Mary Jane Hale Welles papers  1846-1848
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Collection Scope and Content Note

These six letters from Mary Jane Hale to her mother primarily discuss her children's illnesses and exploits, and her social life in Washington D. C. She also solicited her mother for news about her brothers and friends from home. Her letters rarely described anything in detail, probably because she was often writing from the midst of her family, with a "great noise" and "so much confusion" all around her.

Although she often mentioned charitable work, Mary Jane did not appear to take an active part in organizing either church benefits or the work at the nearby Female Orphan Society. She did apply to adopt a girl in 1847, but when the first applicants were refused, the Asylum managers thought it better not to place the girl at all, in order not to further offend the rejected applicants. Even with the help of two young women, caring for her family occupied her time entirely. When she could, she strolled on the grounds of the Capitol, and once went to hear John C. Calhoun speak, "though I scarce know how to take the time" ([1848 May 15]).

Mary Jane's most extended description was of the May Ball put on by her daughter's dancing school, which had been going on in D. C. "from time immemorial almost" (1848 May 5). She detailed the roles the girls played, the dresses, the flowers, and the procession. Mary Jane also wrote a sustained description of the cameo she had carved in her husband's likeness, which "looks as if it might speak. it is actually a better likeness than anything I ever saw. only think how valuable!" (1847 May 7).

She always referred to her husband as "Mr. Welles," and although little of his character comes through, they appear to have had a happy relationship. She told her mother that when she sprained her foot, her husband "insisted upon carrying me down to my meals, which I think was very unnecessary, but he made believe the victuals tasted better with me in sight," (1848 January 12). She also noted that Mr. Welles "would much rather see me reading" than doing fancy work.

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