bessie, Mamma, and I went upstairs and had a little bread and milk and tea with Grandma, Auntie, and Aunt Abby. Then about eight came down and Cousin Bessie read us the journal of Miss Green who had been traveling in the West.
As she grew older, her entries included thoughts on her friend’s love life and the health of her grandmother who lived with the family.
November 25 1896
My first Vacation! I was perfectly wild when I first reached home, but it soon wore off. Everett and Jennie could not come home and the day was very quiet in this home, and a little un-satisfactory to me, for although I am ashamed to confess it, when I hear of large gatherings on Thanksgiving + Christmas day I feel a little envious. In the after-noon I went down to Fannie’s and we went to see Hattie, and then had a very pleasant walk together. My walks on Thanksgiving day with Helen are given up, she goes with Bert! (18 years old)
November 25, ‘97
The first Thanksgiving Day that I have been away from home. Spent the day at Everett’s in Still River and enjoyed it very much altho [sic] I wished Mamma + Papa could have been there too. Maurice is very cunning indeed – just as full of life and mischief as he can hold. Yesterday Everett wanted to call on a poor family so he took his gun in case he should see any game and we started off thought the woods. It was a new experience for me and I enjoyed it very much. When E. went into the house I took his gun and did sentinal [sic] duty up and down the road for about half an hour. It seemed pretty long and if was quite dark before he came out but that only added to the fun of the situation. We walked a little over four miles in all. I was rather tired when we got home. We only saw one partridge. Thanksgiving day was very quiet but pleasant. I worked on some fancy work and played with Maurice while Jennie did the work. We had a fine dinner. Papa sent up a turkey by me, then for desert we had plum-pudding mince pie, coffee and sweet chocolate.
November 24, ‘98
A rainy day outside but happy within. I frosted a cake, went up and amused Grandma for a little while, made some chocolate peppermints and arranged some evergreen that Papa brought from Still River a few days ago. Grandma came down to dinner for the first time since the trouble with her foot in June. After dinner I played on the piano and sang, as well as I could altho [sic] I had a bad cold, for Grandma. Then I tried to read but could not settle down to anything. Mamma roasted some chestnuts and popped some corn. In the evening Auntie, Mamma and I played letters.
Theodora Bowen was born on December 13, 1877. Her parents, William H. Bowen (1836-1915) and Jeanette Greene (1837-1911) were both born in Rhode Island but as her father was a Baptist minister they lived in Maine for a couple of years during the late 1870s to the early 1880s. He was serving a congregation in Lewiston, Maine when Theodora was born. She had one brother, Everett A. Bowen who later married Jennie Stetson. Theodora grew up primarily in Providence, where she and her family lived at 15 Sycamore Street until 1889 when they move to a brand new house at 27 Sycamore Street. She attended Miss Emerson’s Boarding School in Boston for one year during 1896-1897. Theodora also attended Brown University from 1897 through at least the spring of 1900. On December 2, 1902 she became engaged to Herbert Hamlin Armington (1878-1959). Herbert and Theordora lived in Providence and had two sons, Francis Bowen Armington (1908-1998) and Richard Wickes Armington (1912-1982).
Her diary is part of the Armington Family Papers (MSS 1128) in the RIHS collections.
For another Thanksgiving Day diary, check out a post from two years ago featuring former RIHS librarian, Edward M. Stone.
~ Michelle Chiles, Research Center Manager