Women, Words, and Men: Excerpts from the Diary of Mary Guion

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1990


In recent years, scholars of both women's history and literature have turned to the diary as a major source. Publication of full-length journals such as Martha Farnsworth's, 1882-1922, and Emily Hawley Gillespie's mid- and late-nineteenth century diaries have allowed us to hear women's personal stories in their own voices. At the same time, they have provided detailed, day-by-day evidence of how women negotiated their way in a patriarchal society. The as yet unpublished 1800-07 courtship diary of Mary Guion (1782-1871) takes us into the everyday world of a young New York State woman living near New York City, much earlier in the nineteenth century. Most significantly, it shows a woman using literature – the public literature she read and the private literature she wrote – to empower herself in her relationships with men. During the years of her courtship, from the ages of 17 to 25, Mary Guion's public voice gained strength through the private medium of her words.


DOI: 10.1353/jowh.2010.0054