A Soprano’s Aria: Lulu’s Diary
Introduction: Chapter 1
“When encountering very unusual and difficult family information in your research, what do you choose to publish?” Ross Williams Vita Brevis
1918 “Wed Mar 6 – I received another letter from Frank imploring me to return to him. He is going to church and is sorry he didn’t take the stand earlier. Says God has forgiven him and asks mine etc. All this threw me into a nervous outbreak in which I recited in minute detail old bygone acts of cruelty, indifference and neglect on his hand till Jessie begged me to forget it and when I said I was going to write she persuaded me not to. My head began to ache and think as I could I could find no way out. Every door of happiness seems locked to me. Even here in the quiet country I find no peace for his letters calling me his dear wife seek me out. It sounds too hollow and empty he was never my dear husband for any length of time and there never was a time in our married life when his wishes wants and desires didn’t come first. I took off his ring and hope I’ll never wear it again. I’m cautious in my statements because I know my weak will and I’ve been dominated by him so long that I can scarcely call myself an individual, but no matter what comes I do not want to be his wife any more and never will of my own free will and accord.“
Mary “Lulu” PADEN was born at a time when most women had few choices. She was born of tough Scottish and German stock the 16th of November 1867, the first child to Civil War Veteran, James Lewis PADEN and his wife Millicent Almena COATS. She was joined by a dozen siblings including a set of twins, and no doubt she had a hand in helping to raise them. At the age of twenty-one she married Franklin Stewart MOISER, also of Scottish and German ancestry. A good scrutiny of the marriage license gives a valuable clue. Lulu and Frank were married by J. J. Barge, a County Judge in Fremont, Dodge county, Nebraska. None of the witnesses are family members. My guess is they did not approve.
Lulu’s diary begins in Minneapolis in 1910 with her Correspondence Record, a listing of letters written and received. She starts recording events and thoughts in September of 1913. She seldom if ever uses apostrophes. There are many misspellings and sometimes indecipherable words or passages. As she begins writing it is mostly the mundanities of life, interspersed with historic events. A far cry from where we are five years later, as the passage above illustrates. We are an audience Lulu could not have imagined as we mark her growth as a woman and as a writer. Her voice is compelling in its ordinariness, and its candor. Explanations or insertions appear in [brackets].
Monday Sep 1 Labor Day first-day of State fair at Hamline [University] also childrens day. Lolita and Milo went.
Sep 2 Frank went to work for Dr S Stove Company. Children start to school at Col Hgts [Columbia Heights] and East High
Sep 3 Remained at home doing house work and sewing
Sep 4 baked bread
Sep 5 Did a big wash (very hot)
Sep 6 Attended the State Fair. Jessie finished her weeks worth with ?Nasted? at the fair grounds. F.S. [Frank Stewart] came out in evening and escorted us home. Weather perfect. [Louis] Disbrow made 5 mi in 45 in auto races
Sep 7 Sunday and resting and killing time. Dull work. Jessie brought Lolita home from Whitneys from her week end visit
Sep 9 Cool and windy. Baked bread and cake. Ruth and baby called. Della sent white skirt home
This sharing of Lulu’s Diary would not be possible without my second cousin, Dale Mead’s willingness to scan and share our mutual great grandmother’s diary. The diary was to be destroyed upon Lulu’s death, but her daughter, my great aunt Jessie, thought better of it— My cousin Malia Hammerstrom has helped greatly with transcription. And my cousin Nancy Young has also lent a hand. The background research is my own. The words belong to Lulu, but tell a universal story. I will post in installments. Please follow my blog to receive them.
Kelly Wheaton Copyright 2021. All RIghts Reserved.