Date of this Version
Documentary Editing, Volume 25, Number 3, Fall 2003. ISSN 0196-7134
Reprinted from 2000.
Caroline Healey Dall (1822-1912), Boston-born reformer, lecturer, author of books, freelance journalist, memoirist, and occasional preacher, began her apprenticeship as a writer at the age of nine with the keeping of a journal. While still a child, however, she destroyed her earliest journal when she discovered her father reading it. For some time thereafter, she ceased her journal keeping. But soon finding herself unable to quell the need to express herself on paper, she resumed the habit. The journals of this second period, which ran for several years, survived until Dall was in her seventies. Then she also destroyed them, out of regard for her mother, whose mental illness the journals documented all too well. And so Dall's earliest surviving original journal dates from March 1838, when she was fifteen; from that point on, she records her activities, thoughts, and feelings until within a few months of her death at age ninety. This remarkable record of seventy-five years, now at the Massachusetts Historical Society, is, I suspect, the fullest known account of the life of a nineteenth-century American woman. In this article I will concern myself with the surviving journals of Caroline Healey's teenage years, that is, from March 1838 until June 1842, when she turned twenty. In this discussion I wish to treat certain editorial problems raised by these texts, and then I wish to give you some sense of the nature, significance, and value of the adolescent journals by introducing some of the major issues and themes treated in them. Finally, I hope briefly to illustrate the power of these journals.