Elgia Dawley Diaries
The diary of Elgia Leila (Wittwer) Dawley from 1921-1925 spans her years teaching French and voice in New York through her marriage in 1922, and move to Olympia, Washington. The diary includes entries for the same date for five years on the same page. The following partial transcription was provided by the seller:
JANUARY: "18th, Mother left at 8:30. Came home and about cried my eyes out. In the evening the girls lit in and informed me they're leaving."
FEBRUARY: "12th, Tutored 2 hrs. cleaned apt. and went down to Schirmer's. Tom came over late. Hate myself!!...18th, Tea with Mrs. McBride. Another view of life. The bluebird isn't always to be found in married life either. I wonder where he is! Memoranda: Well, all in all the bluest month I've had in a long while. My friends have certainly left me beautifully alone."
MARCH: "8th, Absolutely nothing doing. I wonder what I've done to deserve this…..22nd, Went to Fan Church's funeral at Kingston. Another life ended. It certainly gave me the blues."
APRIL: "13th, Blue! Tom and I took a walk. If only he weren't so darn attractive. I don't want to like him and yet I can't help myself….Memoranda: Much brighter and happier month. It proves that I need the companionship of people. I can't live alone."
MAY: "8th, Came back after A. M. service. Dinner with Grace and Cele at Power's. Walk on drive. Saw Mary B. and Mary G. Came home and Dr. Spiers came. Took me to N. R. in car. Came back and had lobster at Heath Inn. He is the sweetest finest man I know and a wonderful friend."
JUNE: 18th, Faculty meeting at 10:00. Mr. _____ took me out to lunch and we went out to Hudson Park. I certainly do like him….19th, Mr. _____ and I both at Johnson's for dinner. We were together all day. He took me in to the city and then the beans were spilled. We both realized that we had been falling in love with each other all year. It was a real revelation…20th, Went out to school to try to get things finished. Met Bernard at 1:00 and we had lunch at_____. We stood on 125th St. for an hour discussing our relations. What a wonderful love we have. He called me on the telephone at 11:00…23rd, Lunch together again. We went to see Andrew's H. H. Commencement. He got to the house at 11:30. Oh how great our love is! And then to realize that there's something standing in the way of our living together always. It's killing! (She spends every day with him and says, "Our agony can never be expressed with words.") 29th, This is one day I shall never forget as long as I live. I went as far as Springfield with Bernard. Words can never express our parting. He got me the brooch. Oh and the trip back alone. When I walked into the apartment I was simply wild!!!! (They've been writing now to each other since he's been gone.)"
JULY: "11th & 12th, Full day. Bernard's letter crushed my hope so. I'm positively almost crazed with despair. He has told the other girl. I wait with bated breath for his letter tomorrow. Went to village to movie….Well I ever forget this day. His letter came telling of her stand in the matter. She's holding him to his obligations. How can she. I confided in Marie Soles and got a little comfort. Oh, what torture!! (They are still writing and calling each other and madly in love)…25th, Volumes couldn't express all! Here I an only state facts. Reached my boy 12:20. Lunch ready in car. Charles River and where my last hope was crushed. Oh God! What misery, agony, anguish! Avery Hotel."
AUGUST: "3rd, Went to my tent right after supper and cried till I was sick. Day of agony, such as I can never express. Letter from Bernard saying that Friday is the day. My last letter to him sent today!...5th, Bernard's wedding day. Words are futile! Oh, God in heaven have mercy. The last letter from my boy." (She titles many of the days after this, "one day at a time." She's struggling badly and sleeps a lot.)….9th, News of accident at Camp Winnipesaukee. Boys over here. How I have to force myself to do things. It's simply killing. Oh my boy, my boy! (He sends her a letter from Lake George. Could he be on his honeymoon? Soon there are just cards from him.)
SEPTEMBER: 8th, Telegram from Bernard from Boston. My heavens! What a state of mind that man must be in!....11th, Well, the agony is upon me again. Simply unspeakable. Met his wife in evening! Kathryn came home with me…..18th, Talked to B. after church. I'm becoming more suspicious. Didn't get home till 4:00. Things look awfully black and crooked." (Not much mention of Bernard after this.)
JANUARY: "13th, Lee up. Things are beginning to look very very serious. I'm crazy about him and I think he is about me…..19th, Full day. Choir rehearsal included. Lee came at 9:00. We've about decided to be married. It's all like a wonderful dream…..24th, Still confusion at school. Lee and I became engaged. I just have to stop and wonder if it's honestly true."
FEBRUARY: "8th, Lee and I got down to brass tacks. We discussed finances etc. and wondered if we should wait a year. The very thoughts make me ill…18th, Massage. Lee up at 4:00. Had dinner together and went to a movie. He was here till 3:00 A.M. Oh, it's so wonderful to have him."
MARCH: "27th, Lee in bed. Went to him at 8 o'clock. My, my what a love is ours!"
APRIL: "30th, Most awful day. Lee had a peculiar spell and for about an hour he didn't know anything. Got over it and went out to church."
MAY: "30th, Slept late. Lee and I had breakfast in the apt. Then Lee, Bud and I went out to the Polo Grounds."
JUNE: "3rd, The day of days. Lee and I were married at 4 o'clock in the aft. before 20 guests. In the evening we had dinner at the Osgood's and then came home….8th, I told Lee about my debt, which was followed by a scene which I'm afraid I'll always remember but I'm going to try to forget it. (The two days of entries after this one she is in bed most of the time and says she could hardly crawl around all day)…29th, No one will ever know with what a heart ache I left N. Y. We arrived in Wash. 3:00. Hot! Did some sight seeing. Stopped at Hotel Washington"
JULY: "1st, Got to Broadhead at 11 o'clock. Were there until 4 o'clock. Ernest came after us in the car. They were all there waiting when we arrived."
AUGUST: "15th, We left on the 9:30, such a parting. It just about did me up. (They are now heading west to Washington)….17th, Thru North Dakota. My! hot desolate country!....19th, Reached Tacoma at 9:00 and were in Olympia at 11:30. I'm certainly not very keen about the looks of things."
SEPTEMBER: "9th, Nothing unusual. Olympia certainly is a dead hole. I'm not a bit enthusiastic about it."
JANUARY: "1st, Landed in Olympia at 10:30. I was blue and homesick. We didn't do much of anything but sit around all day…….10th, Nothing at all. Just more rain! Ye Gads how I hate this country! Bud sore!......31st, "X" (I believe she means here period) at last. I thot it would never come and it had me worried. Sewed all evening. Lee was down town."
FEBRUARY: "5th, Went down to sing at their jamboree and it was an utter failure. Don't care if I never sing a note in this place again…..18th, Usual Sunday. Absolutely nothing to do. Am getting so sick of it. I can hardly stand it."
MARCH: "14th, Lee all strung up again and lost his temper. It just makes me sick all over. Don't know what to do."
APRIL: "26th, Beautiful day. I wore my sorts outfit. Lonesome! Honestly I just can't tell how I feel."
MAY: "23rd, Babe, Cres, Bud, Lee and I went over to Tacoma to hear the Minneapolis symphony. I felt like my old self again."
JUNE: "Memoranda: Another month nearer to being in our own home. Will the time ever come? It seems so slow. It has been hectic!!!"
JULY: "23rd, Lee's mother left for Seattle and I can breathe easily again. That woman!....Memoranda. I hardly know what to say. I'm happy and I'm not. Hardly know my own feelings. Time will tell perhaps."
AUGUST: "23rd, Trip to Hood's Canal. Dinner at Sund's. Climbed to Bridal Veil. Ferried to Bremerton across to Seattle. Home at 1:00…..15th, Marie left on 11:20 train. It just made me sick to see her go. Strange that just a year ago we left for the west. Estelle and I went down to meet the boys."
SEPTEMBER: "6th, What an atmosphere around the house. Simply unbearable. Each day grows worse. Lee and I rode all evening just to get away…9th, Day by day in every way things grow worse in this house. Girls went on a hike. I wasn't invited. Lee and Bud worked all P.M. At 7:00 L., Bud and I drove to Tacoma. Estelle kicked up."
JANUARY: "2nd, Nash Day and blue as proverbial "Blue Monday." Lee the same. Things not looking so good……4th, Cleaned upstairs. Ironed until 11 o'clock P.M. and then retired, dead tired and blue as indigo. Lonesome for New York"…..24th, Managed to drag around. Went downtown in P.M. Two years ago we became engaged. Even now it seems sort of strange."
FEBRUARY: "17th, Went to church. Lee and I fooled around the rest of the day, making plans mostly. The outlook is discouraging."
MARCH: "8th & 9th, Cleaned. I'm so blue and married. I wonder if things are ever going to straighten up. We're certainly broke…Loena and Curly here for dinner and all day. It helped us to forget things for a little while anyway."
APRIL: "19th (The day before this the bank sent their checks back). Things look a little better, at least no bankruptcy just yet. Choir rehearsal in evening."
MAY: "24th, We started for Corvallis (Oregon) at 3:00 and arrived there at 1:00 A.M. Had to spend the night in Albany."
JUNE: "15th, News of Mary's death came at 9:30. Simply stunned. No one knows how I feel knowing that I can't go to them….17th, Mary laid to rest at 10:30 today. It's been a terrible day. Just nearly lost my mind."
JULY: "Memoranda, Another month of doubts and anxieties. But we have health and strength and that's a blessing and a real one."
AUGUST: "Memoranda, Much alone. It gets on my nerves sometimes but aside from that things are better on the whole."
SEPTEMBER: "Memoranda. Things have been much more cheerful this month than anytime since we've been in the west. For it I'm truly thankful."
JANUARY: "1st, got up late. Lee worked all day. Mother and I went over to Estelles for a while. I went down to the office with Lee and we had a quarrel. A good start for the year……29th, Did several errands downtown. Sang for Third House and hated it."
FEBRUARY: "6th & 7th, Curtains done. At 2 o'clock we began to move. Worked until mid-night getting things squared around....finished settling. We're just as comfy and cozy as can be. I'm crazy about it. Lee and I went to the Liberty….16th, Took Laura, Aunt Ede and mother to Frederick's for lunch. Shopped all P.M. Sang concert over radio at 8:30. Real success."
MARCH "Memoranda: It has been a terrifically busy month but I think we're happier that way. I'm thankful for my many blessings."
APRIL: "21st, Still down. Couldn't go to Country Club luncheon or to Choral rehearsal. Called Dr. says I have flu. "X"."
MAY: "3rd, Bud and Estelle, Lee, mother and I went to the woods for plants. Ended up on Steamboat Island digging clams."
JUNE: "21st, Started for mountain at 7:00. Hiked from Narada Falls to Paradise. Marvelous! Dinner at Manning's. Home at 10:00. A wonderful day."
JULY: "4th, Of all the awful nights. Found a room in Port Angeles and slept for 2 hours. Took 11:45 ferry and were in Victoria B. C. at 2:00. Had lunch, drove around and then went out to Sooke for the night. Didn't see Bob….25th, Made out checks. Did the marketing. We all went to the Liberty and afterward Lee lost his temper and said awful things."
AUGUST: "7th, Went on picnic with the Yantis down at Priest Point Park. Nice time. Came uptown and went to opening of our building..27th, Left Salem at 9:30. Drove up Columbia River. Lovely Trip. Home at 9:00. Mother and Marie packed. I'm so blue I could die."
1924: End of the year summary….. "And the years go on, leaving us, it seems all the time a little more dissatisfied. I have had some very bitter moments this year in which I have felt that Lee and I are not happily mated. It isn't the fault of one alone. But I do try to do my best but even so I rile him and make him ugly toward me at times. When he hurts me so keenly, I wonder "why try to go on like this?" There are times when I simply can't approach him and he breaks my heart. If it's my fault I'd like to know how to remedy it; but I can't lay all the blame upon myself. Here's hoping that the coming year is going to be better. I'll try to do my part, as God knows, I've always tried to do since the day we met. May the year give us health. May it also bring me some inspiration and joy in living. I've had so little of that in the past year. I realize more every day how much more we need the spiritual than the material. I would be content to live in the little brown house forever if I knew that in living there we could create an atmosphere of home and love and unselfishness, with all the superficialities cast asked. That has always been my idea but I've had anything but that. Perhaps I'm to blame. I'm afraid I'm failing miserably as a wife. If I am, then I must give up the profession. But again I say I'm not alone in the blame. We must try to work out that problem this year."
1925: End of the year (and diary) summary….. "How the years fly on. Each one brings us new joys and new sorrows. The thing the year 1925 has given us, I believe, is a better understanding of each other. Last year I had qualms and was discouraged over our relationship. Things seem to be working themselves out gradually. Lee is learning to have more consideration for me and I, on the other hand, feel that I know his temper and disposition better. The year has given us many things to be grateful for, a little less financial strain, good friends, a comfortable home. For all those blessings I am sincerely grateful. I want always to be an inspiration to Lee and have him know that in me he has his greatest comfort. I want to share in his success just as I want him to share in any that I may have. That is the true basis of companionship. We have been companions always. I hope the time may never come when we will not rejoice in the companionship one of the other. May the year to come give us heath. With that all difficulties can be surmounted."
- Dawley, Elgia Leila Wittwer (Creator, Person)
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- Dawley, Elgia Leila Wittwer
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- French teachers -- New York (State) -- New York -- 20th century -- Diaries Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Women -- Washington (State) -- Olympia -- 20th century -- Diaries Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Elgia Dawley Diaries
- Amy Schindler; Angela Kroeger
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