Introducing Ella Warner

In August, I purchased a diary at the Mansfield Flea Market. The seller told me it was part of a lot of paper items he’d recently bought at the Brimfield Antique Show. I paid him $1 and brought it home, and started reading about the everyday life of a rural housewife in 1923-1924.  It’s not much to look at, I admit:

Diary cover

Diary cover

Nor is it a gripping narrative of astounding events. The author simply wrote a few lines about her day every evening – which is more than I, with arguably more free time than she had, can ever manage to do!  But it’s not without its affecting touches. For example, every time she wrote her husband’s name, she put at least two Xs above it, like this:


Also, on the inside front cover of the diary, she wrote about her daughter-in-law and granddaughter:

When Marjorie is 3 1/2 years, + Sarah Elliott was telling her about Mother goose + Marjorie turned + looked at her mother + said are you a goose + then she said you have got a tail I looked at Ros + sure enough there was quite a lock of her hair sticking up on top of her head

This would have been right around the time the diary started. Ordinary, yes, but unaffectedly real.

The diarist mentioned a lot of names, but not her own.  After I took copious notes on the names and places she wrote of, however, several searches in the 1920 U.S. Census records allowed me to identify her.

She was Ella Warner of Wolcott Road, Waterbury, Connecticut.  In September 1923, when this volume of her diary begins, she was 71 years old.

How her diary wound up in Brimfield, MA and then in Mansfield, CT I cannot guess. I believe there must have been earlier volumes that were not in that batch of papers – her persistence suggests a long habit of diary-keeping.

Her new Twitter account is @EllaWarner1923.  Entries begin September 10.    Please follow along!

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