Betsy Widmer, Newburyport, MA
Saturday, February 13, 2016Mini-exhibit: 10:00 amLecture: 10:30amGould Theatre, Palace of the Legion of Honor
Legion of Honor
What was it like to be a child in early America? Elisabeth Garrett Widmer’s illustrated talk, based on first-hand accounts, will invite you to meet with some of the babies, toddlers, children and adolescents of former times. Betsy Widmer will lead us through a series of homes from the late 17th century through the high Victorian period. Even the concept of childhood changed over time, along with the concept of “home,” as smaller versions of adults achieved recognition as individuals with discrete periods of personal development.
We will follow children as they find their favored spaces in the home and in the yard. What were their playthings and games? How did they change with the seasons? What were their youthful chores and responsibilities? Mrs. Widmer will also introduce the menagerie of pets that enlivened the household and added to its noise. We will listen to reminiscences of the joys and sorrows of tackling those infamous three “r’s”; reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. We will empathize with the sweat and tears accompanying the accomplishments of needle and thread. We will come to appreciate the intricacies, the pride and the downright anguish of getting dressed, and wearing costume.
Betsy Widmer will also introduce us to their parents. How did mothers and fathers govern and guide their little ones, attempt to counsel and steer them? How did roles for father and mother become different over time? What were the parents’ lofty goals? What earth-bound obstacles impeded their achievement? What worried parents the most? In answering an essential part of that question, we will enter the sickroom to consider the importance of health and illness in a world without antibiotics.