One Colonial Woman's World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit

One Colonial Woman's World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit

by Michelle Marchetti Coughlin


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This book reconstructs the life of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (1673–1758), the author of what may be the earliest surviving diary by an American woman. A native of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who later moved to Connecticut, she began her diary at the age of fifteen and kept it intermittently until she was well into her seventies. A previously overlooked resource, the diary contains entries on a broad range of topics as well as poems, recipes, folk and herbal medical remedies, religious meditations, and financial accounts. An extensive collection of letters by Coit and her female relatives has also survived, shedding further light on her experiences. Michelle Marchetti Coughlin combs through these writings to create a vivid portrait of a colonial American woman and the world she inhabited. Coughlin documents the activities of daily life as well as dramas occasioned by war, epidemics, and political upheaval. Though Coit’s opportunities were circumscribed by gender norms of the day, she led a rich and varied life, not only running a household and raising a family, but reading, writing, traveling, transacting business, and maintaining a widespread network of social and commercial connections. She also took a lively interest in the world around her and played an active role in her community. Coit’s long life covered an eventful period in American history, and this book explores the numerous—and sometimes surprising—ways in which her personal history was linked to broader social and political developments. It also provides insight into the lives of countless other colonial American women whose history remains largely untold.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781558499676
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
Publication date: 12/31/2012
Edition description: 1
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Michelle Marchetti Coughlin is an independent scholar. For more information on her book, please see

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction xvii

A Note about the Diary xxiii

Statement of Editorial Method xxvii

1 The Years before the Diary, 1673-1688 1

2 Coming of Age, 1688-1693 21

3 Marriage and Motherhood, 1694-1696 37

4 Establishing Roots, 1697-1706 57

5 Comings and Goings, 1707-1711 81

6 Mistress and Matriarch, 1712-1725 103

7 Letters from Martha, 1726-1730 127

8 Transitions, 1731-1744 152

9 Endings, 1745-1758 175

Epilogue 189

Appendix: Full Text of Mehetabel Chandler Coit's Diary, 1688-1749 193

Notes 219

Index 249

What People are Saying About This

Marla R. Miller

This book will be a stunning development, the first deep examination of an unknown diary that affords a very rare glimpse into women's lives in this time and place. Coughlin's narrative places the diarist and the diary thoroughly in its context, situating each passage within broader patterns of local and regional history as well as the political, cultural, and social history of the era.

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