This collection of excerpts from the diaries of Claire Wight provide perspective into the life and attitudes of a maturing girl over one hundred years ago.
Have you ever wondered what life was like for a middle-class teenage girl from Kalamazoo in the early 20th century? Claire Wight was born in South Dakota in 1894 and moved with her parents to Kalamazoo, where her father was one of the ministers at First Baptist Church, and later Bethel Baptist Church. Through excerpts from Claire’s diaries transcribed and shared via an online blog, we witness Claire develop from an active 15 year old attending Kalamazoo Central High School in 1909 to an energetic and introspective student at Kalamazoo College. Along the way, we discover her hopes, her dreams, and her many talents – artist, mandolin player and tennis champion.
Claire may write of things that make the modern reader a bit uncomfortable, but keep in mind her time and place. Take her writings as a history lesson to gain understanding of life and attitudes of a maturing girl over one hundred years ago. The entries from her diary are presented unedited, using Claire’s abbreviations, misspellings and loose punctuation. Italicized text in brackets [ ] are entries made by the museum’s collections staff to provide clarification. The use of [sic] will follow words that were misspelled in Claire’s writings.
The museum staff wishes to recognize Paula Metzner, who was a valued part of the Kalamazoo Valley Museum collections and curatorial team for over 30 years. Paula began posting transcriptions from Claire’s diaries in 2011. Transcribing the Claire Wight diaries was one of Paula’s many projects over the years, and she enjoyed bringing Claire’s memories to life for our online guests and readers. Unfortunately, in 2014, Paula fell ill. Almost 100 years to the day after its writing, Paula posted her last transcription of an entry from Claire’s diary dated October 6, 1914. Just a few short months later, Paula lost a hard-fought battle to cancer, and updates to the online blog that brought us Claire’s story fell silent. Museum staff have recently posted one final entry that Paula had started, as a tribute to her hard work, love of history and dedication for telling the stories of the people of Kalamazoo.