A Day In The Life of Emma Waterlane
By Tirzah Arcade
6:00 — Wake up and get dressed. Today I am wearing a blue and white pattern dress. I dress my sisters Daisy, Lera, and Little Ida and must not forget baby William, my 10 year old brother. Billy was so bad mother said she HAD to talk with him — that is rare.
7:00 — Do my morning chores, which are watching the baby and making breakfast. The baby was fussing so I was concerned and took him outside for air.
8:00 — Sit down to eat breakfast which was Johnny cakes, potatoes, boiled eggs, and sausages. We also make lunch for school. Billy was being bad and then my older brother Henry said we had to go so I took my book pail and Henry took his books. Mother fussed with Daisy’s bonnet until Henry said we were late so she let us go with my sister Ida. Lena cried and then the baby started crying. We would walk to school, I should say we rent a two floor home in town. My father is a man of the law — he is a lawyer and we are not as poor as our peers.
9:00 — Walk to school as Mary and Daisy walk off with the little girls. Henry went off with his friends and Billy ran off. I saw my best bud Minnie and ran to say Hi There. Then the schoolteacher rang the bell so I got in the girl line with Minnie and entered class.
10:00 — Opened my Salem town reading book and my spelling book and my slate to learn penmanship. My sister Lena started to cry. She is in her first year and the teacher let me get out of my seat to see what was going on. She is nice and does whack you if you cry. A little girl stole her reader (her little book). The little girl was told to stand in front and stay there. She was crying and does not have an older brother who can help. I feel bad for her because her mother passed away.
11:00 — Start the grammar book. There isn’t much drama here. One boy pulled a girl’s braid in the second grade so he was yelled at by the teacher. Minnie was dreaming and I had to wake her up. I feel bad her mother just had twins and they keep her up. But she is lucky, she is the oldest so she gets all the love until the babies turn two and start walking.
Noon — Eating and break with Minnie. She almost fell asleep.
1:00 — Go back inside and open my arithmetic and my geography book. Same old, same old. A little girl started crying and a little boy got yelled at, but this time it was not Billy. That is a first.
2:00 — Open McGuffey Readers and we start talking out loud. The older boys started to yell so they got sent home.
2:30 — I have to still be here so I am mad at my brother.
3:00 to 5:00 — We go home for fun. What that means is cleaning the baby, putting the baby for a nap, helping Mother cook supper, yelling at Billy for eating the sugar, Mother coming in to the room to yell at him, putting the food into the stove, roasting beef, setting the table, getting a little sewing done, and yell to my sister who was up everyone all over the cooking. Mother would do it but she is not feeling well and Dr. Wellbrooks told her no chores and to not let her leave bed so all of her jobs fall on me as the oldest girl. Father comes home. I give Mother her supper and she sleeps. We all sit down to eat beef, carrots, milk toast, and light cake. We all clean up.
6:00 — Wash the baby with warm water. Afterwards, I put him to bed and I washed Billy, Mary Sue, Daisy, Lena and little Ida. I am happy that Henry and father share a bowl while mother and I share a bowl.
8:00 — Get into bed. I share a large bed with my sisters and sleep on the side near the baby.
This has been a day in the life of a kid in the 1800s.
About this piece:
During the Fall 2021 semester, 826NYC’s journalism class, Write All About It, dug deep into our local Brooklyn history with support from historians at the Center for Brooklyn History and the New-York Historical Society, alongside independent research. In emulation of one of the first Black-owned newspapers in the country, The Freedman’s Torchlight — which was published in the town of Weeksville, now part of Crown Heights, in the 1860s — students wrote about the news and culture of 1860s Brooklyn in this time-hop special edition of The 826NYC Post.