|Title||Medora Espy Papers finding aid |
|Finding Aid Identifier||MS 100 |
|Finding Aid Title||Finding aid for Medora Espy (1899-1916) papers, MS 100 |
|Subject||Medora Espy; Oysterville, WA; Pacific County; woman; diary; education; correspondence; teenager; clothing; school, boarding; funeral; Portland Academy; Olympia High School; high school |
|Abstract||Medora Espy, a young girl from Oysterville in rural Pacific County, Washington who died in 1916, frequently corresponded with her mother, other family members, and numerous school friends during her stays in schools in Olympia, Portland, Oregon, and during her summers, vacations, and times at home. Letters to and from Medora, between 1912 and 1916, reflect the activities and interests of a teenage girl in the early 20th century. |
|Biography||Medora Espy (1899 – 1916) was the oldest daughter of Harry Albert and Helen Richardson Espy of Oysterville, Washington. Harry A. Espy was a dairy farmer, who also was involved in other business enterprises in southwestern Washington's Pacific County. He served as a senator in the Washington state legislature, 1911-1913. Medora's mother, Helen, was from East Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area of northern California.
Medora was often separated from her parents while her mother was in a city giving birth to Medora's brothers and sisters, when her father was away on business or in the legislature, and during those parts of the year when Medora was attending school in either Olympia (1911-1913) or the Portland Academy in Portland, Oregon (1913 – 1916). During these absences, Medora wrote frequently to her mother, father, and other relatives, and both she and the family saved most of those letters.
Medora was popular with her schoolmates and had many friends. She maintained a lively correspondence with many of them during times when they were separated, especially during the summer months.
Unexpectedly, just several weeks after she left Oysterville to return to Portland to finish her last year in school in early January 1916, Medora died. The weather that month was extremely cold, almost equal to the devastating Northwest winter of 1892. Her death was a shock to everyone, and her mother was almost inconsolable. The many letters and cards of sympathy received by the Espy family reflect the impact young Medora had on many lives during her seventeen years. |
|Scope and Content||The collection contains over 900 letters and cards , including those exchanged between her and her mother and father, relatives, and many friends, most written between 1908 and 1915. In addition, there are several diaries kept by Medora (1911, 1914 and five volumes for 1915). Many subjects are included throughout the correspondence and diaries, including school work, daily activities, sewing and clothes, boys, relationships, social activities, outings, dances and parties, skating, and other topics of interest to a teenage girl.
Medora's exchange with her mother is a little different and toned down from her correspondence with friends, as might well be expected. Medora received over 260 letters and cards from her mother between the years 1906 to 1915. In return, Medora sent over 240 letters and cards to her mother. Those 500 letters make up a good portion of the collection.
Making and buying clothing was also a constant theme between Medora and her mother. Appearance was important, particularly since the Portland Academy was attended by many students from affluent families.
Both the outgoing and incoming correspondence with girlfriends (another 290 letters and cards) reflect the daily routine and social life of young girls in the boarding school environment. Dances, skating, and parties were frequent. The letters contain many comments and thoughts about other classmates and friends, boys, and the usual interests of teenagers. During vacations, friends often visited each other. When friends and relatives visited Medora in Oysterville, swimming, wading, boating, and other outdoor activities were often mentioned in subsequent correspondence.
Medora's five-part diary for 1915 and her correspondence paint a vivid picture of a young woman's life, complete with all the thoughts, emotions, concerns, joys and laughter, heartaches, and apprehensions of a girl growing up in the first two decades of the 20th century. The collection also illustrates family connections and support systems. The many letters and cards sent to Medora's parents after her death provide insight into the religious beliefs of the Espy family and their friends, and illustrate expressions of sympathy and consolation during that period. Correspondence to Harry and Helen Espy in 1905 after the loss of another child is similar in content.
These papers were the basis for Dear Medora; Child of Oysterville's forgotten years, by Sydney Stevens (Pullman, WA: WSU Press, 2007) |
|Keywords||Medora Espy; Oysterville, WA; Pacific County; woman; diary; education; correspondence; teenager; clothing; school, boarding; funeral; Portland Academy; Olympia High School; high school |
|Inclusive Dates||1897 - 1983 |
|Volume||2.8 linear feet |
|Accession number||1998.31; 1999.34; 2004.2; 2006.190 |
|Electronic Publisher||Washington State Historical Society |
|Contributors||Washington State Historical Society; Ed Nolan |
|Object Type||finding aid |
|Format||text / pdf |
|Rights||Property of the Washington State Historical Society - All Rights Reserved |
|Data Entry||kam |