When Julia discusses major historical events in the diaries, she provides rare insight to jurisprudence and the social, economic and political trends of 19th century America, as they affect middle class mothers. Because of the lack of firsthand documents from these women it is easily forgotten that although these women were home keeping house while major decisions of the time were being made, it was these woman who silently shared the burden and hardships of such decisions and the responsibility of shaping the future.
Julia recounts in her diaries her private skepticism at certain investment choices her husband makes in the early 1850s. When the Panic of 1857 causes the family great losses in the stock market, she only lets escape a few “I told you so” comments and is preoccupied by her husband's affected health and the family's future.
“...to submit with a good grace is best policy. The large sum of money expended on this house, fills me with regret, but G. will not listen to advice, and it must be lavished on perishable things...G. Loves to spend money but will not lay up anything for a dark day. I often urge him to think seriously on this important subject. He laughs at my idea of hoarding, as he terms it. Tells me I live on fears. The day will come to regret this folly.”
-Saturday, 10th July 1847
“A great change in the money market, money tight and stocks down to a frightful depth. Mr. H. alarmed, his losses will be very heavy. We are both anxious for the event of this dark cloud. G. scarcely sleeps and grows thin. He is much depressed, more so than I ever saw him on previous trials.”
Julia's entries grow even more critical of the situation when the family is forced to move to Stone Ridge to board with Garret's family.
“I with all my horror of the business must shew [sic] the house it is like being one's own Executioner..”
-March 17th, 1857
“I feel so unhappy in this fatal place, the grave of all my hopes. G. is never the same to me here as in other places. He has become so exacting; harsh and changed to me… Wept myself to sleep….. I feel cross since here,…. No work servants, or friend to turn to for help or consolations."
Julia also offers beautiful commentary on the Civil War. She leaves her private sphere to reflect on the conflict, proving once again, her distinctive position as a valuable narrator of the time.
“This is the last day of Winter, the momentous winter of War, rebellion, and uncertainty.Tomorrow Saturday, will bring us spring, and we hope Peace ... The Union victories are glorious, and the South, beginning to find out the folly of their treason. Soon, all may be united under the old flag”, and prosperity follow in the wake of this wicked rebellion.”
-February 28, 1862
It is fascinating to read how Julia delicately incorporates her gender specific social code, her religious and moral beliefs, her knowledge of the classics and contemporary literature to form her opinions of the current events of the time.
She discusses the Civil War, the Hague Street Explosion, the Webster Trial, political rallies, immigration and more. Julia records having reading aloud with her family, “Uncle Tom,” in 1852, the same year it was published. Her entries on the Civil War gently allude to her political leanings. It seems that since the social codes of the time did not permit Julia to voice her views on such events and their effects on her life, she had to settle for her diary.