Mary Geddy’s Day: A Colonial Girl in Williamsburg by Kate Waters, 1999.
This book is part of a series of historical picture books.
Mary Geddy was a real girl living in Williamsburg in 1776. In this book, she is reenacted by Emily Smith, a young interpreter at the Colonial Williamsburg living history museum. The story follows her through a single day in her life as it would have been typically experienced by girls around the beginning of the American Revolution (lessons, chores, shopping, and visiting with her friend) up until the moment when the vote for independence at the Fifth Virginia Convention was announced.
Mary Geddy’s father was a silversmith, which put them in the middle class for the times. They had a comfortable house with a shop next door where Mr. Geddy sold his silver work. The Geddy family also had slaves to take care of household chores.
At the beginning of the story, Mary knows that the Fifth Virginia Convention is voting on the subject of independence from Great Britain. Mary is concerned about the prospect of war, and she knows that if the vote is for independence, she will probably lose her best friend, Anne. Anne’s family are loyalists, and her family plans to return to England if the colonies decide to break away.
All through the day, people are speculating and worrying about what is going to happen as they go through the typical routines of their day. Mary explains the clothing that colonial girls would wear as she gets dressed in the morning. Then, her mother sends her out to buy eggs at the market. Although she can see Anne there and hear some of the talk about what’s happening, Mary is kept at home for most of the rest of the day, practicing her sewing, learning to bake a pie with her mother, helping in the garden, and having her music lessons (she is learning to play the spinet). She envies her brothers, who are allowed to help their father in his shop and therefore able to hear more of the talk than she is.
When they discover that the Convention voted for independence, there is celebrating in the streets, and Mary goes with her parents and brothers to see everything. Her little sister is afraid and stays at home with the slaves. Everyone is excited, but Mary is worried because she knows that her friend will leave and nothing will be the same again.
Throughout the book, you can see that the slaves are always a part of the family’s activities. They do chores together, and when the family is not doing housework, the slaves are still working in the background. Having slaves didn’t mean that the family never had to do any chores themselves, but they had to do less of them, giving them time for other things, like music lessons and visiting with friends. When the celebrating starts, the boy slave, Christopher, who is about the age of the Geddy children, wants to go and see what is happening himself, but he has to stay and help look after the younger girl in the family. Although the slaves live as part of the household and seem to be on friendly terms with the Geddys (Mary speaks of them fondly, wishing that Christopher could join in the celebration and happy that Grace, the slave who mainly works in the kitchen as the cook, seems proud of her for learning to make a pie), they have no say in making decisions and are expected to follow the orders they are given, even when they don’t want to or larger events are taking place.
In the back, there is more historical information about the period and the Geddy family. There are also instructions for making a lavender sachet like the kind Mary and her friend Anne make, and a recipe for apple pie that was used in Colonial Williamsburg, like the one that Mary learns to make in the story.