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Determining the Facts

Reading 2: Danny's Diary

The following excerpts are from the diary of Ella McDannel, nanny for the Douglas family from 1909 to 1930. The diary entries span from 1910 to 1914, however the layout is unusual. Each date has a separate page with sections/spaces for five years (1910-1914) worth of writing below the date.

Of the Douglases' employees, their nanny had a particularly close relationship to the family. Ella McDannel, fondly nicknamed "Danny" by the Douglas girls, worked for the family for over twenty years. She was an American-born woman, the same age as Mrs. Douglas, and had a nursing degree. Danny's primary duties involved caring for the three girls. In her diary, she documented their milestones, health, birthdays, and other events. Danny's diary also describes her daily activities and those of other servants. It suggests that even though servants had specialized jobs, they shared some duties and assisted one another. Danny's tasks included cleaning, dusting, sewing, and washing Mrs. Douglas's hair. She stayed with the family long after they needed the services of a nanny. In her later years at Brucemore, the city directories list her as "maid" or "housekeeper." She left the family by 1930 but remained in contact with them for the rest of her life.

Document 1A: April 21 & 22, 1910-1914. [Document 1A] with link to larger version of document.
(Courtesy of Brucemore, Inc, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
Text only version of Document 1A.

Document 1B: October 22 & 23, 1910-1914. [Document 1B] with link to larger version of document.
(Courtesy of Brucemore, Inc, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
Text only version of Document 1B.

Questions for Reading 2

1. Add Danny to the employee chart created in Reading 1 and list her job responsibilities based on her diary.

2. What activities did Danny enjoy during her free time?

3. In general, how would you describe her lifestyle?

4. Based on Danny's description of her daily activities, do you think her job would be preferable to a maid-of-all-work? Explain your answer.

5. What did you learn about the life of Mr. and Mrs. Douglas and their children from reading Danny's diary?

6. What comparisons can you make about life in the 1910s and today?

Reading 2 was excerpted from the diary of Ella McDannel. Courtesy of Brucemore, Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Transcribed by Brucemore Historian Jennifer Pustz, 2001.

* The images on this screen have a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain a larger version of Document 1A and Document 1B, but be aware that each file will take as much as 60 seconds to load with a 28.8K modem.

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