Thursday, 17 October 2013

Journal of a Widow, travelling from Boston to New York.

I chose this journal, as I thought it would be interesting to see what the female perspective on settling and the early years in America were like.

Sarah Kemble Knight was a Widow and mother of one, began her journey to New York to finish some family business, after her cousin's death. She left her only child with her aging mother while she traveled. She hired a 'Mr. Wheeler' to guide her from Boston to New Haven, once there she remarks "They are Govern’d by the same Laws as we in Boston", but she appears to worry about whether they are religious or not. She notes they also seem very independent in their principles, which she finds troubling. However she is pleased upon learning that crimes are punished justly, and that even an innocent kiss between young people, often end in whipping.

In New Haven, she also hears about a black slave stealing and calls him a "Heathen", and then tells the tale of what occurs, and how the "Indian" was seized and questioned and that the people in the company "fell into a great fit of Laughter, even to Roaring" when he tries to proclaim innocence.

Travelling further, along the coastline, she seems disgusted by the familiarity between slave and master, and how they are allowed to eat at the table. She accounts yet another tale about a black slave who went to court with his master and the court ordered "the master to pay 40s [shillings] to black face and
acknowledge his fault". At this point her account seems to ramble and go off on tangents, which questions the reliability of her account. She begins to remind me of Chaucer's "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and tale", with her similar affinity to bend the truth and go off on a tangent, as The Wife of Bath.

I found it very interesting that she was treated so well, with little to her name, as she calls herself "unworthy handmaid", and that so many people she came across were very kind to her. Additionally it was interesting to hear her perspective on black slaves and the "Natives of the Country" whom she calls "the most savage of all the savages of that kind that I had ever Seen" and seems rather hostile in her description of them. She seems appalled with their customs, such as marriage to more than one woman. I found her journal a most interesting insight of early settlers.

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