A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Carrie Jane Emory

This past weekend, at my Smith College reunion, I was supposed to be reminiscing about 1969, but at least part of the time my thoughts were firmly fixed on 1885. I wasn't there at that time, obviously, but Carrie Jane Emory was. She was the daughter of Pascal Emory, first owner of the house now owned by me. I learned a few years ago from her obituary that she had attended Smith, but I didn't know exactly when. So on Saturday afternoon, while my classmates were eating their box lunches on the lawn, I was in the Smith College Archives hunting for any trace of Carrie.

The wonderful archivist showed me a directory published in the 1930s listing all the students from each class, graduates and non-graduates. Carrie was a non-graduating member of the class of 1885. Oddly enough, I counted 45 graduates and 49 non-graduates. That's a dropout rate higher than Springfield's struggling public high schools! I think that in many cases, girls left because they married or because their families could not afford the tuition, but I don't think either of those reasons was the case for Carrie. She died a spinster, her parents were pretty rich, and she was the only child who survived to adulthood (so no competition for the funds).

The archivist also found me a file containing two identical cabinet card portraits (see above) and several letters written during the summers of her college years to a friend named Abby. The letters are maddeningly fluffy, with little concrete information about anything. "Yesterday, I received six letters, two packages and two visiting cards. It took me all morning to read my mail." "I have owed you a letter for a long time. I hope you shan't be angry with me. I have been meaning to buy more note paper." "I am sorry to hear of your distress. I, too, have felt the same way. I hope you shall feel better." Why is Abby distressed? Why was Carrie distressed? What did they do all day long? No clues.

She seemed to like tennis, refers to tournaments, and mentions playing against the men because the women were "too amateurish." I think my next step will be to see if she belonged to any sort of tennis or country club in Springfield. I can find no evidence that she ever married, worked, or even volunteered for any committees (and of course, she didn't cook or clean because she had a servant). She lived almost 60 years after leaving Smith. She must have done something!

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