Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery
Phoebe Gregg and Frances Milne wrote most of their diaries during their child-rearing years: during that time they concentrated on their homes, the care and education of their children, and the health of their large families. As the oldest child, Marty Hastie often took care of her younger brothers.
These 19th century women recorded the same kinds of accomplishments or troublesome behaviours in the children of the family that we might talk about today.
“Looking after boys is no easy task allow me to remark.”
“May 9th Got a fright about our little Willie. … in the midst
of housekeeping … he slipped away with an old hood on, & could not be
found for some time – My servant & some of the neighbours children went
to look for him – at last Cinthea Mott –(next door) found him near Grants
store, front of. He had been gone two or three hours, & some one had given him
some bread & molasses, which his face & hands showed plainly. He cannot
speak plainly & perhaps no one could understand from him who he was, or where
he lived. What a mercy he returned safely!”
“I was very glad he [brother Willie] was going for that would be one less
to look after & he will have such a good time there [on holidays with Papa].
(Looking after boys is no easy task) allow me to remark.”
The women made note of people who died in childbirth or of diseases (now preventable). Frances experienced depression after the birth of her third child and Phoebe sometimes referred to her stillborn child. Martha’s mother, a sister, and step-sister all died unexpectedly.
“ … oh what sad sad changes a few weeks can bring.”
“Baby a week old today … It feels most fearfully lonesome & I can’t
get relief without a cry.”
“Thursday 5th July 1855. Our fourth child, third living child was born this
evening – a fine healthy boy - My husband’s birthday 38 yrs ago.”
“It seems ages since I last opened this book although not quite a month but
oh what sad sad changes a few weeks can bring. My poor dear Mamma has gone to heaven,
…On Monday night she came to Cornwall, the night before Christmas. And seemed
as well as usual but had a very severe cough. On Wednesday night was Papa’s
induction & I went to the church. Ma had gone to bed not feeling well and did
not get up next morning. Our Dr, Alguire came to help Ma ... She had a baby
at noon. It was a little girl, born two months premature. …but it only lived
16 hours. Mamma … suffered very much for a few days …on Monday Morning
at two o’clock she died …”