Anna Green Winslow was a lively 10-year-old schoolgirl in pre-Revolutionary Boston who wrote to her mother about much of what she saw and heard.
She saw the governor and his entourage ride by in state to Cambridge.
She heard about a 17-year-old cat that recovered from the “measles” after having smallpox eight years ago.
Anna copied her letters to her mother into a book, starting on Nov. 18, 1771. The historian Alice Morse Earle published her book with extensive footnotes in 1894. Called Diary of Anna Green Winslow, A Boston School Girl of 1771, it hasn’t been out of print since.
Anna Green Winslow
She was born Nov. 29, 1759 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a member of the prominent Winslow family. Her father, Joshua Winslow, would be named a common pleas judge. Her mother was a daughter of a wealthy merchant. She was a descendant on her father’s side of Puritan Edward Winslow’s older brother and, on her mother ‘s side, of another Puritan, Percival Green.
When Anna was 10 years old, her parents sent her to Boston to live with her father’s older sister, Sarah Deming, to be “finished.” While in Boston she learned the skills required of a well-brought-up young lady. She went to school for sewing, dancing and handwriting.
She also spent time in elite social circles, making friends with the daughters of Connecticut Gov. Matthew Griswold, Col. Josiah Quincy, clergymen and wealthy merchants.
On Sundays and Thursday mornings she attended Old South Meeting House, which has run a program on Anna Green Winslow for two decades.
Her family moved to Marshfield, Mass., in 1773, though her father, a Loyalist, left for Quebec in 1775. Anna died on July 19, 1780, probably of consumption, in Hingham, Mass., and her mother rejoined her father in Canada.
On Aug. 18, 1772.
Many avocations have prevented my keeping my journal so exactly as heretofore, by which means a pleasant visit to the peacock, my Papa’s & mamma’s journey to Marshfield &c. have been omitted. The 6 instant Mr Saml Jarvis was married to Miss Suky Peirce, & on the 13th I made her a visit in company with mamma & many others. The bride was dress’d in a white satin night gowned.
Alice Morse Earle informs us about the night gown. In those days, she wrote, people didn’t wear them while sleeping. Instead, they resembled something call a “tea gown.” They called their night attire a “rail.”
Both men and women wore in public loose robes which they called night gowns. Men often wore these gowns in their offices.
Photo: ‘Anna Green Winslow’ by Unknown. Project Gutenberg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
This story updated in 2022.