February 21, 1878 letter to Nancy Brown from Louese Keith

February 21, 1878

To:  Nancy Brown

From: Louese Keith

Louese is describing life in the Hiram Crawford household as well as the challenges of maintaining an appropriate wardrobe with limited resources.

1878-02-21 1878-02-21B 1878-02-21C 1878-02-21D

Thursday Morning [February] 21 [1878?][1]

Dear Sister — And Family

As I have got all the work done I will take an hour now and answer your letter that I rec’d week before last. Well to begin with Harry and Jessie[2] are down stairs in the kitchen raising ____. Aunt Kate[3] is in the back parlor lying on the couch (and of course most dead) but is going to prayer meeting this afternoon, and I am up stairs in my room sitting by the east window (writing to you) but if I could only see you I could tell you in 5 minutes what it will take me an hour to write but as I can not I must be satisfied with the pen. Ma[4] wrote to me last week and asked me about my clothes and told me to write to you all about them and she would see the letter. (I suppose the reason she wanted me to do that was so that Grandma[5] would not know any thing about it.) I wrote to Ma 4 weeks ago all about them and how Aunt Kate was but after I read the letter a second time I threw it in the stove for I knew she could not help me any and it would not make her feel any better, but as she has asked me to let her know I will do so. I will say, “to commence with” that she has never given me a thing since I came back “with the exceptions of what I got Christmas” and I dont hear any thing more about dress or any thing else and my cashmere sack looks ridiculous. The silk is all worn thread bare. It had commenced to wear off when Ma was here so you can imagine what it is now. Ma asked about my shoes. No they have’nt got me any but I had 75 cts and Uncle Hi[6] gave me 25 so the next time I went down town I got me a pair of $1.00 shoes but it was the next two or three days after Ma left & I have had to wear them every since then and they are pretty bad now, but I wear my rubbers when I go out so they are not seen. Now dont think by this that she is ugly & cross for she is not but is pleasing, hears me recite my lessons and seems to want me to go out and have the young folks come here but I cant go very much longer unless something turns up (about the size of a binder). There is one thing that grinds me pretty bad and that is I have every bit of the work to do. She does’nt lift her hand to do a single thing excepting to make some fried cakes and sweep the parlors once a week. Making her bed and emptying her slops is something she dont pretend to do. But she is gone every afternoon nearly and then the worst of it is when Uncle Hi comes home at night. He has to carry her up stairs almost and she will carry the idea to him that she has been to work. She has got a new black cashmere trimmed in silk and a new cloak $7.00 a yard trimmed in $3.00 silk & her brother sent her a $10.00 hat, Jessie a set of furs with cap and lots of little things but then she has them just the same. I will tell you on an other piece of paper what is all or will be the rage here this summer.

They are going to wear black & white plaided gingham or such goods as that plaid of Jules that she has trimmed in silk. I saw the pattern of one made for girls “from 14 to 18 yrs” the other day. The back is just like a breton polonaise like that picture in Hannahs[7] book that she made my overskirt by. The front is out loose like a wrapper. On the bottom of the front is a double box plaited ruffle about a foot wide. It opens in front way down to the ruffle and there is plaiting about an inch wide goes down in front. A collarette is made for the neck just like the one to my old dress only not quite as high. The sleeves are trimmed with plaiting 3 inches wide and the pockets have plaiting across the top. It is just as pretty as can be and only takes 8 yds for it is not a long dress. If Aunt Kate would only get me one I would not ask for another one (short any way).

Still if I got it I dont know how it could be made unless she would let me go up to Aunt Bell’s[8] & use her machine & that I dont think she wold let me do so I must be contented.

Dont let any one see this besides our folks.

Eugene[9] started of Mich last Tuesday. Will be at your place before long.

Harry Jessie & I went out to Graceland[10] Saturday. It is only the second time I have been there & Aunt Kate has’nt been there but once & Aunt Bell feels awful. She told me Saturday that if you only lived on Clark Street it would be all she would ask for she would have some place to go to then. So Nancy you was not treated any worse than Aunt Bell is now.

Well I must close.

Love to all.

Lou

I rec’d a handsome box valentine the 14th. Write soon.


[1] This letter appears to be written in 1878, when Louese was staying with Hiram and Kate Crawford

[2] Harry and Jessie Crawford, Hiram and Kate’s children

[3] Katherine (Atchinson) Crawford, Hiram’s wife

[4] Sarah (Crawford) Keith

[5] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[6] Hiram Crawford Jr.

[7] Hannah Keith, Louese’s sister

[8] Isabella (Steele) Crawford, wife of Louese’s uncle, Prosper Crawford

[9] Louese’s cousin, Eugene Crawford, son of Lousese’s uncle, Edwin Crawford

[10] Perhaps she is referring to Graceland Cemetery which is located at 4001 North Clark Street in Chicago

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