Beacon Press: Daughter of Boston
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Daughter of Boston

The Extraordinary Diary of a Nineteenth-century Woman, Caroline Healey Dall

Editor: Helen Deese

“This Journal is my safety valve-and it is well, that I can thus rid myself of my superfluous steam . . . I trust posterity will remember this, should it ever be gratified by a glimpse at these pages.“

In the nineteenth century, Boston was well known as a center for intellectual ferment. Amidst the popular lecturing of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the discussion groups led by Margaret Fuller sat a remarkable young woman, Caroline Healey Dall (1822-1912): Transcendentalist, early feminist, writer, reformer, and-perhaps most importantly-active diarist.

Dall kept a diary for seventy-five years.She captured in it all the fascinating details of her sometimes agonizing personal life, but she also wrote about all the major figures who surrounded her-Elizabeth Peabody, Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, William Lloyd Garrison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and countless others. Her diary, filling forty-five volumes in all, is perhaps the longest running diary ever written by any American and the most complete account available of a nineteenth-century woman’s life.

Daughter of Boston is a selection of the best from Dall’s immense diary, woven together with biographical narrative. The city’s celebrations, mob scenes, poverty-ridden neighborhoods, lectures, and exhibits are described with great wit and insight. She also writes colorfully about people whose names never made it into the history books-wives and mothers, fugitives, servants, children, starving ministers, single women looking for outlets for their ambitions, and working people of all ages. Dall constantly strove to make sense of her personal troubles and failures, so the diary also functioned as the perfect vehicle for working out the lessons she believed these troubles were meant to teach.

Daughter of Boston is a completely original and important book: both a significant document of social history and a lively, vivid account of one woman’s life and thoughts.
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Review by: Anne Stein, Chicago Tribune - November 29, 2005
"For the historian on your list, Daughter of Boston provides a fascinating glimpse into a woman's life in 19th Century New England. Caroline Healey Dall, the well-educated daughter of a prosperous Boston family, started keeping diaries in 1838, at age 16, until her death in 1912. The early feminist and abolitionist produced 45 volumes, which editor Helen Deese has distilled into small passages that fill a single, thick book."
Review by: Patricia Cohen, University of California, Santa Barbara - October 14, 2005
"Helen Deese finally brings to a wider readership this engrossing diary of a remarkable nineteenth-century woman. Caroline Healey Dall's decades of inveterate and faithful diary keeping, distilled here with sensitivity by Deese, give us a vivid picture of Bostonian culture and the famous intellectual movements she was active in-Transcendentalism, abolition, and woman's rights. Deese offers astute insight into Dall's quest for self-knowledge through private writing. Her most personal dilemma-being duty bound in indissoluble marriage but in love with another man-makes for poignant and gripping reading."
Review by: Joel Myerson, editor of Transcendentalism: A Reader and Carolina Di - October 14, 2005
"What a delight! Caroline Dall's previously unpublished journal is a fascinating eyewitness view of the social and political events that defined New England in the mid-nineteenth century. Helen Deese deserves our thanks for rescuing this fascinating woman and her perceptive and often idiosyncratic commentary."
Review by: Megan Marshall, Author of The Peabody Sisters - October 12, 2005
"In Daughter of Boston, Helen Deese, one of our foremost scholars of American Romanticism, has unearthed the fascinating journals of Caroline Healey Dall, a nineteenth-century New Englander who was an astute observer and active participant in nearly every major intellectual and political movement of her day, from Transcendentalism to abolition to women's rights."
Review: Publishers Weekly - September 25, 2005
"Caroline Healey Dall's writings will become a keystone to our understanding of 19th-century New England…a true historical find."

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Daughter of Boston

ISBN: 978-080705034-7
Publication Date: 10/12/2005
Pages: 488
Size:6 x 9 Inches (US)
Price:  $29.95
Format: Cloth
Availability: Not currently available.
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