It was a very good year…

We have now walked through a year in the life of a Kalamazoo girl – 15-year-old Claire Wight – and it’s been a very good year.  Her past year of diary entries — from 1909 — has introduced us to who we might imagine is a typical small-town, middle-class girl.  Her life is one of social gatherings, lots of friends, plenty of reading, music lessons, and going to church. She admits that she has a charmed life — for example, on October 10 in response to an undisclosed problem with a friend she writes, “I wonder if it’s because my life is so carefree and happy that I notice it so when things go wrong.”  She never reveals the problem that took place and by the next day in her diary she is writing as if nothing had ever happened.  She clearly has the ability to not dwell on the negative and look toward the positive. 

And positive she is. Nearly every day she expresses “Oh! we had such fun,” or in referring to friends and teachers, she always makes statements like, “She is such a dear” or “She is so nice.”  Her only negative thoughts come when she is struggling with a subject in school such as geometry and Latin.  Those are the two subjects she writes about studying and on many occasions follows up with how she cannot wait until school is finished.  And yet, she talks positively of school, of her teachers and the fun she has in gym and her art classes. It is clear that she enjoys school but probably more for the social outlet it provides.

Claire is very much a typical teenage girl.  She is always with a friend, and has a wide circle of them. They go downtown shopping and to the library. They get together in the evenings to study, play games, and talk like girls do. She rarely reveals their conversations but occasionally hints that she was given some important information (i.e., gossip).  On a few occasions she admits to having done something wrong but seems to never get caught.  She leaves much to the reader’s imagination when it comes to having committed these indiscretions.

Claire kept diaries throughout her life. The Museum has nine of them dating between 1909 and 1938.

For a 15 year-old she is very introspective.  She frequently expresses her concerns and desires for her future – who will she marry? Will she be an old maid?  Will she have money? If she does she says she will share it. She wonders if she will be an artist someday, or where she might live.  She often speaks of boys and in a way that the reader knows she is interested in them and that their attention towards her makes her feel special. 

Claire provides a few descriptions of events or activities in Kalamazoo– the city’s Silver Anniversary, the Burdick Hotel Fire, going to a motion picture house, touring the Corset Factory.  She also writes of picking blueberries in the summer for money (1-1/2 cents a quart), taking trips to Allegan on the train, and going to Escanaba in the summer. What is clearly absent from her diary is any talk of work around the house. On one occasion she writes that she did some ironing to surprise her mother but other than that, her parents appear to have given her a very carefree life, one that she admits to and clearly appreciates.

Claire continued to write in her diary in 1910 but unfortunately the Museum does not have that one in its collection.  We can only imagine what events took place in her life that year. We do have her 1911 diary, which is an eventful year for Claire — so stayed tuned for more adventures in the young life of Kalamazoo’s Claire Wight.

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