Quick Notes: The Rural Diary Format
An important third part of the picture about rural pandemic life is how McDonald wrote in her diary. The rural or farm diary as a method of record-keeping and tallying is a unique form of journaling that can be distinguished from other more individual-focused or more narrative journaling. McDonald's diary is functional and practical in many ways, and expresses the stresses of living during WWI and the Great Influenza via the logistical contents it contains, as opposed to extended emotional confessions.
In many ways, McDonald's diary entries seem to follow the tradition of rural folk diaries from before her time (1700s, 1800s). Rural folk diaries served as accounting ledgers, records of weather for use in farming, death and birth records, and the like. Quirks of personality or narrative structure were secondary to their usefulness as daily companions and recording tools. In their 2005 article, Huskins and Bourdeau suggest that journaling about everyday and mundane activities might support the creation of a sense of "permanence" in an uncertain time. We encourage you to peruse the diary entries on this page with this sentiment in mind.
This page of Mary's diary is incredibly well-used and shows how a diary could be adapted to meet the user's needs. Here, Mary split the page up so that she could use it year after year, as well as cross out the day of the week so that it would read better.
Mary uses one of the opening pages in her diary as a place to write down and work out various calculations. She attempted to get the most out of the diary by using up all pages, no matter their intended use. Ledgers, accounting, and lists are also classic features of traditional rural folk diaries, and Mary falls into the tradition here.
Transcription: In bed all day with a splitting headache. Papa goes to monk brings home 600 pig feed 3 cwt @ 2.25, 3 @ 2.50 = $14.25. Sent 17 lbs or a crock got 35c a lb. Clare & Jack married
This entry is an example of how lists and prices were often intermingled with personal and social details in McDonald's diary entries. It is representative of diary-keeping practices in a rural setting, and it is particularly applicable to this exhibit in its mention of physical ailments. This entry is a hodge-podge of different formats and functions, and exemplifies McDonald's style.
Transcription: Ash. Wed.
In one of the shortest entries in the diary, McDonald declares the date of Ash Wednesday, a Christian holy day. Repentance and morality are the solemn reminders of the day, which compares interestingly to the lackluster meekness of the entry.