Ella, the great great.

Here's a little elmwood snapshot of a letter sent to my great great grandmother Ella Averill while she was in Cape Town, South Africa.

My great aunt Winky recently found Ella's journals and had them transcribed and bound. I can't remember ever enjoying reading something more (and that's saying something).

Wellesley College Sunday, Nov. 24th 1878

"A rousing indignation meeting was held in Chapel Thursday evening incited by the piece which appeared in the Harvard Advocate on Wellesley College and its girls. It is true that some "preps" have not behaved in a very ladylike manner over there, and some disgraceful things have been said and done in hotels, restaurants and on train cars. Well free speech prevailed- opinions of many from each class were expressed, some rousing speeches made and finally a motion was carried almost unanimously to discount everything unwomanly and not fitting for young ladies who were seeking a higher culture."

Wellesley College Saturday, Nov. 23th 1878

"Mollie Bingham has gone home- the oculist fears that her eyesight cannot be saved and that in a very short time she will be totally blind. A letter from her father was read in Chapel thanking students and teachers for the kindness towards her, saying that he wished her last looks might be upon the scenes of her childhood and her friends and family, and asking the prayers of the College that if it could be the Lord's will, a little ray of light soon might be left to her for the remainder of her life."

Wellesley College March 23th 1879

"Our costume party came off with great success Friday evening the 14th. I went as one of the fates. About every female character in poetry was represented, from Mother Goose to Queen Elizabeth. We decorated the gym beautifully. Each of the four beams being draped with the class colors, flags over the windows, Chinese lanterns, statuettes, busts and flowers scattered about promiscuously."


  1. i would die to have gone to that party. just die. i mean, if i could go back in time...

    oh and i think we should start a tradition of you reading to me from this tome at breakfast.

  2. How fortunate you are to have a sence of legacy, both in the thoughts, photo's and houses of your ancesters.

    Doesn't it make you wonder what our lives and legacy would say about us in a 150 years from now.

    In this modern era of too hot, hectic, hurried NY City.... There comes a breath of calming, cooling, contempletive time travel. Your blog brings us back to simplier times.

    Thank you for this!

  3. oh this is so great
    i love reading old things like this
    i wish i could have been there!

  4. Those Wellesley girls, they never change!

  5. pls post more diary entries. i love them.

  6. Notice how the letter to Miss Averill was addressed?
    How simple the world was then. No street address, apartment number, zip code or even city/country?

    How did the letter ever reach her.... so very far away in South Africa. That was like living as far as on a space shuttle for those days!

    But there is the proof and the post mark!

    For the entry about the friend with the fading vision...Don't you wonder what happened to her?

    How sweet, sad and yet positive was her father's comment.

    Still true, our friends offer us with light for the dark times.

  7. I thought it was funny from the Ella entries that flowers could be draping and decorating promisuously but ladies had to seek a higher culture! Wonder what was said and done by those disgraceful preps in those cars?

    I'd of liked to have listened in on those selrighteous rants of protest! What a laugh that might be compared to the morals of today.

    Do you have a picture of Ella?

  8. I don't have a photo of her here in New York. Next month when i go back to Elmwood (where she lived), i'll rummage around and post of a photo of one.

  9. As a Wellesley alum, with relatives attending in 1977 and 1932 I would die to read more!

  10. Dear Ms. Merrick, ( this is meant as a message for you, though you can put it in the comments if you so wish)
    I cannot thank you enough for posting this. I am a Wellesley alum myself ( Class of 2000), and along with many of my friends, we often describe it as the best four years of our life. I've often referred to it as a four-year slumber party, but what's so haunting and beautiful about these passages is that all these scenes have been recreated in our own experiences---- how our neighboring schools regard our conduct ( and struggle with their own chauvinistic bias), a classmate going through problems who has to leave, and ----the parties! My own friends lived in Severance Hall, full of gothic arches and vaulted ceilings, and we spent a good amount of time doing things that probably belong in a British boarding school book----stealing things from the pantry, having mock seances in the middle of the night, playing pranks, having conversation in dark rooms where we struggled with our own nebulous sense of futures with wavering optimism, jumping into piles of raked leaves on the way back from lectures, climbing out windows to sled down snowy Severance Hill at night on stolen cafeteria trays, having midnight picnics by the lake, and parties in the gardens and dining halls that involved flowers, lanterns, and costumes that even indulged the cross-dressing whims of our Head of House's twelve year old son. When I told a friend of mine that the party described sounded like something she would throw, she laughed: " Please! we were nothing if not nearly always costumed!" Anyhow, reading these passages warmed my heart that the halls of Wellesley College have seen a long heritage of spunk, mischief, wit, and fun!

    With a heart brimming with nostalgia and gratitude,
    ps If you are ever willing to share/copy/publish the entire document ( though I understand it is a piece of family history), I am a willing audience! A friend did mention sharing with the Wellesley archives if you are so inclined.

    1. DM, I'm so glad you enjoyed! I'd love to get the entire diary typed up for sharing one day.