The Block Island Times

This Week in History: A girl’s trials in 1884

'Ironing and cooking while the boys can go out to play ball'
By Robert M. Downie | Nov 01, 2012
The mansard-roofed home of 1880s schoolgirl Edna B. Dodge still exists on Beacon Hill Road, as in this view looking east in 1888. The old Baptist Church near the intersection of Center Road and Beacon Hill Road, at left, burned down in 1908.

This week in history 126 years ago, in late-October 1884, the following school essay was written by 14-year old Edna B. Dodge, who lived in the mansard-roofed house still to be found half-way down Beacon Hill Road.

If she had not followed the many short cuts that led across the island’s cleared pastures of that era, she would have walked down Beacon Hill Road to Center Road and turned left to the one-room Centre School, located a couple of hundred yards past the intersection of Beach Avenue. That school also still exists, now as a private home.

Edna’s English grades for her several essays that fall were in the mid-90s: the average of her “Spelling,” “Punctuation,” “Penmanship,” and “Language.”

If the teacher had graded her in the category of “Meaning,” though, Edna would have come closer to a score of 100 — at least by today’s standards, given the past century’s sometimes sputtering attempts to achieve equality amongst the sexes.

Six years later, in December 1892, Edna was the bridesmaid at a wedding for her friend Hannah C. Mott. The wedding was held at Hannah’s home — a photo of that ancient house on West Side Road was in the Oct. 6 issue of the Block Island Times, with a story about how the large tree in the front yard was planted in 1876 when Hannah’s older sister, Nancy, married Lovell Dickens in the same house.

Just six months after being a bridesmaid at Hannah Mott’s wedding, Edna Dodge married Hannah’s 25-year-old brother William, a nearly life-long fisherman on the island.

Edna B. Dodge Mott died in 1956 and is buried at the Island Cemetery next to her husband William Mott — their graves located just a few hundreds yards further down Center Road from the one-room school where she wrote this essay, composition “No. 7” of that school year.


A Girl’s Trials

by Edna B. Dodge, Oct. 1884

In the morning the girls have to get up, and get their breakfast and clear away the table and wash the dishes, and then feed the chickens and water the flowers, comb their hair and put up their dinner and get ready to go to school.

And at night they have to get their supper, and wash the dishes and look up the eggs and bring in the kindling to make the fire with in the morning.

And other trials the girls have are washing and ironing and cooking while the boys can go out to play ball or go to see their friends.


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