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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Florence Ensign Whitnell Diaries

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1913-1930
Creator: Whitnell, Florence Ensign
Extent: .25 linear foot.
Collection Number: msc0935
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Diaries of a fairly well-to-do woman in the early days of the twentieth century, these journals tell of trips between Canada and Florida of the couple and their adopted son.

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.


Preferred Citation: Florence Ensign Whitnell Diaries, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Florence was born January 24, 1871, probably in New Hartford, Iowa. When these journals start she is a woman of 42, wife of George W. Whitnell, whom she married in March 1902. They are apparently childless. At the beginning of the diaries, they have a home in Lake Bluff, north of Chicago. They were apparently independently wealthy, because neither of them has a job in the usual sense. They split their time between Lake Bluff and Florida until 1923-1924, when they sell their house in Lake Bluff and buy land in Canada. Thereafter they spend their summers in Canada and their winters in Florida. They take the train between these destinations until 1930, when the drive their new car home from Florida. They break their journey between Canada and Florida with stops at Lake Bluff and sometimes in New Hartford, where they visit Florence's family. Despite their apparent wealth, Florence helps the hired girl with the washing and cooking. George supplements their food supply by hunting and fishing.

The wife of one of Florence's nephews (Ruby, who is married to Frank Harmon at the time - they will eventually divorce) apparently accompanies them to "do for" Florence on one of these trips. She brings her child John with her. She apparently leaves John in Florence and George's care, and they eventually adopt him, so the visits to New Hartford now include visits to his father and grandparents.

During the seventeen year course of these journals two of Florence'ss siblings die -- Louis in the influenza epidemic in 1918 and Sarah of cancer in 1925.

These diaries provide a rare glimpse into the lives of upper middle class people who were independently wealthy, but still did most of their daily tasks for themselves and will be of interest to researchers studying social class in America.

This collection consists of 16 diaries and a paperback book of transcriptions of the diaries. This paperback book contains a family tree, noting the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of Eliphalet William Ensign and Martha Ann Raymond. Florence is the third of the children.
Civil War Diaries of E.W. Ensign, New Hartford, Iowa

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • 1913
  • 1914
  • 1915
  • 1916
  • 19171918
  • 1919
  • 1920
  • 1922
  • 1923-1924
  • 1925-1926
  • 1926
  • 1927
  • 1928
  • 1929
  • 1930
  • Wilson, Karen L. Aunt Flo's Journals, 1913-1930

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.