This week on Fieldstone Common, Marian Pierre-Louis interviews Michelle Marchetti Coughlin, author of One Colonial Woman’s World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit.
One Colonial Woman’s World 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, Mehetabel 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, financial accounts, and even some humor. An extensive collection of letters by Mehetabel and her female relatives has also survived, shedding further light on her experiences.
It is clear from the surviving writings that Mehetabel lived 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 family, social, and commercial connections. While her experiences were circumscribed by gender norms of the day, she took a lively interest in the world around her and played an active role in her community.
Mehetabel’s long life covered an eventful period in American history, and this book explores the numerous—and sometimes surprising—ways in which her personal experiences were 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.
Michelle Marchetti Coughlin is an independent scholar and former editor who holds graduate degrees in history and English and American Literature. She lives south of Boston with her husband Mark and is currently working on an article about Mehetabel’s mother’s poem.
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