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Scholar-in-Residence Sharpe to share findings of 19th century women

Date: 11/4/2008

By Kaitlyn Schroyer

Staff Intern

WESTFIELD The next time you think of Westfield, think mid-nineteenth century women.

Dr. Elizabeth Sharpe, a noted American historian and author, discovered the diaries of Westfield residents Lucy Douglas Flower Gillet and Aurilla Taylor and will be presenting her findings at the Athenaeum on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.

"The purpose of the project was to look at the wonderful things at the Westfield Athenaeum and two very good writings," Sharpe, the scholar-in-residence at the Athenaeum, said.

Besides the diaries, Sharpe used old newspapers, other histories of the town, probate records and deeds throughout the project, which was supported in part by a grant from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities. Sharpe noted that Aurilla's diary alone was 308 pages long.

"Aurilla was single and a hard worker. She had money and loaned money and even built her own house. At 54, she married, but that soon ended after eight months. She worked in the whip industry and combined the making of the whips and her daily chores. She earned a lot of money by herself," Sharpe explained.

Gillet was the daughter of Taylor's cousin. Her son, Frederick Gillet, served as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and as a United States Senator. In her book, Gillet describes moving at age eight to the family's grand new home, which is now the Boys and Girls Library of the Westfield Athenaeum.

For more information about this presentation call the Athenaeum at 568-7833.