Annie Cooper Boyd (born Annie Burnham Cooper) was an artist and feminist who hailed from the whaling village of Sag Harbor, New York, where her father, William H. Cooper, had for years thrived as a local boat builder. She adored her family, painting, and writing, and it’s thanks to diary entries such as this one, written when she was 19, that we know she had a blissful upbringing—so much so, it seems, that romance was deemed a risk. Much to her dismay, Annie’s father died in 1894—a year later, she married William John Boyd and stopped keeping a diary. These days, her paintings hang at the Sag Harbor Historical Society, housed in the family cottage where she enjoyed her early years.
The Diary Entry
I do not seem to care for the “boys” very much. Sometimes I think I care for them too little for my own good, but if girls are going to tend to fellows, they have to be a good deal with them & that takes them away from the private sitting room & home a good deal. That is what I don’t want, for if I am not home with Papa & Mamma what comfort can I be to them, & that is my daily prayer, to be a comfort & prop to my parents. Celia being older of cause has fellows & is even now “engaged,” but home is the sweetest and dearest place to me in the world, I have nearly every thing that could make me happy, viz the best of Fathers & Mothers, & Sister, & four kind brothers, a beautiful home, surrounded by Nature in all her glory, pets viz. hens, chickens, cat, & a horse that we all almost “love to pieces,” & which we, I especially, ride, in the beautiful woods which surround Sag Harbor, to the vast ocean only 6 miles from here. (Oh! how delightful) large nice grounds, trees, fruit by the—(all we can eat). Then we have boats, four in number. One is my boat with my name on it. Then Papa reads to us in the evening or I play chess with him, & practice on the Piano, & get my lessons, read the papers, of which we have plenty.
There are a few ways to read Annie’s diary. Firstly, in 1986, a selection of entries were reprinted in Private Pages: Diaries of American Women 1830s-1970s, edited by Penelope Franklin. Since then, two other books have been published:
- Annie Burnham Cooper, Her Diary 1881-1894 By Pamela Vail Lawson
- Anchor to Windward: the Paintings and Diaries of Annie Cooper Boyd By Annie Cooper Boyd
The latter two books can only be bought, I think, on the website of the Sag Harbor Historical Society, which makes perfect sense. You can find them here.
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