Global Events & Local Connections
As historical global events took place throughout the timeline of McDonald’s dairy, one appeared most prevalent. This set of diaries covers the time periods featuring the final stages and aftermath of World War I as well as the Great Influenza. An awareness of these global events can be detected in McDonald's entries. Similar to the recordings of sickness, mundane activities flank the accounts of the war in a stark contrast. McDonald gives as much time to the major political updates of the day as she does to the price of local produce, if not less. It is likely that McDonald was disconnected from the day-to-day wartime news, given her rural context and the delayed spread of news at that time. Her accounts of these events are frank and apparently emotionless, too.
We intend to contrast these mentions of global events - most notably, WWI and its outcomes - from the mentions of local travel and local goings-on. McDonald mentions many local people and families by name in her diary entries, and describes several trips to neighbouring areas. She spends more time, on the whole, noting local deaths, births, prices, and activities than recording international politics. Her diary represents a unique combination of awareness of place in an evolving international order and the primacy of awareness of local place and local details.
Transcription: Dreadfully cold. The pipes catch fire before daylight. U.S. declar war on Germany.
This passage represents the intermingling of hyper-domestic observations and large-scale international news. In McDonald's diary, international news is mentioned infrequently and is notable when mentioned. For McDonald, it is less about deep, elaborate introspection or narrative-crafting, like some other diary practices are, and more about recording the salient facts of the day. Talking about "the pipes" in one sentence and Germany in the next exemplifies this coexistence of local and global.
Transcription: Marietta Gene & Wm go to church for Easter duty. Storming Papa goes over to hill
This entry is stark juxtaposition of two different lives. Mary writes about preparing for Easter festivities and going to church while making no mention of the Battle of Vimy Ridge ending countries away. The inclusion of this entry in our "Global Events" section is meant to illustrate our (and maybe your?) impulse to read diary entries from very specific times in history associated with famous historical events in relation to those events.
Transcription: Florence comes home from hospital a lovely day. The mill moves here Papa goes to Monkland with case of Eggs 43¢ a dozen of eggs.
Mary has a seemingly normal day while the Canadian Corps were being sent to Ypres to assist in the battle at Passchendaele. 16 000 Candians were killed during this battle; it was a painful example of all that was lost during the war. The only allusion to war in this entry is in Mary's remark that the price of eggs had increased. However, economic effects were felt worldwide as a result of the war, and it is interesting to intuit their presence from Mary's hyper-specific entries.
Transcription: Papa goes to Apple Hill with pigs. 4. $1.35 Peace was declared
This passage was written only one day after the official signing of the Armistice. It can confirm that Mary, along with her local community, was somewhat invested and had clearly heard the news. Nevertheless, for such a major world event with so much fanfare and historical significance, this phrasing (“peace was declared”) is poignantly succinct.
Transcription: We wash got through at noon. Papa goes to Monkland bring home 1 bag oats and $12.00 worth pig food. Girls go to dance at Seamours St. Andrews. Receved letter from Mae says McNaught was killed.
Local social connections are strong in farming and rural communities. This entry represents McDonald’s awareness of her local surroundings in several different dimensions; local trades and purchases, domestic chores, the youth social scene, and news about family and friends. Others (like "Mae") are sending letters to McDonald to keep her updated, as this excerpt reveals.
Transcription: We go to Ottawa. Lovely day Roads good. We leave her 7 pm get to uncle Joes 8.30. Uncle Joe drives us to station train 1 hr late. Get into Ottawa few minutes after 12. Get to Dr. Minnes 12.30 Goes up A S Young get there 4.30 Leave for home 425 Thursday afternoon got home 9.30-
What counts as travel for McDonald was fairly geographically limited, in comparison to the travel being undertaken by troops in WWI. Pooley and Pooley, in their 2020 article, describe how even relocation across a short distance can be dramatic or disruptive for rural women historically, and how geographical movement (particularly between a very rural space and a slightly less rural space) can be studied in a new and interesting way with the help of diary entries. McDonald notes her travel times and locations carefully; traveling to Ottawa was potentially something of a remarkable affair.