Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
M. E. Mann Papers, 1859-1860

Duane Norman Diedrich Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, September 1994

Summary Information
Title: M. E. Mann papers
Creator: Mann, M. E.
Inclusive dates: 1859-1860
Extent: 5 items
In 1859 M. E. Mann traveled to California to take a teaching position in Merced County. Her letters detail her travel experiences, teaching career, and impressions of gold-rush era California.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:


Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Alternate Format:

The letters comprising the M. E. Mann papers were published in their entirety by Charlie Merrill in "From the 'Atlantic States' to 'Twenty miles from Anywhere,'" Western Express (October, 1988), pp. 12-22.

Preferred Citation:

M. E. Mann Papers, Duane Norman Diedrich Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.


As the rush to the California gold fields began to slow in the late 1850's, several of the new mining communities began to seek a greater sense of social stability, and its transplanted residents began to duplicate some of the social institutions they had known in the east. By 1858, settlers in recently formed Merced County had erected a church and school on the Harold Ranch, and not long thereafter a Floridian woman, M. E. Mann, was convinced to emigrate to serve as teacher. Mrs. Mann, apparently a widow, was known to the county's first Judge, J. Fitzhugh, through her brother-in-law William Mann, an employee on the ranch of William McCreary.

In June, 1859, Mrs. Mann and her young daughter, Amanda, left for California by way of the Isthmus of Panama, arriving by stage at McCreary's ranch on the Chowchilla River on July 5th. She was soon settled into Judge Fitzhugh's place on the Merced River, upstream of Snelling's Ranch, and by the beginning of the new school year she began to accept her first students. Over the course of the next year and a half, Mrs. Mann taught from eight to ten children, earning between $55 and $60 per month plus board for herself and her daughter. While the pay was excellent, and while she enjoyed the life of a teacher more than that of a housekeeper, Mrs. Mann was taken aback by the rough-hewn social life in California and she was unsure of what to make of the nearly all-male society. To her eyes, California men seemed to lavish attention on the few single women to be found and she was surprised to find that men performed all of the chores that in the east were reserved for women. Yet at the same time Mrs. Mann was repelled by the filth and the lack of refinement and she was struck by the attentions paid to very young girls, whom she was told often marry at age 12 or 13. Most of all, she worried about what would become of her daughter, Amanda. While Amanda did not like California life at first, having few playmates her own age (about 10), she quickly grew to become "a great rough country girl, having learned nothing in California, but has forgotten what she learned at home" (1860 August 28). Mrs. Mann continued to long for life in the east and wished that her California stay could be brief, even she feared that her brother had settled there for life. "Every thing seems unreal, visionery," she wrote. "I scarcely see or hear anything around me. I do not realize that I am living at all." (1860 August 28)

Mrs. Mann nevertheless stayed in California, marrying R. J. Strother of Princeton, Cal., on December 28th, 1863. At about this time she was teaching at Princeton, in Mariposa County, with Amanda serving as her assistant.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Mann papers consist of five letters written by M. E. Mann to a close friend from Milton, Fla., Miriam Leigh. The first two were written during June, 1859, while Mrs. Mann and Amanda were traveling to California. These letters, provide brief descriptions of New Orleans (a disagreeable "Babel") and Havana (where she was terrified of catching yellow fever), some brief commentary on the trip and Mann's expectations for her life in California, and some interesting opinions on her fellow travelers, who, she wrote, included "every grade... from the free Negro & gross Irish woman, to the young & timid bride."

The other letters in the collection are longer and somewhat more detailed accounts of her new life and her attitudes toward her profession in Merced County. Mrs. Mann was simultaneously bemused and put off by the rough edges of life in male-dominated California, but she enjoyed the independence of being a teacher and the relatively equitable division of domestic labor. Mrs. Mann's letters, though brief and containing few specifics on her teaching, provide some interesting insight into gender relations and social life in the maturing gold regions of California.

Subject Terms

    • California--Description and travel.
    • California--Gold discoveries.
    • California--Social life and customs.
    • Cuba--Description and travel.
    • Women teachers--California.
    • Women--California.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   : Duane Norman Diedrich Collection  
    M. E. Mann papers,  1859 June 4-1860 August 28 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Partial Subject Index
    Brothers and sisters
    • 1859 November 16-20
    California--Description and travel
    • 1860 August 28
    California--Gold discoveries
    • 1859 June 9
    California--Social life and customs
    • 1859 September 14
    • 1859 November 16-20
    Cuba--Description and travel
    • 1859 June 9
    • 1859 November 16-20
    • 1860 August 28
    • 1859 September 14
    New Orleans (La.)--Description
    • 1859 June 4
    • 1859 June 9
    Women teachers--California
    • 1859 November 16-20
    • 1860 August 28
    • 1859 September 14
    Yellow fever
    • 1859 June 9