Documentary Editing, Association for


Date of this Version

Fall 2003

Document Type



Documentary Editing, Volume 25, Number 3, Fall 2003. ISSN 0196-7134

Reprinted from 1997


2003 © the Association for Documentary Editing. Used by permission.


As a Latin Americanist with a specialty in Women's History, I was eager ft to edit a diary kept by an American woman in South America, so I was pleasantly surprised when I called the Newport Historical Society and spoke to the curator of manuscripts who told me that the Mary Robinson Hunter diaries in their collection covered her residence in Brazil fromi 1835 to 1848. I promptly visited the Historical Society, read the journals, found them fascinating, and began my part-time editing project.

The diaries consist of six volumes in which Mary Hunter wrote nearly every day. Each entry, penned in brown ink, included the month and day, with the year identified only in the first January entry. Most entries filled half of a page or more; entries of only one or two sentences were rare. She drew illustrations of local scenes-the terrace of her daughter's Montevideo home or of her own summer residence in the Tijuca Mountains-on the inside covers of the diaries. Interestingly, the inside front cover of her first diary contained a quotation: "Men should make diaries and women fancy they must do the same." Given that assertion, I concluded that Mary believed her life and experiences in Brazil were of value and worth recording. Her immediate reason for keeping a diary was that she wanted her children to know what her life was like in Brazil; hence her writings served as a personal and family memoir. But she hoped that they might eventually be published. She began with imitating what men did-keeping diaries-to a private purpose, and, then, to a much larger public one.