Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Thursday, May 1st, 1862

This is May-day and a holiday so Clara has no school.  She has invited several ladies to take tea this afternoon and is occupied during the morning making preparations.  Her rooms are inconveniently small, but by arranging the school room and setting the table there we shall do nicely.  The ladies who came were Mrs. Sullivan a native of Tennessee and her widowed daughter, Mrs. Mills, both thought to have a warm side toward the south.  Mrs. De Levie, Miss Eunice Hooper, Mrs. Lewis and Miss Elizabeth Lewis, Mrs. Bradley, Mrs. Tyler, Mrs. Bacon, Mrs. Brigham, Mrs. Kirkpatrick, one of Clara's scholars who has lately been married, Mrs. Ayers from Ohio, and Mrs. Sibley a Connecticut lady whose husband is an elder in the Presbyterian Church of Pana but is now in the army under Gen. Steel.

Peggy's comments:
I haven't been able to find out why May Day would be a school holiday in 1862.  It wasn't connected to organized labor until later.  I can't imagine a school holiday to celebrate and do a May pole dance.  I found one reference to May Day connected to the feast of Mary, a religious holiday.

1 comment:

  1. I've seen it done as late as the 1950's and 60's at The Kentucky Home School For Girls, a private school in Louisville. They celebrated May Day with a May pole. The girls wore floaty white dresses and looked like something from an earlier time as they danced on the lawn. No classes were held that day.

    This custom may have survived longer but I was not there to witness it. It was probably a holdover from an older practice, one that could well have been widespread.

    The event in Julia's diary may simply be a Spring Break day off from school without the Maypole.

    It is striking that there were 15 ladies at tea (I'm counting Julia & Clara) a number described merely as "several."