“Where have you been hiding?” I asked myself as I discovered a tiny, green volume under three other, larger diaries.
Over three years ago, my sisters and I cleared out our Aunt Ruthie’s house. They agreed to my placing her diaries and journals in my suitcase, flying ancient history from Pennsylvania to my home in Florida. These included diaries from 1943, 1944, and 1945, which I’ve written about in other posts.
And now I discovered a diary from 1934, when our aunt was a teenager!
As I paged through the penciled entries for that year, I searched in November for a possible reference to something political.
And sure enough I found it!
On November 7, election day in 1934, Aunt Ruthie records simple facts, no embellishment as far as I can tell. At age sixteen, she was too young to vote, yet she noted national (actually, state) news along with details of her home life.
Pictured below is her quick entry, for November 7, 1934, written in her left-handed, right-slanted cursive, except for the printed words expressing her joy in finding two lost textbooks.
It looks as though Pennsylvania has gone Democratic. I suppose Earle is our next governor. The Groffs [neighbors] and we were at Yountz for supper. Mother, Anna and Lydia were down all day. [Then in print, not cursive] – I found my lost Geometry and German books!
Aunt Ruthie skipped two grades, so she was probably a high school senior in 1934 when she wrote this entry. Below is a photo of her high school graduation in 1935.
Church rules in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference of that era discouraged members from voting or holding political office (exhorting members to pray for their rulers according to I Timothy 2:1-4), but she quietly defied them, voting in elections until she was into her late eighties. *
With a presidential election behind us (well, mostly), we pause to thank God for our freedom to choose our leaders, however wobbly, contentious, and fraught with problems the process often is.
* Article IV – Nonresistance, Section 6, Statement of Christian Doctrine and Rules and Discipline of the Lancaster Conference of the Mennonite Church, July 1968.
- What is your attitude about voting?
- Do you come from a family that has valued voting and/or other political action?
- Do you have written records similar to this from your own family?
Always love your posts, Marian! Thank you.
And thanks for always reading, Jack. You can picture much of what I write about because you experienced our culture in the same era. 🙂
Good morning, Marian! It’s so wonderful that have all these records from your family.
My family has always taken voting and politics seriously, having seen persecution and political suppression first hand. My sister has been a county commissioner in Pennsylvania and now is Clerk of Courts for her county.
Yes, I know the activism of Ms. Schreiber–good for her! I think I’m friends with your sister on Facebook. 🙂
As you may guess, most Mennonites of today don’t subscribe to the rules followed in the 1960s, when these regulations were published.
That’s funny. I didn’t know you were FB friends. 😀
Sometimes relatives of my FB friends come up on my feed. So, your sister Lori must have appeared one day. 🙂
You be just keep digging up more treasures, Marian! These few:scribbles in a journal do speak volumes about Aunt Ruthie’s character and the times in which she lived. Fascinating! I love how she defied Mennonite tradition and faithfully voted her whole life. Although no one in my family ever ran for office, I was taught to value my right to vote. We had some pretty lively discussions about political candidates in our living room over the years.. Love your post. (as usual😊)
My memoir chapter Easter and Politics shows my family on the Martin side scrapping over politics. My great uncles were not Mennonite, so I’m sure they voted. I think even my dad snuck to the polls in later life.
Of course, I believe it’s my civic duty. And you can bet sure I voted again in general and local elections this year. Thanks, Kathy!
My Dad was Alvin Longenecker Givens, 1st cousin to your aunt and my 1st grade teacher, I know full well of the Mennonite cultural. I don’t think my grandparents voted. I’ll have to look in his diary. Thankyou for posting Elvin H. Givens
It’s good to meet Longenecker relatives in these pages. Even if we’ve never met, we have a common (and familiar) heritage. It’s nice to meet you here, Elvin. Thank you and do visit again!
In my family, we were always taught to vote and be responsible citizens. So I usually vote in elections.
Like your aunt, I kept a diary when I was growing up. But no one else in my family did. My grandmother wrote a book about her life. I read some of it decades ago. But it I don’t know where it is now. She passed away two decades ago.
You have definitely inherited your grandmother’s writing genes along with an impulse to keep a record.
I hope you find it, L. Marie. What a treasure that would be to hold it in your hands again. 😀
What a wonderful find! Your Aunt Ruthie was an amazing person and a huge influence in your life. We all need an Aunt Ruthie. My parents encouraged us to vote and be part of the democratic process. They also encouraged us to be independent thinkers and not necessarily chose their political followings. Stay safe.
Darlene, your parents were very progressive in their thinking, a very good thing. Now, as a writer, you embrace all sorts of cultures and lifestyles. I wonder if you’ve thought about how that mindset has impacted your themes for the Amanda book series. Hmmmmm!
I’m sure many of my parents’ values that were instilled in me at a young age, have influenced my writing. And I thank them for that!
Like many other Mennonites, my parents did not vote until 1960 when many voted against Kennedy just because he was Catholic. And now I hear that Biden is the first president since Kennedy to be Catholic. My dad was always a “hard democrat” in opinion and Mom too. But she hates voting–always worries about making a mistake.
Re: Ruthie, she was an amazing woman for her times, for sure, and beautiful too! Love that picture. Her diaries/journals are a treasure for you. I envy those records!
We smile now about our ancestors’ reasoning about politics, but now I wonder how we (and our descendants) will feel when we reflect on our choices years from now.
Yes, I realize how fortunate we are to have these records from Aunt Ruthie. And, yes, she did record her thoughts in journals and diaries, but she also kept them safely tucked away in her cedar chest. If I had known they were lodged there, I may have dug them out sooner. 🙂
Thanks for your thoughts here, Melodie.
Marian — I love that your Aunt Ruthie “quietly defied them, voting in elections until she was into her late eighties.”
Yes, Laurie, she was very politically attuned, that Ruthie. However, when I offered to take her to her polling place not far from home late in life, I knew she was done when she said,” Is the election close?” I took her question as a cue that she didn’t have the strength to make the trip.
Elections are typically close these days, some even razor-thin, and so we make the effort! 🙂
Your Aunt Ruthie was gorgeous! And good for her that she voted despite the rules!. There are some rules that are meant to be broken!!
Yes, indeed, Joan. I guess I take after her in wanting to assert myself, especially in an election. I’m sure you believe the same! 🙂
Read your book and enjoyed very much. Born in 1938 and attended Kraybill,s school and could relate to much of it. Still live in Mt. Joy.
Hello, Dale. I’m happy you found my blog today and left a comment. If you live in the Mt. Joy area, I’m sure you could easily visualize all the roads and fields I mentioned in Mennonite Daughter. Thanks so much for reading my book. I love to connect with readers. 🙂
What an exciting find! Hopefully, you get the answers to more questions you’ve wondered about. My mom used to write journals about everything. Most of the time she wrote about the most mundane activities. When she moved into an assisted living facility and later their memory care, I often brought one of her journals and read from it. She would sit and listen in fascination. It was something to read her words back to her even if they were things like going to lunch with her friend or a dental appointment.
Mundane things becomes special when they are recorded by those we love. How sweet of you to read your mother’s thoughts back to her. Perhaps she could visualize the people and places you helped her visit in memory. Thanks for reading and commenting here again, Pete!
P. S. And you have her to thank for your own writing “genes,” I suppose. 🙂
We were always encouraged to vote, but political discussions were forbidden in our house. My parents had opposing political viewpoints. I recall one year, our garage was turned into a polling place for voters, and my mother served coffee and snacks to those who showed up.
Even though your parents had opposing political views, Ginger, their serving coffee and snacks in their garage on election day, shows that actions speak louder than words. What a fantastic memory! 🙂
How incredible that you found a new dairy from your Aunt Ruthie, Marian. That will provide fascinating facts, as long as it’s still readable. I worry about my own old diaries, which I wrote in fading ink from cartridges… In Belgium, we never wrote in pencil. I don’t know of anyone else but myself in my family writing diaries.
Speaking of Belgium, did you know voting is mandatory with jail time as punishment for not voting? Not that I know of this being enforced. So, yes, my family and I ALWAYS voted in elections, which took/take place on Sundays, because people are home from work then. As a matter of fact, every election year that I was abroad (which is most of them), I had to go through hoops to prove, legally, that I was unable to vote because I was out of the country. That’s another story! Not covered in my book. 🙂
Liesbet, I don’t think you have anything to worry about if you wrote in ink from cartridges unless the pages meet water. Many of our love letters drowned in a gush of hurricane rain during a storm surge in our first house.
I think it’s great that Belgians were obligated to vote, but doing jail time for failure to do so sounds extreme. But, I’ve always been American, which may explain my freedom-loving mindset.
The stories you don’t cover in your book may become “Deleted Scenes,” or fodder for another book, which I’m sure you don’t want to even think of now, fresh out of the delivery room, birthing PLUNGE. 🙂
Love that picture of Aunt Ruthie, so young and fresh! Love her spirit too, which matches her looks! You are so fortunate to have her diaries and get a glimpse into her life. Thanks for sharing it.
I am grateful I had two mothers, Aunt Ruthie being the intellectual one. Yes, she does look young and fresh, and though her body became elderly, she maintained an optimistic spirit, aging with grace. Thank you, Elfrieda.
Good on your aunt! Having grown up in a dictatorship until the age of 12, I highly value democracy and almost see it as a duty to vote, as Spain didn’t have that right for nearly 40 years. We may elect the wrong people sometimes, but it’s good to know we can rectify our mistakes next time round! 😉👍
I like your attitude, Fatima. I did not know you grew up under a dictatorship in Spain. No wonder you value the free expression of a democracy, and what you say is very true: “We may elect the wrong people sometimes, but it’s good to know we can rectify our mistakes next time round!”
The photo of Aunt Ruthie is great. Her smile, oh my, I love it. I have my great grandfather’s diary, but it is dry, difficult reading. He was a preacher and he devoted this diary to all things religious. On and on it goes… 🥱
Aunt Ruthie included the monumental with the mundane. Not long ago, I wrote about one of her diary entries which included her cleaning the kitchen after she noted that an atomic bomb had been released in Japan.
The hardest thing is deciphering these ancient pages written in pencil, a teacherly thing, I suppose. When she arrived home from school, her yellow Dixon-Ticonderoga pencil was often lodged on her ear.
I’m not sure where your free spirited nature came from, but apparently not from your great grandfather – ha! Good for you, Ally. 🙂
It’s from my other side of the family, I’m sure.
Loved this entry and the fact that your aunt voted despite it being frowned upon! 🙂
Yes, my aunt was determined to follow her principles, yet she didn’t flaunt it. I don’t think she openly defied church rules, but wouldn’t compromise on her convictions. A great role model, I’d say.
Such a wonderfully discovery, Marian… Thanks so much for sharing from the treasury of your family archives! <3
Yes, my family archives is a treasure. It takes just one person in each generation to keep a family history alive. Thanks for recognizing that, Bette!
Have you thought about writing a book about your Aunt Ruthie? Maybe she has planned on writing a book and never got to it and now you get to chance to share a life on a much broader scale.
Dear Pat, how wonderful to see you here. Welcome.
As it happens, my memoir is chock full of chapters about Aunt Ruthie, and I refer to her as my second Mother. Thanks for the suggestion to dig deeper.
I visited your blog this morning and left a comment with a wee question. How’s that for synchronicity! 🙂
Your aunt’s diary makes me think that it will be important for you to transcribe it now. I found it a struggle to decipher, and our future generations would really find the cursive a challenge!
We grew up in a family that was very interested in politics but not closely aligned with any political party. I think perhaps that is more common in Canada than in the United States? It seems to us that more Americans cling to political ideologies they were born into rather than thinking things through – my perspective as an outsider looking in.
A thought-provoking post, as always. Thanks.
I agree with the transcription, Arlene. Right now I’m doing a little bit at a time, my speed. My aunt left 4 diaries with entries for each day, so it can be daunting unless I take it in short doses. I can decipher most everything except proper nouns if I enlarge the image. They lasted a long time, so even if it takes me a year or two, the handwriting will be preserved long enough for me to translate into computer text, I think.
Thanks for your views, including the political ones, expressed as a Canadian. Have a good weekend, Arlene! 🙂
What a woman ! Clearly nothing was going to get in her way . You can only be proud of her Marian . Thank heaven for the suffragettes . If I had lived in those times I would with out doubt been one of them .
As suffragettes, you and I would have marched together in lock step, I have no doubt. What a crazy thing: Thinking women didn’t have the brains to vote. The other gender often gets us in a heap of trouble, but I won’t get into that. Yay, for freedom to vote, Cherry. I’m with you all the WAY!
Enjoy your weekend! oxo
Well, she was a beauty for sure! What a find, what a treasure. There’s a plausible thought about NOT voting ie that one casts one vote thereby allowing the party to rule over one .. and make decisions on their behalf … I do exercise my right to vote however, though at times with a heavy heart. Yes, my family has always voted. Thanks Marian, have a lovely weekend 🙂
I understand the “heavy heart” part of voting. Sometimes we vote and don’t think we have a clear choice. This time we did.
Yes, enjoy your weekend too, Susan. However, I think it’s Sunday already in South Africa. Thanks always for expressing your thoughts here! 😀
It’s just gone 9.30 pm Saturday – a perfect evening.
Diaries, I have been keeping one for 63 years and I wonder what I should do with them. I am fast headed toward “80” and who cares about my diaries?? After reading what you wrote I suppose I should keep them. 🙂 My family was from Lancaster Conference in Pa. and never voted but my husband’s family in Alabama always voted…..so guess what “he votes & I don’t ” and we are both content to be this way 🙂
It’s good to hear from you, Bertha, and appreciate your comment about voting. You and I share a common history in Lancaster County and I believe you also attended Lancaster Mennonite School. So, yes, I think it may be a good idea to hold on to those diaries. They are unique to you and therefore, irreplaceable, like those of my Aunt Ruthie.
These days my diaries are gratitude books, which end up recording history as they reveal day-to-day happenings, things I’m thankful for.
Have a happy Thanksgiving! 🙂
I love old diaries!
So do I, as you can tell. I wonder if you are keeping diaries too. Mine are gratitude books, containing history. Stay warm, be safe, Lady Fi!
How lucky you are to have your aunt’s diaries. This one is such an interesting insight into her time as a teenager!
As you can tell, because of its small size, I just discovered this diary under the 1943 – 1945 diaries. I was thrilled to discover a teenage edition of a life I knew only as an adult. Thanks for commenting here, Barbara.
I just read your suggestions for books in 2021. Thank you! 🙂
That must have been so exciting!