This collection contains correspondence received by Martha Barker, concerning such topics as motherhood, women's education, and everyday household matters. All but one of these letters in this collection are addressed to Martha, or Mart, as she is called by her family and friends. Several letters in this collection include items such as dress scraps, locks of hair, and pressed flowers.
The letters from Mart's many family members living in Illinois and Minnesota provide information about experiences of every-day female, and to a lesser extent, male settlers in these midwestern states. Over a period of more than thirty years, these people wrote about domestic matters such as sewing, quilting, and soap making. They wrote about economic topics, including the year's harvest, and dress making businesses. Other topics included marriage, holiday celebrations, education, and child rearing. For example, Mart's sister [Kate] wrote on May 24, 1873 about the difficulty of motherhood, "You want to know how I get along with four children I dont get along at all I am half crazy."
Of particular interest are letters from Mart's brother Milton, who wrote about the lives of his daughters. In a January 17, 1897 letter, he described the process that the women had undergone to become teachers. He discussed Normal Schools, Normal Boards for licensing, teacher salaries -- which ranged from $30.00 to $45.00 per month -- and teacher work conditions. He noted that the independence that his daughters had gained from this profession was pleasing to him.