Home Business and Labor Elizabeth Fuller, 15-Year-Old Spinster

Elizabeth Fuller, 15-Year-Old Spinster


As an unmarried young woman on a farm in Princeton, Mass., during the late 18th century, Elizabeth Fuller led a life preoccupied with yarn – washing it, carding it, spinning it , weaving it.

At the spinning wheel

At the spinning wheel

She was born on Oct. 13, 1775, one of 10 children of Timothy and Sarah Williams Fuller. Her father was a Harvard graduate, the first minister in the town. In 1788, Rev. Timothy Fuller represented Princeton at the convention that adopted the U.S. Constitution.

When Elizabeth Fuller was a teenager she began to keep a diary. Entry after entry described making cloth: “I spun two skeins today,” “I wove five yards today.” In the spring of 1792, she wove for two months solid and estimated she produced 140 yards of cloth.

She also recorded visiting with neighbors, going to church on the Sabbath, making cheese, baking pies and scouring the pewter. She studied her grammar at home. Every so often she noted the weather was ‘pleasant’ or she simply wrote, ‘Pleasant.”

On May 8, 1791, 15-year-old Elizabeth Fuller wrote in her diary:

8 — Sabbath. I went to church A.M. Mr. Thurston preached. Mr. John Rolph & his Lady & Mr. Osburn her Brother & a Miss Anna Strong (a Lady courted by said Osbourn) came here after Meeting and drank Tea.

The next day she appears to have revised her opinion of Mr. Thurston. And she spun.

9 — I spun four skeins. Mr. Thurston here this P.M. a visiting he is an agreeable Man appears much better out of the Pulpit than in.

This story updated in 2022.


Peggy Hart January 25, 2015 - 7:33 am

I would like to see more of Elizabeth Fuller’s diary. Where may I see it? I am rsearching the history of wool production in the US.
Not to be picky, but the illustration shows a quill winder, not a spinning wheel. They are often confused. She is winding a spool for a warping board probably, since I see a spool but they were also used for winding bobbins (quills) for weaving.

The Bates Bedspread of Maine, America's Favorite Counterpane - New England Historical Society December 18, 2015 - 10:11 am

[…] women back then spent endless hours carding and spinning. In 1790, 15-year-old Elizabeth Fuller started a diary from her home on a farm in Princeton, Mass. Entry after entry describes making cloth.  “I spun […]

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