The items in this online exhibition evoke the stories of American women through the ages.
Click on any image to begin.

Ann Maria Davison diary, 1859

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute


Ann Maria Davison (1783–1871) spent most of her life in New Orleans surrounded by the slaves owned by her husband and, after his death, her son and son-in-law. Her diaries from 1847 to 1860 reveal how her religious convictions and her study of scriptures led her to formulate her criticism of slavery. She collected eyewitness accounts of slavery’s horrors and traced a growing intractability among the slaveholders in her own family and in her social circle. 

Davison became a pariah in her community. In this entry, from 1859, she writes that only the intervention of her prominent son-in-law spared her from being literally tarred and feathered by her neighbors. 

Ann Maria Davison Papers

Catalog record:


Learn more:

Explore the Schlesinger Library exhibition, What They Wrote, What They Saved: The Personal Civil War.

View remarks by Drew Gilpin Faust and Kathryn Allamong Jacob at the exhibition opening (November 21, 2014):

Heather Min