Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Rebecca Crouch Papers
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The Crouch Papers includes approximately 225 letters offering insight into life in Minnesota during the late 1870s and early 1880s, and into the domestic and social life of a woman entering into a new marriage with an older man. Rebecca's letters are consumed with the ebb and flow of daily life, her interactions with other residents of the community at church or in town, the weather, and chores from cooking to cleaning, farming, gardening, writing, going to town, or rearranging furniture.
Above all, perhaps, Rebecca's letters reflect the importance of family. Her concern for her siblings and elderly parents, illnesses and death, occupy her attention, and no matter how busy she was, no matter how deep the snow or how little news there was to report, she always made an effort to reach out to her family. The letters alone are a never ending circle of word and news, having one person reporting to another on a letter they received, with a deeply personal note that transcends the writing. Letters were a bridge that allowed Beck to live away from her family, yet never be far away.
The letters from Rebecca's sister Emma are similarly rooted in community and family, with reports about flowers blooming, people coming down with smallpox or boils, and a massive rain which had brought a flood, mixed with accounts of her sons obtaining their first jobs and her daughter, Jessie's progress as a young girl. Both sisters were concerned about what to do to care for their aging parents, with Emma hinting that Beck should take them in.
The Crouch letters also offer insight into more general social changes in the United States. A long running dispute over trespassing on the Crouch farm, resolved in the courtroom, the improvements in transport and travel, the geographic mobility of Beck's family, and the roles of men and women at home and in the workplace.